FC Tokyo resumed their 2020 AFC Champions League campaign on the wrong footing on Tuesday as the Gasmen succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Shanghai Greenland Shenhua at the Education City Stadium at Al-Rayyan, Qatar. Kenta Hasegawa’s charges were undone in the 71st minute with Yu Hanchao’s penalty kick the decider between the two teams.
Having beaten Perth Glory and drawn with Ulsan Hyundai all the way back in February, FC Tokyo were faced with the challenge of Shenhua, who kicked-off their ACL campaign with a 2-1 victory over Perth on November 18th before succumbing to a 3-1 loss at the hands of Ulsan on November 21st. A Gasmen victory over their Chinese counterparts on Tuesday would surely keep FC Tokyo’s chances for the knockouts alive, with Shenhua eyeing the same objective as well with the duo seeking to tail Group F leaders Ulsan.
Tuesday’s clash proved to be a very physical one, with Shenhua’s defensive duo of Feng Xiaoting and Stephane M’Bia keeping FC Tokyo’s attacking quartet of Kensuke Nagai, Diego Oliveira, Leandro, and Keigo Higashi at bay. With FC Tokyo enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the first half, Oliveira almost gave his team the lead in the 39th minute with an improvised volley, however Shenhua goalkeeper Li Shaui was on-hand to deny the Brazilian.
Shenhua then threatened the FC Tokyo backline early in the second half, with substitute Zhu Jiangrong putting Qiang Jigei through on goal. However, despite making his way around FC Tokyo goalie Go Hatano, Jigei’s shot could only struck the side netting.
Realizing that their opponents are onto them, Kenta made the decision to introduce Adailton in the 63rd minute, with the former Jubilo Iwata striker replacing Nagai. Adailton’s introduction provided more flare up front for FC Tokyo, however the Gasmen’s attacking progression were ground to a complete halt in the 71st minute.
FC Tokyo defender Hotaka Nakamura had inadvertently brought down Hanchao inside the penalty area, prompting the referee to award Shenhua a penalty. Veteran midfielder Hanchao assumed penalty-taking duties himself and he made no mistake whatsoever with his assignment, beating Hatano with a well-taken shot to give Shenhua the lead.
Oliveira almost equalizes for FC Tokyo late into the second half with his close-ranged header smashing the crossbar and Shenhua managed to hold firm to ensure all three points with the slender 1-0 victory. The win puts Shenhua second in the Group F table with six points, one point off group leaders Ulsan who mounted a spirited comeback to beat Perth 2-1. FC Tokyo are third with four points and Perth propped up the group with zero points to their name.
Both FC Tokyo and Shenhua will once again resume hostilities at the Education City Stadium on November 27th.
Japan’s other ACL representatives will take stage for their continental returns on Wednesday, with Vissel Kobe taking on Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha in the early kick-off, while Yokohama F. Marinos will take on Shenhua’s city rivals Shanghai SIPG at the Al-Wakrah Sports Complex in the late kick-off.