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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 5th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Ventforet Kofu

Match Report

【Match Report】

Five months have commenced since the opening match of the season. Crowds have now returned to Ajinomoto Stadium and the team have the opportunity to present a game of football to all those who support Tokyo Verdy. With no wins yet this campaign, the players surely took heart from once again being surrounded by the faces of their supporters and every round of applause that accompanied good play would prove to be perfect fuel for the battle.

 

With the team in the midst of a series of consecutive matches, adjustments were made to the squad. At the back, Matheus was selected to make his home debut, while Shohei Takahashi also returned to the starting lineup after serving a match ban. In midfield, Joel Chima Fujita, who had started the previous game on the bench, stepped in at libero to support the front central midfield pair of Yuhei Sato and Tatsuya Ide. Finally, Shion Inoue, who had not hid his frustration at being subbed at half time in the previous match, was chosen to play not in central midfield but at left wide striker.

 

It was Verdy who controlled the ball in the opening minutes. The players maintained exquisite spacing on the pitch and moved the ball at an up-tempo pace, pinning back the opposition. When they did lose the ball, the team defended high up the pitch, without retreating, enabling them to continue a high-pressure attack. Up to that point, the play mirrored the previous three matches since the break, when the team were unable to secure a positive result. However, it became clear from halfway through the first half that things would be different this time. It was a set piece that lit the first embers of the blaze. In the 21st minute, the manager signaled a set piece drill and Sato sent his free kick to the far side, where Junki Koike headed down and set up Ide for a first-time shot that nearly found the target. In the 29th minute, a series of passage was exchanged between the center and wide areas that stretched the defense, allowing space for Ide to shed his marker with a feint and fire a fierce midrange effort. The shot was deflected by the keeper, but Ide’s advantage in quickness over the opposition would propel the entire team. In the 33th minute, Ide switched the play to the opposite side, where Koike played the ball down with his first touch and the covering Sato picked up on the second ball and drilled a low, quick pass into the space in front of goal. With the defense unable to clear, Masashi Wakasa met the ball with a run, but his placed shot was just off course. In the 36th minute, Yuhei Sato lost possession but immediately pressed from a high position to win it back, subsequently spotting Inoue making a run into space and splitting the defense with a through-pass. Inoue’s shot attempted to catch the goalkeeper off his timing, but the ball struck the keeper’s legs and rolled clear of the net. Still, Verdy had not merely maintained possession and had instead found the seams needed to break down the defense and put enough numbers forward to potentially finish off their moves. Those efforts would bear fruit in the 37th minute. After Sato began a move from midfield in the center of the pitch, exchanging short passes with Hanato and Fujita to draw the defense, Hanato dropped back into space between the lines to receive the ball and quickly played it to the supporting Ide, who spotted Inoue making a well-timed run behind the defense and found him with an equally well-timed through pass. Inoue then watched for the goalkeeper to leave his line and coolly played the ball into the right corner of the net with his right foot, giving Verdy the lead for the first time this season. It was a beautiful goal that symbolized the players’ belief in their unique style.

 

Moments later, however, the opposition would equalize at the end of the half from a corner kick and the team went to the locker room once again recognizing the dangers of football.

 

With Sato picking up an injury in the first half, Koki Morita was brought in after the break, but the pace would not let up. As the half began, Verdy kept the ball without easily giving it up, occasionally relying on back passes to recycle the possession and controlling the initiative. In doing they so, they continually generated chances and seemed to be able to recreate their attacking moves at will. In the 11th minute of the second half, Hanato moved into the channel and secured the ba11 at the post before finding playing a through pass toward the right side, where Koike had made a run. A cross was then played in that drifted to the far side and was retrieved by Narawa, who beat the closing defender with his dribble and fired a shot at goal, only to see it battled away by the goalkeeper with an excellent save. Two minutes later, the team executed a nearly identical move. Hanato turned with the ball and played a pass behind the defense for the running Koike. The latter looked up just as the ball was at his feet and drilled a strong, fast-moving pass across the face of goal with the inside of his foot. On the far side, Inoue made a run on his defender’s blind side and met the ball with a stunning shot that gave Verdy the lead once more. This time, Verdy would not let up after claiming the advantage. In the 66th minute, good pass work saw the team penetrate deep into opposition territory, where Inoue received the ball just left of the penalty area and played it back to Ide with his heel. Ide took out his marker with a series of feints and then cut inside to hit a curling shot that just crept inside the right post and found the top corner of the net, immediately putting Kofu in a big deficit.

