FC Tokyo right back Sei Muroya may be bound for Germany, but he made sure not to make manager Kenta Hasegawa regret sending him out for one last shift.
In his final J. League appearance before leaving for second-division Hannover, The Samurai Blue defender played a key role in Tokyo’s opening goal against Nagoya Grampus, helping the capital club finish on top 1-0 in a sweltering night at Ajinomoto Stadium.
“I thought it’d be this sort of game heading in,” Grampus manager Massimo Ficcadenti said. “We gave up the ball in places we shouldn’t have, and that led to their goal.”
Looking for their first win in five games, Tokyo put early pressure on Grampus but struggled to thoroughly test visiting goalkeeper Mitch Langerak. Both teams struggled in Tokyo’s notoriously summer weather, with temperatures of 34 degrees at kickoff feeling closer to 45 after factoring in the humidity.
That changed with Leandro’s 33rd-minute goal, which came at the end of a superb sequence of passes around the edge of the penalty area. The play began with Muroya forcing a turnover, and Shuto Abe, Yojiro Takahagi and Kensuke Nagai joined Leandro in the buildup before the Brazilian hammered home from an unbeatable angle.
““It was a very good ball at the right time and that’s why I took the shot,” Leandro said. “I’m glad the ball went where I aimed it. Today we showed what we’ve been practicing this week.”
An invigorated Nagoya regrouped at halftime and threatened the Tokyo goal multiple times. But in the end there was no equalizer to be found, giving Tokyo goalkeeper Go Hatano his first J1 win in just his second top-flight start.
Tokyo missed a chance to double its lead when Adailton’s penalty attempt was blocked by Langerak in the last kick of the game.
“It’s very important that we scored in the first half, but in the second half I would have liked us to score another goal,” Hasegawa said. “Nagoya has looked good recently, and I think this win will give us a lot of confidence.”
One month after midfielder Kento Hashimoto left Tokyo for Rostov it was Muroya’s turn to address supporters after playing the full 90 minutes.
“When I got this offer, I realized that I wanted to follow my dream and experience something new, and I couldn’t turn it down,” Muroya said. “ The other reason I decided to take this offer is the amount of confidence I have in our young players.
“I believe as long as they continue to play… they’ll help win Tokyo a title.”
In other results on Saturday, league leader Kawasaki Frontale romped to a 6-1 win against Consadole Sapporo, with Kaoru Mitoma and Yu Kobayashi both scoring braces in the second half and Jay Bothroyd netting a consolation goal for the home side at Sapporo Dome.
At Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama, Yokohama FC led Shonan Bellmare 4-0 by the 25th minute and eventually finished with a 4-2 victory.
At Oita’s Showa Denko Dome, Tatsuya Tanaka scored in the second half to send Oita Trinita over defending champion Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0.
At Sanyo Frontier Stadium in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, Cerezo Osaka dominated in a 3-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol. The home team’s lone goal came from Michael Olunga, who netted his league-leading 11th of the season in the 88th minute.
At Saitama Stadium, Leonardo’s fifth-minute penalty was enough to get Urawa Reds past Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0.
At Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium, Vegalta Sendai and Shimizu S-Pulse battled to a scoreless draw.