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FC Tokyo 1 - 0 Jubilo Iwata
A breezy and sparkling spring Sunday afternoon -- the perfect day for a football game. And I was really personally looking forward to this match-up between Jubilo and FCTokyo.

In the first half, Jubilo showed their stability in midfield but could not find anything inspirational up front. I liked that Cullen (Jubilo) was used since he's in the middle of a nice growth spurt these days; however Choi has not been getting results lately so I was thinking it would have been scarier for the Tokyo fan to see Nakayama starting instead. Perhaps it was the higher-than-expected temperature (22 degreesC), but Tokyo did not look as spirited going in as they did in some of the past few matches. They were also missing some main members from the starting lineup too, which could also explain the careful start. Tokyo did however create most of the real goal chances. With GKs Doi (Tokyo) and Kawaguchi (Jubilo) asserting their NT quality presence in front of both goals, I didn't really expect a multi-goal result. *Kawaguchi got an ironic but warm welcome back "Yoshikatsu" cheer prior to the game.

Jubilo showed some of their classic style in midfield, but Tokyo were able to retrieve possession through great multi-player defensive work. Tokyo started off with a nice shot from Ishikawa that would have gone in above Kawaguchi's head if it wasn't for a one-handed deflection. There was another perfect moment coming off a goalline grounder cross from Kaji on the right that skimmed in front of Kawaguchi out of reach (38 min). Unfortunately, Tokyo was not able to get to it in time before it was cleared. Another great fast cross from the left met Ishikawa's head as he was running up to the goal but it didn't quite meet at the right angle and sailed out of bounds. Jubilo's players showed some individual superiority in certain moments -- Cullen, Fukunishi, Chano, Nanami, Murai had moments where they gave us glimpses of their technical jazz. However, Tokyo kept up good team focus especially when switching back and forth between attacking and defending. One thing though was that Jubilo's midfield effectiveness during a large portion of the first half did leave fw Lucas frustrated -- he seemed to be trying different things like opening wide or coming down from the front line, anxious to get involved somehow.

With Tokyo being used to more dynamism and activity (and having youth on their side), Jubilo's best chances came during their numerous corner/free kicks in the second half. Though there were a number of instances where Tokyo players lost their mark, or Doi was caught short, and general heart-stopping confusion ensued, Jubilo was not able to get the ball inside the goalframe.

Ironically, the best offensive presences from both teams were their defensive midfielders -- Konno (Tokyo) and Fukunishi (Jubilo). These two were hustling particularly well today, and on top of doing their job defensively they also led their team in asserting themselves offensively. The long-awaited goal came in the last five minutes of the game (when else?) when Jubilo were obviously slowing down. Tokyo was also looking deceptively like they were almost ready to accept a draw. But a nice sequence of multiplayer passing on the left side left the Jubilo defense flat-footed, and a sideways pass from Konno found Kurisawa (pic) at the top of the penalty area with no mark. He was able to take a clean shot to the left of the goal, a ball that curved away from Kawaguchi's outstretched arms. The Tokyo supporters broke out in such a festive la-la-la rendition of "Aquarela Do Brasil" that it made me feel like heading straight for the beach. It was really perfect timing for a goal, with only minutes left on the clock. After that it was a matter of whether Tokyo would be able to hold off Jubilo's last-ditch efforts -- and scary ones at that too, with another series of corner kicks and almost-goals on Jubilo's part. At this point, Jubilo was sending everyone and their grandmother up front to attempt an equalizer.

The game ended with a 1-0 win for Tokyo and a great cheer from defender Moniwa who had done a fine job today. He must have been more relieved than anyone (except maybe Doi) to have blocked the barrage of Jubilo attacks in the final minutes.

With NT goalkeeper coach Cantarelli watching with Zico, there were plenty of chances for both goalies to show how they were doing -- particularly Kawaguchi as he is playing his first game back in the J and back from his injury. If Zico had anything to worry about, it was probably Kaji's left foot injury that forced him to request a substitution in the beginning of the second half. I have to admit Tokyo was helped immensely by Jubilo's lack of speed and power up front. Cullen did some nice things when he had the ball, but opportunities for both forwards were not many. Thinking ahead to the next NT selection, I was glad Zico attended this game as it showed the endurance limitations of some of the older players in Jubilo like Fujita (who I like immensely but think maybe it's time to put someone younger in soon) and re-exposed the younger generation like Ishikawa (who I think may be a good replacement for Motoyama if Moto doesn't perform better by the next NT game), Moniwa and Konno who each take leadership of their respective lines.

This is the first time in 5 years that FC Tokyo has won against Jubilo.
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