 

With Verdy having shown the ability to repeatedly execute their attacking patterns, it was their substitutions that would next prove effective. In the 75th minute, Mizuki Arai was brought in for Ide and with his first appearance of the season, the forward would prove the catalyst to securing the win. Receiving the ball from the right side after a series of speedy passes, Arai looked to test his first touch by launching into a skillful dribble and playing a cross into the box. The ball jut failed to find Hanato, but the defense was also unable to clear, allowing the charging Wakasa to leap feet-first at the ball and volley the ball beneath the keeper into the net. Moments later, in the 78th minute, Verdy would give up a goal of their own after failing to clear a ball in from the wide areas, but even then, they did not merely retreat into their own half. Instead, the team proved once again that the best defense is a good offense and dominated possession until the final whistle, winning 4-2 for their first victory of the season.

 

While it would be unfair to say the team lacked motivation during the two matches played in empty stadiums and the one match with no visiting support, today being the first time that they would play in front of home supporters on their own turf seemed to have hardened the players’ resolve. In particular, the team had already demonstrated their potential by achieving 70% of the possession in their previous three matches, but today they showed the determination to continue with their philosophy of attractive football by settling for nothing less than a positive result. The numbers tell the story. In their four games since the season began, Verdy's shots on goal were in the single digits on each occasion. Today, however, the players fired 16 efforts. These were not mere potshots. Each attempt came after pulling the opposition out of their shape, breaking down the defense and setting up a clear opportunity.

 

With the fans still facing restrictions on how they show their support at the stadium, the players clearly wanted to entertain and encourage them by displaying exciting football for the full 90 minutes. They achieved that objective. The confidence built in their style over the three matches since the resumption of play has now also given them the courage to threaten the goal. For their next match, Verdy hit the road again and will once more try to please their companions, this time watching on DAZN, with an even more sophisticated attacking display.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
For us, the biggest joy was finally getting to play in front of our home supporters. In terms of the match, we had been achieving the style we aim to play with over the last few match matches, but there had been a lot of frustration, both within myself and among the players, about the way we ended moves. Today, however, the players continued doing what they had done well so far and I feel like the supporters provided us that last push needed to create the finish. Kofu are also a team with a high-level attack and it was a difficult match, but I think the players did brilliantly until the final whistle.

You began with a back four. Was that because you expected the opposition to line up with a back five?
Naturally, whether the opposition came with a back five or a back four was a very important part of our game plan, so we prepared to deal with either one.

Today, you seemed to achieve one of your major objectives by effectively exploiting your opponents’ game plan. Do you feel this was this because of the particular matchup you had or was there a change in your approach?
It went according to plan, but I think the players did a good job of breaking the stagnation that had built in our attack. What I emphasized in the locker room was that if we are going to play with 70% of the possession, it is very important to always be in the right positions. However, that emphasis was expressed in a way that they understood that they could stray from position in the finishing zone. The players understood the meaning of my words and their intent very well.

Shion Inoue had two goals today. How did you rate his play and what do you continue to expect from him?
I believe that I am more aware than anyone else of his ability and potential. He always performs well, but today he did brilliantly by achieving a clear impact with his goals, in addition to the usual things he does so well. Still, I think he can do even more.

What advice have you given to Inoue?
A lot of it has to do with where he stands on the pitch. In the last match, he struggled a bit to find space in central midfield. Today, I think starting him on the left, where his position was clear, probably helped. In terms of advice, a great manager like his previous coach, Lotina, expressed his potential by calling him “Verdy's Messi”. Personally, however, I think I would rather see him become Verdy's Iniesta.

What did you hope to achieve by having him switch positions with Haruya Ide during the match?
Shion (Inoue) had struggled in central midfield during the previous match, so I had him start on the left wing today. However, he is fully capable of performing in central midfield, so I told him, Haru (ya Ide) and the side attacker Nara(wa) that they could rotate positions. I’m a rather old-fashioned person, so when I subbed him at half time in the previous game, it wasn’t because he been played poorly, it was more about changing the team’s approach. However, I noticed that he was crying at half time, which is rare for him. When I saw that, I had the instinctual feeling that he would have a big impact the next time he played. And today, he did a wonderful job, scoring two goals. Shion proved to me, once again, that there really are football gods watching over us.

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Post-match comments

MF 11Haruya Ide

Tell us about your goal.
I had that shot in mind the moment I received the ball and saw my defender. I think it was a perfect goal.

Did you do anything different, individually, to influence your performance today?
Individually, I felt that things had not gone well for me since the restart, or at least that I had been overthinking things on the pitch. All week, Coach Nagai told us that “we’ve hit a wall and to overcome it and reach the next level of our evolution, we need players to have ideas in front of goal”. Hearing that, I wanted to be less cautious and try and show what I can do in front of goal.

