The 2020 Japanese football season has finally come to a close on Monday with the final of the 2020 J.League Cup, which pits two Greater Tokyo Area teams in Tokyo-based FC Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture-based Kashiwa Reysol at the National Stadium. The match, which was supposed to be held in early November but postponed due to Kashiwa’s brush with COVID-19, was won by FC Tokyo thanks to a decisive second half strike from Brazilian striker Adailton, with the Gasmen winning their third J.League Cup title.
Both Kenta Hasegawa of FC Tokyo and Nelsinho Baptista of Kashiwa went all out for Monday’s final, with the former deploying Shuto Abe, Tsuyoshi Watanabe, Kensuke Nagai, Taichi Hara, and Leandro in his starting lineup while 2020 J.League 1 Golden Boot winner Michael Olunga led the lines for Kashiwa alongside the likes of Cristiano, Ataru Esaka, and Yusuke Segawa.
With 24,219 people in attendance at the 60,000-capacity National Stadium, FC Tokyo took early initiatives right from kick-off, as they try to maintain possession and prevent the ever-deadly Olunga from seeing the ball. The Gasmen took the lead in the 16th minute, after Leandro made a superb individual effort to penetrate the Kashiwa defense from the left flank before going across the penalty box with the opposition defenders eating his dust. The Brazilian, who had previously represented Kashima Antlers from 2017 to 2019, fired a low shot that went past Kashiwa custodian Kim Seung-gyu, giving FC Tokyo the lead.
FC Tokyo could’ve gone 2-0 up after Leandro’s opener and even more, however South Korean goalie Kim was alert after conceding the opener and he managed to deny chances from both Kensuke and Keigo Higashi to keep his side alive in the tie.
A chaotic 44th minute corner-kick was the prelude to Kashiwa’s equalizer, with Cristiano swinging the box towards Olunga, who was waiting inside the FC Tokyo area. The Kenyan was unable to direct his header properly, allowing FC Tokyo goalkeeper Go Hatano to parry the ball away. Unfortunately for the Gasmen, Hatano was unable to clear the ball far enough and with the FC Tokyo defenders being static inside their own area, Segawa seized the opportunity to pounce on the rebound and fire home from close-range.
1-1, and that was the scoreline as the referee signals for half-time.
Kashiwa then went gung-ho in the second half as they seek to turn the game around, however a 58th minute set-piece from Kashiwa led to Naoki Kawaguchi’s powerful volley being able to only graze the crossbar. Four minutes afterwards FC Tokyo took the attacking initiative and almost regained their lead through Leandro, whose free-kick struck the woodwork.
Former Jubilo Iwata striker Adailton was introduced by Hasegawa to replace Higashi in the 67th minute and seven minutes later the Brazilian would prove himself to be an impact sub by scoring what turned out to be the winner for FC Tokyo. With 74 minutes being displayed in the clock, Nagai headed the ball towards a vacant Kashwa penalty box, with the ball being immediately poked into Kim’s goal by an onrushing Adailton who managed to outpace his two defenders.
The 2-1 scoreline in FC Tokyo’s advantage did not change all the way into full-time and as the referee brings down the curtain in both the match and the 2020 Japanese football season, the FC Tokyo camp immediately erupted into celebrations, with the 2020 J.League Cup title finally theirs. The silverware represents Hasegawa’s first title as FC Tokyo coach while at the same time providing a happy ending to what amounted to be a disappointing season by FC Tokyo’s standards, as the Gasmen could only finish in 6th place in the 2020 J1 season and were eliminated from the 2020 AFC Champions League round of 16.
As for Kashiwa, the J.League Cup final defeat might’ve been disappointing but it did not remove any gloss from what had been a stellar season for the 2019 J.League 2 champions. A top half finish, combined with silver medal in the league cup and Olunga getting both the Golden Boot and the 2020 J1 MVP award represents a decent first season back in the top flight for Kashiwa and they will be eager to challenge the big boys again in 2021.