2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 3rd Sec - Tochigi SC vs Tokyo Verdy

Match Report

This week, Verdy traveled to face Tochigi SC for the second of their remote matches. The team that took the pitch, looking for their first win of the season, had two changes from the previous week’s squad. Kanya Fujimoto wore the captain’s armband and started in place of Joel Chima Fujita in midfield. Meanwhile Ryoya Yamashita made his first start as a professional by taking up the spot on the right wing that had been previously occupied by Junki Koike.


As the match began, Tochigi pressed hard from the front and tried to force the Verdy build-up into the wide areas. In response, the Verdy players made a series of mistakes and found themselves unable to carry the ball into positions high up the pitch. The opposition also made good use of set pieces and took advantage of a series of corner kicks to build possession and keep Verdy pinned in their own final third. After about ten minutes, however, Verdy gradually took control of the pace. Yamashita received the ball on the right wing and ran at the defense, seeming to be brought down inside the penalty area, but the referee ruled no foul. After that episode, Verdy were in complete control. The opposition still managed to create trouble with a free kick that hit the post in the 18th minute, but Verdy had a free kick of their own in the 21st minute, taken by Yuhei Sato, that was only just cleared by the defense. With the team controlling the ball, the Verdy players were not merely content to pass, but also played it forward and put pressure on goal. In the 40th minute, a move built from the wide areas that ended with a cross from Fujimoto, finding Haruya Ide making a run into the box. Ide controlled the ball with his first touch and appeared to be brought down from behind by a defender, but this too was ruled no foul. As the half came to a close, Verdy had a greater share of possession and the strength of their attacking moves was growing, building expectations for a goal after the break.


At half time, Shion Inoue was taken off for Koki Morita, who was making his return from injury, and the team hoped to break down the opposition further when play resumed. However, that aim would soon be undone. In the 48th minute, the team made a mistake in their build up from the back and left themselves vulnerable on the counter. Takahiro Shibasaki managed to deflect the initial shot on goal and the covering Shohei Takahashi slid in to block from crossing the line but it was a last ditch effort to stop a clear goal scoring opportunity, one that would end with a penalty kick conceded and the team losing a player to a straight red card. After this, however, the Verdy players would show their resilience and rebound mentality by moving the ball forward with even greater intent. In the 57th minute, Yamashita’s ability to get behind the defense would create an opportunity. Receiving the ball with space on the right side, the Verdy forward cut inside and played a shallow cross from the by-line. The ball passed through the penalty area and found Takayuki Fukumura, but the angle of his shot was cut off and he instead laid it off, allowing Sato to run onto the ball with a head of steam and fire first-time with his left foot. The final destination of the ball was never in question and Sato was already pumping his fist the moment the shot left his foot, watching as it found the right corner of the net and brought Verdy level. Even after the goal, and despite their numerical disadvantage, Verdy continued with their impressive pass work and put pressure on the opposition goal. There were some mistakes that occurred as the numerical disadvantage inevitably led to greater physical exhaustion and in the 79th minute, a sharp mid-range shot came in on the counter attack, but this was kept out with a fine save from Shibasaki. The team had slightly less possession than in the first half, but Yamashita and Hanato continually broke behind the defense and reached the penalty area. However, neither was able to put in a clear shot as the match moved into its final phase.


During additional time, Yamashita got behind the defense one final time and set up a golden opportunity one v one with the keeper. Once again, however, the shot was blocked before he could get the ball under his full control and the game ended with the team’s second straight 1-1 draw. Looking back on the result, Verdy will feel hard done by the decisions of the officials, particularly the two incidents in the penalty area that were judged as no-foul, but it’s also true that the players had plenty of opportunities to win the match on their own. Now, they must take out their frustration later in the week in their second away match against Omiya Ardija.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
We went down a man in the second half and that made things difficult for us, but I really do think the players gave it their all. On the other hand, it had been our plan, having weathered the initial wave of opposition attacks in the first half, to come out a bit smoother in the second and that’s the area where we really need improvement. The players did their job for the full 90 minutes and I think that effort will reap rewards in the future. On top of that, we will do our best to be fully prepared for the next match.

This was Ryoya Yamashita’s first start as a pro. How did you rate his performance?
His strong point is his speed and I wanted him to take full advantage of that, today. In addition, the objective was for his speed to force the opposition to play a deeper defensive line. I think he did an excellent job and I’m sure that he will be an even greater force for us in the future.

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Post-match comments

MF 9Yuhei Sato

What did you and the players discuss on the pitch after going down a goal and being reduced to ten men?
The first thing we did was look to what decisions were being made from the bench. After that. we decided to listen to the opinions of the back line and use that as a basis for what we would do from there. The back line told us that if we gave up another goal, the match would be beyond reach, so we discussed whether to conduct our pass work with three or four players. At that point, Fuku(mura) entered the match and we switched to a back four. We had been passing the ball with two holding midfielders, but now we needed a single anchor to stay back, otherwise we wouldn’t have enough players up front. In the end, Koki (Morita), myself and Haru (ya Ide) formed a flexible trio that changed shape accordingly. We had no choice at that point but to run hard, so we decided that it wasn’t the time for strict positioning. I’m glad that we ended up demonstrating more stamina than our opponents.

Your goal came off a cross from Yamashita. Did you have a feeling the ball would come to that spot?
Koki and I hadn’t been taking the risk of making a lot of forward runs, but at that point, all of us were pretty high up the pitch and Fuku(mura) was already in the box, so I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to break the balance. All of their defenders were inside their penalty area. I ran to that spot with the idea of making a shot on goal and I’m glad it went in.

What areas do you think the team needs to improve, in order to achieve promotion, and what role do you think you can play?
Nagai’s philosophy is to win with beautiful football, but he also tells us that it’s necessary to be ugly from time to time. I think we need a constant image in our minds of where we will take a shot or how far back, we want to push the opposition. We’ve succeeded as far as pushing our opponents back, so now we need individual ideas that exceed those of Coach Nagai, Yoshitake, Hosaka, Fujiyoshi and the other staff who guide us in our attack. Unless those ideas are different from the overall team approach, the opposition will be able to plan ahead and develop strategies to stop us. You can see that happening with the (Yokohama F.) Marinos right now, as they struggle to deal with the strategies that are employed against them, and more than half of the teams in J2 are the type who sit back and try to stifle their opponents, so I think we’re dealing with the same issue. Other than that, it really comes down to individual play. Coach Nagai often talks about exploiting individual advantages and I think that’s exactly what we need to do.

How do you feel about picking up a point from a match in which you were down a man and on the road?
When there is no audience like right now, the only real difference in playing on away ground is the fatigue of travel. We don’t feel like we’re at a disadvantage in terms of atmosphere, so rather than look at it as an away game, we’re trying to focus on winning and had hoped to bring home three points, rather than one. To be honest, I think that even after we got the equalizer, we should have continued attacking and tried to get another goal. It felt on the pitch like we had the superiority to do so and I hope we can work on that more in the future.

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FW48Ryoya Yamashita

Having made your first start of the season, how do you rate your own performance?
Individually, I had been given clear instructions from the manager, so I just tried to express my abilities to their fullest.

Tell us about your cross that led to the equalizer.
By getting behind their defense, it was possible to force their back line to retreat and I knew that if I could get into that position, I could create a clear opportunity. I felt that I had to take on my man individually in that situation, so I did so.

At the close of the match, you almost found yourself one v one with the keeper. How do you feel about your decision-making in that scene?
My legs were a bit cramped by that point and I have to build my fitness so that I can continue running, even at that late period of the match. Other than that, I need to improve my composure, so that I can put those opportunities away.

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