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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 7th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Montedio Yamagata

Match Report

Last week, Verdy achieved a hard-fought 2-1 victory away over JEF united and returned home on a two-game winning streak. The schedule looks harder than ever, as a series of consecutive matches await with only three days of rest in-between, but given the team’s burgeoning confidence in their playing style, each game is a chance to further improve the quality of their attractive brand of attacking football. On this day, the squad emerged with changes from the previous match. Kanya Fujimoto started in place of Junki Koike, while Yuhei Sato returned to his spot at front central midfield.

 

As the match began, the Verdy back line moved the ball with poise, evading Montedio Yamagata’s high press, and gradually, the team began to carry the ball into spaces high up the pitch. Although mistakes in their link-up play led a few times to danger on the counter-attack, the Verdy players counter-pressed, preventing the opposition from setting up an opportunity to finish, and won the ball back to set up their own quick attacks as they controlled the majority of play. The first chance came in the 9th minute, when Fujimoto picked up a loose ball after an opposition mistake and played it quickly into space behind the defense on the opposite side of the pitch. Shion Inoue made the run and the ball just evaded his touch, but continuation allowed him to evade the keeper and play a ball across the face of goal. However, the pass veered off course and no one was able to get a finishing touch. After the missed opportunity, Verdy maintained their concentration and continued probing for gaps.  In the 12th minute, the team won the ball high up the pitch and began a counter-attack. From inside his own half, Fujimoto played a long through-pass that once again found its way into space behind the defense on the left side. This time Inoue ‘s run allowed him to round the keeper and get off a shot, but the ball struck the left post, rebounding inside the box and heading toward the feet of Hanato, who neatly tried to tap home with his first touch, only to see the ball cleared off the line by a covering defender. In the 22nd minute, it was Verdy’s turn to be on the end of an attack. Otsuki managed to switch positions with Shohei Takahashi and break away, reaching the edge of the penalty area before firing with a low shot on goal with his left foot that Matheus did well to save with a quick leap off his line. In the 28th minute, Verdy pushed up from the back and a header won by the defense was played to the front line for the switching Hanato and Inoue to secure. With Hanato pulling away his marker, Inoue tried an effort from mid-range, but the shot went agonizingly wide of the right post. The final play of the first half saw Yamagata break down the left side of the Verdy defense and catch the back line unaware with a cross into the box that was met on the far side, unmarked, but Matheus reacted well and dove to his side to catch the ball and avert the danger.

 

The first half ended with Verdy on the attack but far from goal, and the team would once again take the initiative after the break. By making several direct passes through the middle, they were now able to pin the opposition back in their own final third. The combination of high pressing, ball possession and creativity proved effective, allowing Verdy to accomplish all aspects of their game plan, except for goals. Meanwhile, the opposition took a more conservative approach and sat back in their own half, stifling any clear chances as the minutes ticked away. With the players showing fatigue at the close of the match, Yamagata began to apply the pressure and threatened the Verdy goal. It was Matheus who answered the call in these difficult situations, showing excellent judgment and occasionally sacrificing his body, such as when he dove onto the ball to interrupt an attacker’s direct run. In the end, Verdy were made to pay for the chances they missed in the first half and the match ended a scoreless draw.

 

Today marked a frustrating start to the team’s upcoming series of consecutive matches. While there are no “what ifs” in competitive play, converting the chances they had would likely have brought the players a result that would have increased their confidence even more. Now they must use that frustration as fuel to improve the precision of their finishing and prepare for another match at home with only three days of rest.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
My honest reaction is that this was a frustrating result for us at home. We expected them to sit back and defend to some degree and we spent a lot of time preparing ways to break down their back five, but in terms of the getting the ball through the square zone and breaking down the finishing zone, I regret that we didn’t switch earlier to a different plan. However, if we look for positives, we created several chances and were only one step away from scoring. In addition, I think our defense, including Matheus, showed a lot of fight at the end of moves and did very well to hold them to zero and give us a point from the match. Even so, it was a very difficult result for us to accept, as the players did an excellent job and made a good start to the series of matches we have ahead.