As a central midfielder, you were a bit further back than previous matches. What did you focus on from that position?
I personally think that I played in my optimum position today and in terms of our team approach, I tried to have an impact every time I got the ball. We took a more asymmetric approach at times, in response to what the opposition were doing, but I think I was able to make a difference with my play.

The way you would switch positions with Shion Inoue stood out. In what ways did you and he stay in communication?
As I mentioned just now, we each have our ideal position and both of us had been told, before the match, to keep moving as we tried to break them down. I think the confidence we had in our ideas in front of goal made a big difference today.

In what ways had you been overthinking things so far?
As we’ve sometimes had to form an asymmetric shape, in response to the opposition, I was too focused on trying to be aware of where my teammates were, rather than trying to express my abilities. Today, however, it felt like I was able to direct the movements of the other players in ways that made things easier for me. A big part of that came from being moved to central midfield.

What did you all discuss, in terms of having failed to get a win or earn multiple goals during the other matches this season?
Among the players, and among the team, the talk was about the importance of bravery and creativity in front of goal. In terms of today’s match, Coach Nagai had told us all to take risks at the end of moves, in order to break down the defense, and I think the focus on that from every individual led to the result.

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MF 20Shion Inoue

Tell us about your goal.
The first goal was a subtle move. Just before that, I had received a through-pass from Yuhei (Sato) and missed the shot, after trying with the outside of my foot, so the second time, I’m happy that I was able to keep my poise and tap home with the inside of my foot. The second goal was exactly what we aim for as a team, moving the ball from one wing to the other, and we scored that way last year too. I’m glad we were able to produce that play today. I made the run believing that the pass a would come and it did from Junki (Koike). I think it was a good goal.

How does it feel knowing that your goals gave the team its first win of the season?
It doesn’t matter which one of us score, but getting four goals today makes me think we’ve finally taken the next step forward, so I hope this will prove a turning point for us.

Coach Nagai just told us that you shed tears in the locker room after being subbed at half time in the Omiya match. Can you tell us what you were feeling and how you feel today?
I had been subbed at half time in the match against Tochigi, too, and against Omiya, I played poorly. As for why I shed tears, they just came out naturally. I have to express my gratitude to the manager for giving me the start again, today, despite that. I felt strongly that my performance in this match would have a big effect on how I’m rated in the future. I do think I put more feeling into this match than I usually do.

Coach Moriyasu, manager of the Japanese national team, was in the stands today. What are your hopes for the Tokyo Olympics?
I think the event being postponed for a year is an opportunity. However, even though I scored twice today, I still have a lot of work to do regarding my play in other areas. I will try to shift gears from tomorrow, so that I can perform even better in the coming matches.

You moved from central midfield to wide striker today. Can you tell us which position is easiest for you?
I did start on the left wing today, but whenever Narawa took a high position, I would drop into the center, so the shape was fluid. Still, when I’m in a wide position, I’m closer to the goal, so that left me feeling that I could score more than usual. That feeling is always strongest when I play on the wing. Anyone of us is allowed to go for goal and we knew, throughout the squad, that we hadn’t been doing enough to break teams down in the final third, so I think the major work we did on that aspect of our play earned us the result today. Individually, as well, getting goals will raise the value of my presence, so I want to play with more awareness of that in the future.

The manager mentioned that he told you it was acceptable to break the shape in front of goal. Did you focus on that, today?
In the second half of the match against Omiya, we tried to force that to happen, or at least we knew that if we didn’t do something different from normal, we were never going to score. I think all of us felt that way. I think we showed more bravery and creativity at the end of moves today. That’s what led to the four goals.

Tell us about the chance you didn’t convert that occurred right before the opening goal.
My first touch got the ball where I wanted and if I had chosen to curl the shot with the inside of my foot, rather than shoot with the outside, I don’t think the goalkeeper could have gotten a touch. It was because of the miss that I was determined to show more poise the second time, so I think it was a good thing in some ways.

This was your first time to score a brace in match play. How do you feel?
I’m honestly happy. I think my teammates were probably surprised, but it’s not like I earned the goal on my own. Rather, it was the result of the hard work the entire team put in, so I am grateful to everyone and hope we can continue in this way.

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DF 2Masashi Wakasa

This was your first game in front of actual home supporters this season.
We got to show them a lot of attacking play, in the Verdy style, and it was fun for us too.

