FC Tokyo come back from two goals behind and become crowned champions for the first time in club history – Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Youth (U-18) Football League Championship
18 December 2017
F.C. Tokyo U-18 3-2（0-2, 2-0 ext. 1-0, 0-0）Vissel Kobe U-18
The Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Youth (U-18) Football League Championship that decided the best U-18 football team in Japan took place on Sunday 17 December at Saitama Stadium 2002 where the Premier League EAST champions F.C. Tokyo U-18 (Tokyo) faced the Premier League WEST champions Vissel Kobe U-18 (Hyogo).
It was a tentative start, but Vissel Kobe had a better game plan and started to take control of the match, as coach NODA Satoru predicted ‘winning the midfield would be the key’. Team's top scorer with nine goals, SASAKI Daiju (MF #13) led the Kobe’s attacks and, then in the 18th minute, MAEKAWA Tomoyuki (DF #2) made a long throw from the right side and MIGITA Kaede (DF #20) redirected the ball in the air for IZUMI Toya (FW #11), who successfully found the back of the net with a header to give his side an early lead.
On 32 minutes, Kobe fashioned another chance from a long pass and doubled the advantage. Sasaki collected the ball behind the opponents' backline and took the ball inside the penalty area, where he was illegally taken down by F.C. Tokyo’s HASEGAWA Koki (DF#4) and was awarded a penalty. Sasaki took the spot kick himself and converted with composure to the right corner of the goal. Thereafter, Kobe continued to dominate the match by effectively using long feeds and claiming the loose balls, and did not allow their opponents to score before they took the two-goal lead at the break.
Looking to come back from two goals behind, F.C. Tokyo’s coach SATO Kazuki gave his team a pep talk during halftime, ‘Are you satisfied with the way you are performing!’ Additionally, from the start of the second half, they brought on KUSAZUMI Konosuke (DF #24) as left-back and captain OKANIWA Shuto (DF #5), returning from injury, as right-back. These substitutions had changed the dynamics of the game.
One minute after the break, F.C. Tokyo earned a penalty after Kusazumi sent a long throw from the left and SINADA Manato (MF #18) was fouled inside the box. Sinada calmly scored from the spot and cut the Kobe’s lead to a single goal, as he explained after the game, ‘I was able to see the opponents’ goalkeeper quite well when I took the shot.’
Furthermore, Kusazumi orchestrated another threatening attack for F.C. Tokyo in the 53rd minute. The Tokyo fullback surged up the left flank and crossed it to YOSHIDA Kazuhiro (FW #13), who met the difficult ball after making a bounce on the far side with a header and scored a game-tying goal with less than 10 minutes into the second half.
After the equaliser, Kobe came back and attacked aggressively including two decisive goal-scoring chances. However, the pair of attempts from Izumi in the 63rd and Sakaki on 89 minutes were both denied by superb saves from F. C. Tokyo’s TAKASE Kazuna (GK #16). Kobe failed to take advantage of their chances that they had in the second half and the match went into overtime contest of ten-minute halves.
While Kobe had the upper hand in extra time, F.C. Tokyo created their first chance right after Sinada, who was instrumental in orchestrating several effective attacks for his team, had to leave the pitch due to cramps. Okaniwa took the right corner in place of Sinada and Hasegawa successfully met the precisely-delivered cross and scored a go-ahead goal for his side just before the first half of extra time ended.
F.C. Tokyo managed the remainder of the game well and reduced the risks of conceding any goal by keeping possession near the corner of the opposing end of the pitch and took the one-goal lead before they edged a tough 110-minute contest over Vissel Kobe and clinched the second title of the season with an amazing comeback win after they had won the 41st JAPAN Club Youth (U-18) Football Championship this summer.