Did you expect the opposition to press from the front as much as they did?
Yes. We had discussed ways to evade the pressure they would apply and I think we accomplished that.

Can you give us any specific improvements that were needed during the latter part of the second half, when the team ceased creating chances?
I think we put too much emphasis on trying to break into the square zone and were lacking in the movement needed to find space behind their defense once we did. That’s something I will reflect on. In the second half, I intended for us to try and play the ball behind them more often when I brought on Yamashita and Koike, but they struggled to find the right positions behind the opposition’s back five. Knowing the quality of our players, I think they could have done a bit more. I will work to improve that in the future.

Yamagata dropped further back in the first half and began aiming to intercept long passes and hit you on the counter. Did that work against you?
We always try to be aware of what the opposition are doing on the pitch and when they press from the front, that changes our plan and changes the areas on the pitch where we need to attack. On the contrary, if they sit back, we have to think about how to pull them out of shape and make incursions. If we can do that and set up the finish by changing the tip of our moves, things will go even better. We had done well to make those transitions in training, this week, so it’s frustrating for that reason, too. Either way, the players challenged themselves in a positive way, so I think that will pay off in the future.

Were the two substitutions you made, while bringing on Ryoya Yamashita, intended to get behind the opposition as they applied pressure from the front?
That’s correct. It was a difficult decision to make, but I thought we could make better use of Yamashita’s abilities if there were more space behind them. As long as they were sitting back, that made it difficult to find the right timing for the substitution.

How do you rate the team’s run of three matches without losing?
All I have to say is that the players have done a great job. Consider all the matches we’ve had where we’ve struggled to completely break teams down, we’ve continued to do the minimum necessary in competitive play, in the sense that if we can’t get three points ourselves, we’re not going to let the opposition have three points either. I think that will be very important over the course of the long season.

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Post-match comments

MF8Yuhei Sato

Your thoughts on the match?
I think that if we had scored with the chance that Shion (Inoue) had, that would have been game over. The opposition really didn’t do much and we played our usual game, so it was all pretty familiar. I simply we wish we had gotten a goal in those opening minutes. However. we didn’t play badly.

Did missing that chance in the opening minutes make things difficult for you, in terms of the early play?
Not really. It happens to every team. Not only Yamagata, but every opponent we play defend with a certain amount of pride. Today, they were able to close down the initial pass, but on most occasions, I feel we were fouled. It doesn’t matter whether teams choose to press us from the front or sit back in their area, we have our counter attacking moves as well and the missed chance was one of those. It’s important to score when you have the opportunity and had we done so, I think we could have passed the ball for the rest of the match.

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FW25Jin Hanato

Your thoughts on the match?
It was a game that we absolutely had to win. I had a chance of my own and those split-second moments can determine the outcome. Had I scored, we could have won 1-0. We have to make the most of those individual moments.

You had control of the play from the ten-minute mark of the first half.
Even when I listen to the shouts from the opposition players, I can tell that every team is making a point of stopping me from securing direct balls to the front. That’s exactly why it’s important to get behind the defense or find ways to secure the ball, even as they try to stop me. Looking at the match as a whole, there’s no doubt it was ours for the taking and I hope we can firmly link that feeling of control to good results in the future. No matter how you examine it, we can ‘t win if we don’t find the net.

The opposition had some momentum toward the end of the match, though.
As one might expect, it’s difficult for us to play our style for the full 90 minutes and there will always be periods where the opposition have momentum, no matter how brief. Even so, in defense, we didn’t allow them to hurt us from set pieces, as teams have in the past, and even though we were pinned back and unable to attack, all of us maintained our focus until the end.

With both teams forced to endure pressure, how do you feel about earning your first clean sheet of the season?
We could have won if I had scored, but even after I lost the ball, the way we counter-pressed to win it back and kept possession in front of their goal showed definite improvement, compared to the opening period of the season. Right now, we all know what we have to do. We’re creating a greater number of chances, but at the end of moves, it’s about individual play as much as team play and that’s where I hope all of us can improve.