I’m sure the previous match against Omiya was a tough one for you, individually, but today, you played with a lot of intensity in attack and defense.
It really was a timid performance in the last match and I felt responsible. Even so, the manager gave me a spot again today, so I was determined to show positive energy and the will to win, more than anything else. I’m glad that led to a good result for us.

You performed many of the tasks of a right side back, today.
In defense, I played as the right side of a back four, but in possession, I tried to find spaces and make myself available for passes.

How did it feel to participate on the right side of the attack?
Personally, I love to get involved in the attack, so I’m having fun right now and I hope that I can build better relationships with the midfield and front line, for example Eiko (Koike) and Yuhei (Sato) in the case of the first half, today.

Including the team’s fourth goal, you showed a lot of determination to get on the end of loose balls in the box.
I was playing in a higher position than usual today and I still had to make up for the previous match, so… It had been a very frustrating period for me, so I had a strong desire to score. In that sense, I’m very happy.

You made a brilliant direct pass to Hanato in the buildup to the second goal.
That’s something I always try to do, and Jin (Hanato) had taken up a great position. I think that was a case of us accomplishing something that we’d worked on in training.

Breaking down teams that defend with blocks of 5 and 4 had been an issue, but you accomplished that today.
Omiya also played with a back five and we lost because we were unable to break them down. We learned from that and today, we attacked well. We were able to see the spaces, so I think it was just a matter of filling them and taking up good positions.

Concentration at the beginning of matches has also been an issue, but you did that, as well.
Both the team and myself, who had to make up for the last match, were truly focused. Those of us at the back were constantly making our voices heard, to keep everyone on their toes, so I think that was good.

Although they still face a lot of restrictions, how did it feel to finally play in front of the home fans?
As expected, the presence of the fans makes a big difference. Today, there were not only the restrictions due to COVID-19,but it was also a week day and the weather had been poor, so numbers were limited, but I hope we can continue to play well and when the pandemic finally ends, I hope we can have lots of supporters in the stadium.

I’m sure you want today to be the start of a winning streak.
The first order of business is to rest well and maintain our condition, so that we can keep playing well.

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MF 19Junki Koike

This was your first game in front of actual home supporters this season.
After the truly difficult period of self-quarantine, we were able to play in front of our fans today and we performed as well as we did in last season’s final match. It took us a while to get going, but I’m happy that we were finally able to deliver a victory.

Although they still face a lot of restrictions, how did it feel to finally play in front of the home fans?
The game against Machida was a remote match, so it definitely felt different, today. The fans who came were not allowed to raise their voices, but I think they did what they could and it really gave us encouragement.

You seemed very sharp in your performance, today.
Honestly, since the opener, I hadn’t played to my strengths, or at least, I hadn’t been able to produce the kind of play that I had in mind. Last match, I was involved in conceding a goal, but the manager continued to believe in me and gave me a chance to play, today, so I was determined to pay him back by getting a positive result.

Your assist for the second goal was a clear example of the team’s approach.
There were a lot of forward balls played in to Hanato, today, so I was able to get behind the defense whenever I made runs from that position. In that sense, I do think that we achieved our game plan. I think the fact that we scored by going from wing to wing is an example of our approach paying off.

Breaking down teams that defend with blocks of 5 and 4 had been an issue, but you accomplished that today.
In the last match, we just weren’t aggressive enough in front of goal to break them down. In that sense, since Kofu took the same approach with five at the back, I think they were trying the same tactics and the fact that we claimed four goals is a definite sign of progress for us.

Having more players from the back line participating in the attack really seemed to add an extra dimension.
We were rotating positions and I would often drop into the middle to allow Wakasa to push up on the outside. On the other side of the pitch, they also rotated positions to try and break them down. That’s something we had talked about as a team, so I’m glad it worked well.

It took five matches to get your first win of the season. How does it feel after the difficult start?
Even in the matches where we didn’t get the result, it’s not like we achieved nothing. It felt to me like we were building on the foundation we had laid last year. Coach Nagai had told us that the end of moves is where we’ll blossom. He said that if we could keep expressing what we’d worked on, then eventually, we’d bloom and we believed that too. Despite having so much possession of the ball, it hadn’t yet led to goals, so I think we took a step forward today. Of course, I don’t think we’ve fully blossomed yet, but I hope we can continue addressing each of our issues, one by one.

Some of the supporters couldn’t help but get excited at times, today.
That kind of reaction is something we don’t get with a remote match. We did hear them a few times, but more than anything else, the fact that they were there in the stadium was a big boost. If things continue to improve, I’m sure we’ll hear them in voice at a later date.

