Saturday saw the 2020 J.League 1 season play out it’s 32nd matchweek and in a round of footballing action that was quite low-key, one result of note was FC Tokyo returning into domestic action after their exploits in the 2020 AFC Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima – a second half goal from Hotaka Nakamura being the decisive blow.
Kenta Hasegawa’s men returned from Qatar with the heartbreak from their round of 16 elimination from the ACL at the hands of Beijing Sinobo Guoan still stinging and with Sanfrecce awaiting them at the Ajinomoto Stadium on Saturday, the Gasmen knew that they must snap out of their funk if they wish to end their season on a positive note. Coming into Matchweek 32, FC Tokyo sit 6th in the J1 table, a good eight points away from Nagoya Grampus on 3rd and seven points off 4th placed Cerezo Osaka. With 5th placed Kashima Antlers four points above them, FC Tokyo must win against Sanfrecce while at the same time hoping for a Kashima slip-up in order for the Gasmen to leapfrog the Antlers.
After a goalless first half that saw both FC Tokyo goalkeeper Go Hatano and the crossbar denying Sanfrecce, the home side took the lead in the 65th minute through Nakamura. A brilliant passing game from FC Tokyo saw them penetrate the Sanfrecce defense, which was capped off by Hirotaka Mita passing it short towards Nakamura who slams home a belter past opposition goalie Takuto Hayashi.
With the lead now theirs, FC Tokyo sat back and soaked up the pressure as they saw out the match, ending the 90 minutes with their first J1 win in three matches. However, FC Tokyo’s efforts to climb up to fifth were all for nothing as a first half Ayase Ueda brace at the Kashima Soccer Stadium sent the hosts to a 2-0 win over strugglers Shimizu S-Pulse, thus maintaining the five point gap between the two teams. With both FC Tokyo and Kashima having played 33 matches so far, Hasegawa’s Gasmen could no longer finish higher than sixth place.
FC Tokyo and Kashima were the only victorious teams of Matchweek 32, as the other 5 games of the matchweek ended in draws. League champions Kawasaki Frontale played out a 1-1 draw with Sagan Tosu at the Ekimae Real Estate Stadium, while 10-men Nagoya were forced to a 0-0 draw by Yokohama FC at the Paloma Mizuho Stadium – Nagoya’s last match at the stadium as it will be closed for renovations. Oita Trinita and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo played out a 1-1 stalemate at the Showa Denko Dome, while Urawa Red Diamonds and Shonan Bellmare share the spoils in a goalless stalemate at the Saitama Stadium 2002. Last but not least, Cerezo’s hopes of breaking into the top three were given a slight dent by Kashiwa Reysol, with the latter forcing a goalless draw at the Nagai Stadium.