Except for finishing off attacks, the team played fairly well.
We created a lot of positive moves in front of their goal and we just needed to score. Had we scored from any one of those chances, I think the opposition would have come forward a bit more and that would have made the game easier for us. Our inability to convert made all the difference, today.

Other than improving precision at the end of moves, what else is necessary to earn more goals?
There were a lot of set pieces today and while scoring goals from open play is important, not getting a goal from that many opportunities is wasteful, so we need to improve those. We can keep the ball in open play and then score from a single set piece. On the other hand, we can also be undone by a single set piece given to the opposition. Set pieces are important and as a team, we’ve had a lot of ideas floating around, so I hope we can master them. Other than that, we need to make the opposition more afraid of the threat of shots on goal and we can do that by feinting a mid-range shot and playing a through pass, etc.

The team’s build up play has looked a lot more stable.
As a team, we are focused on moving the ball past their front line and playing from there. On top of that, I’d like to increase the number of times that I receive direct passes from the center backs. Of course, the opposition is prepared for that, so it’s going to be difficult, but Shohei (Takahashi) is good at tricking the defense before he makes a pass and if I can take advantage of those momentary lapses in concentration to secure the ball, I can play one-touch flicks behind the defense or combine with the other players. I think that will enable us to create more chances.

So, you want the center backs to play more of those forward passes?
Yes. I feel like tactically, our opponents are closing down the middle more, but I also feel like there weren’t enough players make overlapping runs behind me in the first half. When I dropped deep and their number 3 followed to mark me, it would be nice to have a player move into that space behind the defense, and if they don’t follow me, then I’ll be able to secure the ball, so I would have liked to see more of that in the first half. It’s important for us to remain patient and continue recycling possession as we play.

You had a little more time off before this match, after three consecutive games in a short interval. How was your conditioning?
It was pretty humid, today, so I didn’t feel particularly loose, but if we move the ball and make our opponents run, we know it will be hard for them, too, so the important thing is to not overlook the gaps that form. Today was a frustrating result for us, but we can take it as a positive that we didn’t lose.

Tell us what you hope to achieve in the match against Albirex Niigata in three days.
To be honest, I haven’t viewed any film yet, so I don’t have a huge impression of our opponents and I feel we need to focus on our own football. More than only concentrating on how the opposition play, we need to accomplish the things that are important for us and judge what the opposition are doing in the midst of that. We only have three days of rest, so we will prioritize recovery from today as we prepare.

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GK31Matheus

Your thoughts on the match?
There are still a lot of league matches left and a lot of football to play. I’m sure we will have more difficult games than this. With that said, to keep the team in a good overall state, I think it’s important that we avoid losing.

How do you feel about getting your first clean sheet of the season?
Ending matches with a clean sheet is extremely important. We have a very high-quality attack and the potential to score a lot of goals, so I think conceding as little as possible is one of the keys for us to obtain positive results.

You made a big save at the end of the match. Did you always intend to make the save with your feet?
When the opposition player tried to control the ball before setting up the shot, his final touch was a bit heavy and I felt that was my chance, so I immediately left my line to close down the space between himself and the ball. That cut down on the angle he had for his shot and led to the ball hitting my leg when he made the strike.

Your debut ended in a loss, but since then, the team has gone three matches undefeated and you’ve been a big contributor.
I had my debut against Omiya and since then, it’s been match after match against difficult opposition. Against Omiya, they scored suddenly from their first chance and we had to play the whole match behind a goal. Since then, we have gone undefeated. However, I want to point out that I don’t think the team improved only after I took the pitch. Please don’t misunderstand. However, I do feel that we’re making progress as a squad.

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MF11Haruya Ide

Your thoughts on the match?
I won’t be able to comment on the match as a whole until I see the film, but on the pitch, it felt like we played our game and created enough chances in front of goal. If we could have finished off those moves, it would have been much easier for us.

How did it feel to play against your old club for the first time?
The majority of their squad was made up of people that I played with last year, so it was a lot of fun. Of course, it was fun being on the pitch, too, but for me personally, I especially wanted us to win because we were playing well.

