J. League champions Kashiwa Reysol overcame Emperor's Cup winners FC Tokyo under a bright spring sky at the Tokyo National Stadium in the Fuji Xerox Super Cup 2012. First half goals by Jorge Wagner and Leandro Domingues proved enough to see Kashiwa home to their first title of the new season but not before last season's Division Two champions, FC Tokyo, had pulled a goal back and threatened to send the match to a penalty shoot out.
Tokyo started the game on top, attacking positively for the first twenty five minutes until suddenly falling behind to Kashiwa's first shot of the match, a stunning, nearly thirty meter drive by Jorge Wagner. Kashiwa then began to assert their authority for the remainder of the half and seemed to have the match sewn up when Leandro Domingues converted a 43rd minute penalty. Instead, Tokyo fought back in the second half and Ariajasuru Hasegawa's 65th minute header set up a tense, thrilling finale for the packed 35,453 crowd.
Victorious Kashiwa manager Nelsinho paid full respect to his brave opponents. "This was our first game of the season and neither team had found its true rhythm but Tokyo especially moved forward in numbers several times at the start and we had to do a lot of defending. We were losing the ball as soon as we had won it and let them attack us time and again through our own mistakes. Jorge scored while we were still looking for ways to sort that out and his goal enabled the team to relax. After that, we finished the first half in stable shape, keeping (Tokyo's) Yohei Kajiyama from building their game."
"But Tokyo are a powerful team with plenty of options and they also created a lot of good opportunities in the second half," Nelsinho continued. "We had to defend but countered well and made big chances of our own. It might have been a different game if we had been able to put them away."
The intriguing encounter pitted two teams both playing in their first Fuji Xerox Super Cup against each other. Kashiwa won their first J. League championship last season and FC Tokyo their first Emperor's Cup on New Year's Day. Everyone was now wondering how FC Tokyo would fare against the Kashiwa team which had won the J2 title a year earlier in 2010 and carried straight on to win J1 last season – and might Tokyo even emulate that achievement this year? Besides, both clubs are competing for their first time ever in the AFC Champions League this season, starting this week with away games for Tokyo at Brisbane Roar on Tuesday and Kashiwa at Buriram United on Wednesday.
Kashiwa manager Nelsinho relied on 2011 stalwarts for his starting line up, strikers Hideaki Kitajima and Junya Tanaka supported from the sides by Jorge Wagner and 2011 J. League MVP Leandro Domingues, Hidakazu Otani and Akimi Barada holding rear midfield and a back line of Wataru Hashimoto, Naoya Kondo, Tatsuya Masushima and Hiroki Sakai, with Takanori Sugeno in goal. He did, though, also hold new signings Ricardo Lobo and Daisuke Nasu in readiness on the bench.
New FC Tokyo manager Ranko Popovic brought new acquisitions Kosuke Ota from Shimizu S-Pulse in at left fullback and Ariajasuru Hasegawa from Yokohama F-Marinos in tucked behind veteran striker Lucas, with also striker Kazuma Watanabe from F-Marinos and defender Kenichi Kaga from Jubilo Iwata on the bench. Tatsuya Yazawa and Naohiro Ishikawa supported from the wings, Yohei Kajiyama and Hideto Takahashi held the middle ground and Kenta Mukuhara, Yuhei Tokunaga and Masato Morishige completed the back line with Hitoshi Shiota in goal.
Tokyo took the match to Kashiwa from the kick off with sparkling wing play by Ishikawa on the right and Yazawa on the left, ably backed up by attack-minded fullbacks Mukuhara and Ota. Ota won the first big chance of the game, a free kick right on the edge of the Kashiwa box, but Sugeno pushed Yazawa's neatly floated shot to the far top corner of the goal behind for a corner kick. Morishige also dribbled dangerously through the middle and Hasegawa shot over the bar. Sugeno had little trouble catching a powerful but long drive by Takahashi. Twice more, Tokyo shot high over the bar. Kashiwa were playing a patient game, happy for the moment just to keep Tokyo out and rarely building attacks of their own.
After all of Tokyo's hard work, the match turned in the 26th minute when Jorge Wagner received a rather desperate, lunging clearance from Kondo in the middle, brought the ball a short way forward and unleashed an unstoppable drive just as the defenders closed in. It was against the run of play but Kashiwa became a different team for the remainder of the half, pressing forward more keenly and seldom troubled anymore by the Tokyo wing play which had rattled them earlier on. As the game neared half time, Jorge Wagner headed against the post at a Leandro Domingues free kick and Morishige was penalised in a clash with Kitajima as both raced to reach the rebound. Leandro Domingues slammed his spot kick into the roof of the net to send the J. League champions in two up at the break.
To Tokyo's credit, they didn't give up. Popovic brought Watanabe on for Ishikawa to partner Lucas, with Hasegawa now moving out wide, and that might have been just enough to unbalance the Kashiwa defence for the goal came soon after. Watanabe received in the middle and played the ball wide for Ota to cross, Hasegawa getting the final touch at his second attempt in the resulting goal line scramble. Nelsinho revitalised his attack as well with the introduction of Ricardo Lobo and Masakatsu Sawa for Tanaka and Kitajima, and Ricardo Lobo especially had three shots in the closing twenty minutes.
Popovic nearly worked the magic again with his 73rd minute substitution of Naotake Hanyu for Yazawa. Hanyu had two glorious chances to equalise in the space of a minute soon after, first heading a cross from Mukuhara wide and then shooting at a low cross from Watanabe only for Sugeno to push the effort behind for a corner.
It wasn't to be for Tokyo and Kashiwa even finished the match on the attack again, keeping Tokyo mostly locked inside their own half for the last few minutes. It all added up to a mature and well-worked victory.
Popovic congratulated Kashiwa and was thoroughly gracious in defeat. "Obviously I don't enjoy the result but I don't think we did badly at all considering this was our first official match after the camp. I can say that we controlled a lot of the game. Our finishing wasn't good enough and we didn't get the result but we showed everyone the kind of football that we're aiming for. We wanted to show people all over Japan good football today and I'm sure that everyone enjoyed it."
The Fuji Xerox Super Cup was again preceded by an exhibition game between an U-18 J. League Selection and Japan High School Selection. The team of players from J. League club youth teams won 3-0 thanks to second half goals by defender Takuya Iwanami (Vissel Kobe) with a header at a corner and neatly worked close range strikes by Hideki Ishige (Shimizu S-Pulse) and Shoya Nakajima (Tokyo Verdy).