I’m sure you want today to be the start of a winning streak.
I think we just need to keep improving. More than what our opponents do, I think the key for us is to take care of the ball and continue challenging ourselves at the end of moves. If we challenge ourselves to do things that we haven’t accomplished so far, I hope we’ll see that effort blossom. I really do feel that we have a strong squad and I want us to come together and each express our abilities as we fight on.

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FW 25Jin Hanato

This was your first game in front of actual home supporters this season.
The first goal came off nicely and though we conceded from a set piece after that, we regrouped and achieved what we aim to from open play. More than anything, we hadn’t had a win yet this season, so I’m just glad we go the result. I don’t have anything to show for it, individually, but the most important thing is that the team wins, so I’m happy.

Breaking down teams that defend with blocks of 5 and 4 had been an issue, but you accomplished that today.
I think the opening minutes of the last match determined the result. If you give up an early goal to a team with a defense that tight, they will shut down everything to protect their lead. Today, we talked about beginning the game with focus and that enabled us to score the first goal. They equalized after that, but we were able to come back even then, so I think we learned our lesson well.

In the match against Omiya, you seemed targeted by their defense. Today, however, you communicated well with your teammates and served as a good focal point for the attack.
Against Omiya, I was surrounded by three or four players at all times and couldn’t see the space, so it was difficult for me to create chances. Today, however, we had good spacing in the build up to our opening goal. The same went for the through pass I made to Junki (Koike) before the second goal. That enabled us to react to the way the opposition closed me down.

You stated that you didn’t have anything, individually, to show for the result. However, you began the moves that led to the goals and your presence really stood out.
As long as I’m playing in that position, everyone, including the supporters, will expect me to get goals. With that said, I believe that helping the team by pressing on the front line and linking the play is my most important role. I just have to prepare, as best I can, to convert chances when they do come my way.

You seemed a bit unlucky on the occasions when you did have a chance to shoot.
There were a few occasions when I could have taken a swing myself and for every week that goes by without a goal, I start to feel more hesitant. My play is the only evidence I can offer of my ability, so I will stay motivated. Individually, I feel like the opportunity to shoot is there when the ball comes my way and I imagine that teams will try to close down the forward passes that come to me in the future, so I can do things like feint as if I’m going to play the ball down and then take a shot. I’ll keep looking for ways to take advantage of my individual skills.

The second goal was a clear illustration of the team’s approach.
Waka(sa) found me with a superb direct ball and at that very moment, Junki (Koike) made a run. I think that was an ideal move for us. As a team, moving the ball from wing to wing is one way we look to score and I’m glad that we were able to do it in match play. However, I’m sure our opponents will start scouting us for tactics in the future, so I’ll also train to respond well to loose balls quickly.

It took five matches to get your first win of the season. How does it feel, after the difficult start?
In the match against Machida, I myself had a big chance that I couldn’t convert and we drew as a result. Against Tochigi, as well, we had 70 to 80 percent of the possession but suffered after conceding the opening goal. What we achieved today was in response to all of that. I’m sure we’ll have more difficult matches in the future, but now we have a base that we can go back to, so we need to keep that in mind, contribute individual ideas when we’re in the final third to pull away defenders, and shoot when there’s a moment’s chance. Those skills will be important for us. A good example is what Haru(ya) Ide today.

The packed schedule continues under these extraordinary circumstances. How do you feel about your conditioning?
This week was particularly difficult with three, then two days of rest between matches, but we have great players on the bench and I never know if I’ll be chosen for the next match, so my job is to prepare and contribute a good performance whenever I’m on the pitch. Personally, though, I don’t feel in poor condition.

Although they still face a lot of restrictions, how did it feel to finally play in front of the home fans?
They applaud every time we win the ball or complete a pass, so to put it simply, it feels great. It really is quite different from the remote matches when there is no reaction from those around you and just hearing that applause gives you an extra boost. Individually, I wanted to be the one to score a fifth goal for the team and when Yamashita got the ball, I did a lot of running and changing of positions, but it didn’t lead to a goal. As a result, I didn’t really have time to truly experience the reactions of the crowd.

The substitutes were very aggressive in trying to claim goals for themselves, but is your honest assessment that you would have liked a pass?
When Yamashita begins dribbling, his field of vision grows narrow, so I reminded him to watch for my movements from time to time. With that said, I recognize that he is definitely a big weapon for the team and hope to deepen our combination play in the future.

I’m sure you want today to be the start of a winning streak.
As expected, the atmosphere is quite different after a win. Just by getting a single victory, it feels like the team’s spirits have brightened. If we can go on a winning streak while playing with this schedule, we still have a chance to move up the table and we will do our best to prepare well over the next two days.

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