J1 League: Tide turns as Yokohama F Marinos overtake leaders FC Tokyo
The tables turned at the top of the J1 League this weekend as Yokohama F Marinos switched places with leaders FC Tokyo.
Tokyo were unable to muster more than a hard-fought point against relegation battling Shonan Bellmare, earned via a 94th minute Masato Morishige strike from distance.
Marinos, on the other hand, brushed aside Yamaga Matsumoto in 1-0 win with the run of play more one sided than the score-line suggests.
Yokohama lead FC Tokyo by a single point and occupy top spot heading into the final two games of the season.
Seemingly the stage is set for a penultimate showdown between the two sides when they play each other Nissan Stadium on the last day of the season.
However, the blockbuster title deciding match could be disrupted by turn events next weekend.
Should Marinos beat current champions Kawasaki Frontale in the Kanagawa Derby, and Tokyo fail to beat Asian Champions League finalists Urawa Reds at home then the league title would be awarded to Yokohama there and then.
If Marinos draw or lose to Kawasaki, then the awarding of the J League championship shield will have to wait until the closing day.
There is also an outside chance for 3rd place Kashima Antlers to overtake both Yokohama and Marinos and lift J League shield for am 8th time should both sides lose next weekend.
Since taking charge of the Kanagawa based club in January 2018, manager Ange Postecoglou has raised eyebrows with his ultra-attacking, high pressure system of play.
Marinos consistently dominate possession and create an overwhelmingly high amount of chances. They have scored the most goals in the division this season with 61 tallied so far.
FC Tokyo enjoyed the majority of their success earlier on in the season before the departure of Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo, the prime source of goals and chances.
The capital city club were also helped by playing the majority of their home games at the start of the year due to the scheduling of the Rugby World Cup.
Alas, a failure to find a viable replacement for Kubo and lack of any real alternative strategy to their signature counter attacking system has allowed points to slip away from them lately.
Kenta Hasegawa’s men now seem to be mustering up narrow wins against opponents further down the table, loosely keeping their title hopes alive.
That said, the Gasmen boast the better head to head record between the two sides. They have won all 3 league matches played since Postecoglou took charge at Yokohama.
This could be accredited to Tokyo’s counter attacking strategy working well against the open attacking style of Yokohama. Although in league deciding matches such as this it is difficult to determine the relevance statistics have on the eventual out-come.
All said and done, should the climax of the 2019 season come down to a final day showdown then J League fans across the world will be treated to a penultimate moment of truth between two very different playing styles.