After first-half goals by Yuya Minagawa and Kyosuke Tagawa, it was a stunning late effort by Taichi Hara that had fans clapping at Ajinomoto Stadium on Wednesday as FC Tokyo fought from behind to a 2-1 win over Yokohama FC.
The 21-year-old Hara gave Tokyo its first lead of the game in the 85th minute when he trapped Ryoya Ogawa’s cross and slammed it home from just outside the six-meter box.
“I wanted to score if Ogawa sent in a good cross,” Hara said after the game. “Adailton had a touch before me and then everything came down to the trap, after that I just put everything I had into the shot.”
Hoping to reduce its 10-point gap behind J. League first-division leader Kawasaki Frontale, Tokyo took to the pitch without talisman Diego Oliveira, who was left off the squad for a second game in a row.
Instead, Tokyo manager Kenta Hasegawa offered a J1 debut to 19-year-old defender Seiya Kimura, who impressed Tokyo manager Kenta Hasegawa with a full appearance.
“Everyone around him was making mistakes but (Kimura) was steady and played well in his first game,” said Hasegawa.
“As he gets used to the pace of the game I think he’ll perform even better.”
A surprising bounce in front of the Tokyo goal saw the ball head back to Minagawa, whose volley bounced off the ground and into the back of the net in the 17th minute.
“It’s good that we scored early and took the lead, but after that FC Tokyo had the momentum and it was a difficult match, very difficult to score a second goal,” said Yokohama manager Takehiro Shimotaira.
Tokyo only needed 13 minutes to equalize when Tagawa received Yojiro Takahagi’s through pass in the penalty area, spinning to receive the ball before slotting it past Yokohama goalkeeper Yuta Minami in one fluid motion.
“In the first half we couldn’t create many chances, and Kyosuke scored his first goal and it was big for us,” said Hasegawa. “Especially during a period of the game when we were struggling, it was important for us to show that fight.”
The battle for a game-winner made for an entertaining second half, and both keepers stepped up to make monster saves and keep three points in play.
But it was Hara’s clever goal that brought the sold-out crowd — allowed to clap in rhythm for the first time under relaxed league guidelines — virtually to its feet.
“(Tokyo) is strong on the front line, they have players with power and speed,” Shimotaira said. “Our defense worked hard, but we gave up two somewhat easy goals and it was somewhat disappointing.”
Elsewhere on Wednesday, Frontale maintained its dominant advantage on top of the table with a 3-2 win over Vissel Kobe at Todoroki Stadium in Kawasaki.
At Kashima Stadium in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, Kashima Antlers defeated Vegalta Sendai 2-1 on goals by Everaldo and Ayase Ueda.
At Sankyo Frontier Stadium in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, Michael Olunga netted his league-leading 15th goal and Ataru Esaka scored twice as Kashiwa Reysol won 3-0 over Gamba Osaka.
At Edion Stadium in Hiroshima, Sanfrecce Hiroshima made light work of Shimizu S-Pulse in a 4-1 victory.
At Showa Denko Dome in Oita, Shonan Bellmare took an early 2-0 lead but Oita Trinita battled back with two late goals for a 2-2 draw.
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