Coaches' and Players' Comments
SATO Kazuki, Coach (F.C. Tokyo U-18)
F.C. Tokyo have never won the title of this competition until this year. It was a wonderful achievement and an excellent experience for our players after they worked hard every day and did not shy away from expressing themselves on the pitch, and, at the same time, delivered this great result. The Prince Takamado Trophy is a long league competition, while the JAPAN Club Youth Championship and J.Youth Cup are both short competitions where even an underdog team have a slight chance of winning the tournament if they gain momentum. In contrast, in the Prince Takamado Trophy the team must first win the EAST or WEST Premier League which lasts for a full year before they can compete in the championship match. Winning this trophy requires contributions from the entire team and it is a competition where the real strength of the team is tested. Clinching this title is far different from winning any other tournament and means a lot to us. It is also a competition that I believe that the winners can proudly say that they are the best team in Japan.
DF #4 HASEGAWA Koki (F.C. Tokyo U-18)
When I gave away the penalty, I felt very sorry that this might end up being the reason for our loss. However, my teammates supported me by approaching me with smiles and giving me some words of encouragement. During halftime, SHINOHARA Arata (DF #3) came to me and said ‘no worries’, and our Coach Sato showed his support by encouraging me as well. I was able to refocus and get back into the game. (Regarding the goal that I scored) Shinada normally takes the free kicks as he aims for an incisive cross with pace, while Okaniwa delivers it more softly with precision that if I can get free, then I will have an excellent chance of putting one back into the net. I must say that I had a premonition that such cross would come to me and once I got free from the surrounding defenders, an accurate cross came to me. All I had to do was to head it into the back of the net. It was a rare experience in such an important match that I gave away a penalty that led to our opponents’ scoring and then I scored a go-ahead goal to win the game for the team. Of course, conceding a goal is not something to be proud of, but this experience has become an important asset for me as well.
DF #5 OKANIWA Shuto (F.C. Tokyo U-18)
In the first half, when I was watching the match from the bench, I saw that there were too many players near the backline and we couldn’t hold on to the ball. I was hoping to bring out the strength of my teammates once I was brought on to the pitch and create better attacking rhythm by buying some time for the surrounding players. Speaking about myself, I couldn’t play football for nearly two months and must admit that there were plays that I could not execute well. However, I stayed vocal and capitalised on my strength in attacks, and was able to bring positive changes to the team. Shinada and I have been playing together since grade school and he normally takes the corner kicks. I also know that he is a better kicker than me. However, the accuracy in delivering crosses is one of my strengths and when I took the corner, I was determined to send a fine cross and assist my teammate.
NODA Satoru, Coach (Vissel Kobe U-18)
I thought that it would crucial for us to keep possession in midfield and threaten the opponents. On the other hand, if we allowed F.C. Tokyo to control the centre of the pitch, then we would be forced to defend on our end. Therefore, I said to my players that winning the midfield would be the key. Normally I have my side wingers wait near the touchline, but today I decided to place them more towards the middle by making a diamond-shape formation. This strategy worked in the first half, as we took control of midfield. What hurt us most was the penalty that we conceded right after halftime. This was one area that I regretted in the game. However, I must say that I am proud of my players for fighting the entire 110 minutes including extra time and not giving up until the end of the match. I wasn’t certain how the team would turn out to be when the season started, but I must thank my players for bringing me and taking this team all the way to this great championship.
MF #13 SASAKI Daiju (Vissel Kobe U-18)
It was a shame that I couldn’t lead the team to winning the championship. We started off well as we were pumped up for the game and played hard with excellent work-rate, but I believe that our opponents were better than us at crucial moments in the game. Our coach warned us during halftime, ‘Two-goal lead is the most dangerous advantage. Let’s brace ourselves one more time.’ However, it was disappointing that we gave away that lead and lost in the end. I was given the team’s leading striker number 13 and I believe that I became a bit closer to a kind of player who could lead the team to victory. I must add that being able to play such an important match would definitely be an invaluable experience for me as well. I will try to capitalise on this experience and keep up my hard work in order to become a footballer that can run and score even at the professional level.
Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Youth (U-18) Football League Championship
17 December 2017 (Sun.) Kick-off 13:00
F.C. Tokyo U-18（EAST Champions）vs Vissel Kobe U-18（WEST Champions）
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