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Sunday, March 22, 2009

FC Tokyo hand Yamagata first defeat of season

Staff writer

FC Tokyo gave Montedio Yamagata a dose of first-division reality on Saturday with a 1-0 win to end the top-flight debutant's unbeaten start to the season.

News photo
Battling for the ball: FC Tokyo midfielder Naotake Hanyu (left) takes control of the ball against Montedio midfielder Tomotaka Kitamura on Saturday at Ajinomoto Stadium. FC Tokyo won 1-0. KYODO PHOTO

Yamagata went into the match on the back of a big opening-day win over Jubilo Iwata and a draw with Nagoya Grampus the following week, but a goal from Naotake Hanyu at Ajinomoto Stadium stopped the run firmly in its tracks.

Tokyo had the better of a scrappy affair that produced few real chances, and Hanyu's 54th-minute strike was enough to give the home side its first points of the season and provide the perfect birthday tonic for manager Hiroshi Jofuku.

Jofuku was presented with a cake as he took the applause after the game, but with his team having collected only three points from its first three games, the 48-year-old looked in no real mood to celebrate.

"It was a problem that we could only score once," he said. "We aren't doing anything drastically different from last season, but unless we start taking risks we won't be able to get to the places we are aiming for.

"We have to give credit to Yamagata, though. They're a good team, and they are definitely good enough to play in J1."

For all his opponent's praise, Montedio manager Shinji Kobayashi had other things on his mind.

"I thought we defended well in the first half, but then we conceded by allowing Tokyo to hit us on the break," he said. "We also needed to have more variety in our attacks."

Neither side posed any serious danger in the early stages, with Yamagata insisting on attacking the area patrolled by international left back Yuto Nagatomo, and Tokyo unable to give Cabore room to stretch his legs.

Space began to open up midway though the first half as Montedio's Kim Byung Suk forced a smart save from goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, before Cabore poked a shot just wide at the other end.

Soon the pendulum began to swing in Tokyo's favor, but attacks broke down far too often for the home side to build any kind of momentum. A messy end to a promising move between Nagatomo and Hanyu minutes before halftime summed up Tokyo's frustration to a tee.

Nagatomo tried to make amends with a fierce shot immediately after the break, and the 22-year-old was again involved as Tokyo finally broke the deadlock 10 minutes later.

Nagatomo raided down the left before squaring the ball for Cabore, who in turn laid it off for Hanyu to curl beyond the reach of Shimizu and into the top corner.

Gonda denied Yu Hasegawa as Yamagata tried to find a way back into the match, but the visitors were let down by sloppy passing and held off by resolute defending, and Tokyo had little difficulty holding on for the win.

Elsewhere, Jubilo Iwata also managed to get its season off the mark with a 1-1 draw at home to Urawa Reds, while a late goal from Naohiro Ishihara rescued a point for Omiya Ardija as it finished 1-1 against Vissel Kobe.

At Nissan Stadium, Yokohama F. Marinos let an early two-goal advantage slip to draw 3-3 with Kashiwa Reysol, while the day's other game, between Oita Trinita and Albirex Niigata, finished goalless.

Portland gets team

PORTLAND , Ore. (AP) Portland will join Major League Soccer in 2011 along with Vancouver, British Columbia, as the league expands to 18 teams.

The Seattle Sounders became the 15th team on Thursday, beating the New York Reds Bulls 3-0 in their opener. The Philadelphia area was awarded a 2010 team last year, and Vancouver on Wednesday was picked to become MLS' second Canadian team, following Toronto.

Portland's team will be known as the Timbers, owned by Merritt Paulson, the 35-year-old son of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

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