August 27, 2008: One of the J.League's main focuses these days is promoting the local derby.
When it comes to the Tokyo derby, however, the J.League can relax as the two teams are doing just fine by themselves.
I have attended both J1 meetings this season between FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy, and they have produced incredible finishes to send the two sets of fans home with emotions at opposite ends of the scale.
FC Tokyo won Verdy's home game 2-1 at Ajinomoto Stadium in April thanks to a last-gasp own goal by the unlucky Shibasaki, but Verdy got their own back in Tokyo's home game at National Stadium on Saturday.
What a finish that was!
We were well past the three minutes of time added on at the end of the second half when Diego surged forward again and smashed a left-foot shot at the Tokyo goal. It was of Hulk quality and ferocity, and goalkeeper Shiota was relieved to divert it for a corner.
In front of the green pocket of Verdy fans in the corner, Diego swung the ball into the Tokyo box and Daisuke Nasu met it with a towering header to make it 2-1. Nasu obviously likes that end of the ground, as I remember him scoring another fine header into the same goal in a qualifying match for the Athens Olympics five years earlier.
There was only enough time for Tokyo to restart before the ref blew the final whistle, leaving the Tokyo players to face the wrath of their angry fans around the stadium as Verdy boss Tetsuji Hashiratani hugged his jubilant players as they trooped off in the pouring rain.
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold -- and how the Verdy fans must have enjoyed that one after being on the receiving end at Ajista earlier in the season. It was Verdy's first derby day win in league and cup for over five years, too.
Two great goals had set the stage for Nasu's late winner, first when Cabore fired Tokyo into the lead with an astonishing right-foot shot that whistled past Doi from 25 metres, and then when Oguro equalised for the Greens with a delicate chip over the advancing Shiota after a lovely little pass from Leandro.
On the subject of Doi, Verdy's former Tokyo keeper produced a magnificent save from Hanyu midway through the second half. Hanyu's sweetly-struck shot was curling towards the top corner when Doi stretched and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner -- a defining moment in the game.
Add into all this drama the controversy over Nagatomo's disallowed goal for offside against Konno, who was slightly behind Doi when the right back let fly from the edge of the box, and you can see why the Tokyo derby has sold itself so well this season.
Roll on 2009 -- if both teams are still in J1, that is.