You had control of the play from the ten-minute mark of the first half.
The way the opposition line up and defend is important, as we try to observe their approach while we form our game plan. Every player did a good job in the early minutes of not conceding possession to their pressure and remaining aware of the positions that the opposition were taking up. In that sense, from about the ten-minute mark, I think we were fully aware of their tactics and able to play our game. Finishing moves has been an issue for us all along, but we’d been doing better lately and individually, I felt I had a good game. Now it’s up to the forward players, including myself, to finish moves with a goal.

The way you would turn on the ball in central midfield and initiate the attack stood out.
That’s what the manager wants from the front central midfielders, like myself and Yuhei (Sato), so I’ve tried to do it more myself. Lastly, in terms of decision making, I think I could have taken more shots, as that will increase the number of options we have. That’s an area where I have to improve, so I will focus on it in the future.

The precision of the team’s counter-pressing has improved and that likely played a role in getting your first clean sheet of the season.
Coach Nagai and his staff don’t only work with us on attack. They also give us a lot of instructions on our defensive positions and the switch between attack and defense. That has enabled us to defend well the past few games. In terms of today’s match, the opposition put in some dangerous crosses at the end of the first and second halves, so I think the team, and myself, need to pay closer attention to detail, but I think we’re defending well as a unit to a certain degree.

Attack and defense are different sides of the same coin, but right now, you’re doing somewhat well at both.
The players at the back are doing a great job of managing risks while we take up positions in attack. In that sense, good defense has contributed to good attacks and I can feel improvement in both areas. Now we want to continue with that improvement.

Your build-up play has also been more stable.
In our team meetings, we’ve been working on our passes to the free man and the way we develop moves after that. I’d like to try moving into the space behind Jin (Hanato) after we play balls to the front line. As a team, I think we’ve done a better job of speeding up after the initial forward pass.

There haven’t been enough runs to exploit the space left open when Hanato pulls the center backs forward.
Coach Nagai told us that during the match and in terms of today’s match, we should taken greater advantage when Jin (Hanato) was closed down. To play Coach Nagai’s soccer, everyone needs to be on the same page and that’s something the players feel as well. To exploit those aspects of the game, more players need to act decisively, myself included.

You also failed to score, despite having a number of opportunities, from set pieces today.
We do include scoring from set pieces as part of our team concept, and since we’ve been attacking well and ending moves with shots on goal or crosses, we’ve had more corner kicks. We’ve practiced set piece drills and we have some ideas, but finishing them off remains an issue. If we can get goals from set pieces, it will make it easier for us to win matches and I want to focus on that in training.

The opposition had some momentum at the end of the match.
They had the stamina to run until the final whistle and there were also points where we should have cleared the ball out of play or tracked back more. Especially against teams like today, we have to do a better job of keeping up with them.

Is your biggest regret from today that you didn’t get a goal while you were in control of the match?
We had big chances in the first half and considering how deeply we pinned them back in the second, I regret that I didn’t take more shots on goal when the opportunity was there. I spoke about this with Yuhei (Sato), but if we can score, we can execute our ideal game plan and that’s going to be the key to us moving up the table.

That you were able to execute most of your game plan, even with the score equal, must be a positive.
We nearly conceded at the end of the match, but we defended well, overall, and it was a positive that we held the opposition to zero. In terms of our game plan, we achieved our style in the first half, so I think that’s a positive.

You had a little more time off before this match, after three consecutive games in a short interval. How was your conditioning?
Because of the rain, today, the grass was a bit slick in some areas and there was more of a burden on my legs than usual. With that said, we just got off a series of matches against Kofu and Chiba and we have another series coming up, so the week off didn’t exactly allow our bodies to completely relax. Still, we’re not about to change the way we play and I’m sure it was worse for the other side. Mentally, as well, we’re able to remain organized as we play, and I doubt that we were suffering more than our opponents. We play good football no matter who is on the pitch, so I hope we all continue to prepare well for the next match.

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