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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 8th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Albirex Niigata

Match Report

As Verdy entered into another tight period of three matches with only three days rest in-between, they played two consecutive matches at home. In the previous encounter against Montedio Yamagata, Verdy were unable to convert clear chances on goal and ended with a scoreless draw, making this day’s match against Albirex Niigata a must-win. Despite the strain of playing with only three days’ rest, there were no changes to the squad that took the pitch.

 

In the early minutes, Verdy struggled to adjust to changes in the opposition’s squad and formation, leading to a series of mistakes that saw them pinned back in their half. As Niigata played with a compact shape and high press, it took the team more than 10 minutes to regain their poise. Gradually, the back line began to evade the press and use the width of the pitch to slowly push into Niigata territory. The first chance of the match came in the 12th minute, when Masashi Wakasa put in an early cross in front of goal. Hanato began to respond, but as he was in an offside position and could not be involved in the play, Shion Inoue made the run behind him and controlled the ball, beating his defender and firing it into the back of the net. However, Hanato was flagged for offside after all and it was ruled no goal. The Verdy front line continued pressing and won the ball again, leading to a decisive moment in the 16th minute. Kanya Fujimoto received the ball in a wide position on the right side and played it into space behind the defense, where Hanato made a run unmarked. Hanato slowed the play and looked up, choosing his spot to play a cross as Wakasa burst into the box unmarked to meet the ball, only to see his shot go wide of the left post. Finally, at the close of the first half, Haruya Ide pulled away a marker and played a lateral pass for Hanato, who shot with his right foot. However, the ball flew straight into the arms of the goalkeeper.

 

As the second half began, it was Verdy who took control of the play. After trying to move the ball with quick touches in the first half and enduring prominent counter attacks following their mistakes, the players now took their time and focused on maintaining possession, while still finding opportunities to speed up their moves when the ball reached the final third. Judging that the team was lacking in terms of breaking down the defense, the manager brought on the speedy Koike and Yamashita early in the second half. Now utilizing their wide strikers on both sides of the pitch, Verdy pinned Niigata in their own area. In the 63rd minute, Verdy lost the ball and suffered a dangerous moment in front of goal on the counter-attack. Matheus left his line to pressure the ball holder and threw his body onto the powerful shot, then further followed up with a sharp reaction to beat away another shot off the rebound. In the 78th minute, substitute Takayuki Fukumura split the defensive line with a through pass and Yamashita timed his run perfectly to latch onto the ball and play a cross into the box. Although his teammates just missed getting onto the end of the pass, the move did earn Verdy a corner kick. Yuhei Sato stepped up to take the corner on the right side and his sharply dipping cross was met at the near post by the charging Shohei Takahashi. With the slightest of touches with his head, Takahashi managed to change the flight of the ball and send it into the back of the net on the far side, giving Verdy there first goal from a corner kick this season.

 

Having scored a late winner, the question now turned to how they would close out the remainder of the match. The answer was provided in the form of play from Koki Morita and Rihito Yamamoto, both of whom had just entered the pitch, along with Sato. As Niigata poured forward to chase the equalizer, Verdy looked to exploit them by evading their pressure and carrying the ball into high positions. From there, they took advantage of the gaps opening up between the lines and slowly moved the ball to eat up time. When a chance did present itself, the team would increase the speed of their passing and play the ball into space, building up momentum for a second goal. The match proceeded into additional time with Verdy maintaining their lead until the 93rd minute, when the opposition elected to try a long throw into the box. Matheus left his line but was unable to reach the ball and it dropped into the penalty area, where Watanabe reacted and scored a dramatic equalizer, only seconds before the final whistle.

 

This was a match in which Verdy would have liked to make Shohei Takahashi the hero, as it was his first goal since returning to the club, but in the final gasp, a hole opened in their defense. Given that their approach to closing the match had not been mistaken, it was important to avoid giving the opposition opportunities from set pieces、even a long throw. In the final result, Verdy were unable to extend their winning streak, despite playing consecutive matches at home, and with two draws, it feels like they let four points slip away. There is no time for the players to put their heads down, however, and they must next use their frustration as motivation to take on undefeated V Varen Nagasaki.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
Honestly, it was a very frustrating match. The game developed exactly as I anticipated. Both teams play with a style where they like to have the ball and attack, so I was excited to see us go end to end and that’s what happened. We attacked very well and they did too. That’s exactly why it’s essential, when you play this kind of football, to improve the precision with which you carry out and finish moves. Shohei (Takahashi) scored for us from a set piece and we were extremely close to winning, but we have to learn how to manage the time that remains in those situations. Especially for the younger players, this was a match that showed them the importance of finishing off games. Still over the course of the 90 minutes, I think the players did a truly excellent job and the encouragement we received from our home supporters was a big boost. In the end, it was an extremely frustrating result that saw us one step away from our objective, but I believe it will also enable us to take the next step. We don’t have much time, but we will now begin preparations to shift mentally for the next match.

You mentioned the way the team plays after taking the lead as an issue. What do you think would be ideal?
It starts with us maintaining possession of the ball and naturally, going for a second goal is the best form of defense, but we’ve worked since the beginning of the season on game design, from how we begin matches to how we end them and I believe we need to work on different scenarios for the whole 90 minutes, whether that means having a one-goal lead, being tied 0-0. or being down 0-1. Today, we had a one-goal lead, so I think it was extremely important that we keep the ball and play in the opposition half.

This was the third time this year that you’ve taken the lead, only to have the other team equalize. What do you think needs to be improved?
Of course, I think physical exhaustion is an issue, but I think the most important thing is taking up positions and providing the support to your teammates that will enable us to keep hold of possession. One or two steps, or one or two meters for each person can make the difference, but we have been too lax in that element. As a result, the areas where the other teams are winning the ball or playing the ball make it difficult for us to be in the right positions to provide the basic things we work on, like urgent support. I fully understand that the players are tired at the end of matches, but that applies to the opposition as well. Once we had the lead at that period of the match, keeping possession of the ball and making our opponents run was vital for the way we want to play. That we didn’t do that today is what cost us.

How do you feel about going four matches without a loss?
I think the players are performing very well. We’ve had a lot of difficult matches, but if we look at the positives, I think the fact that we haven’t been defeated is a sign of growth for the players and the team.

You seemed to issue a lot of instructions for how to defend the final set piece.
I told them to not to let their concentration slip and that includes winning the second ball. I told them to anticipate the second ball and to keep taking steps, so that their brains would not switch off.

What improvements do you think the team can make during matches like this where they share possession? In addition, what were your impressions of Niigata?
I didn’t have much of a chance to speak with the Niigata manager, but when I did, he told me that this was an ideal game of football. It’s good to have teams that play with different styles, but for us, keeping the ball and attacking is an important element, so I was sincerely happy to hear him say that it was a good match. In terms of our game plan, it was difficult to predict how they would line up, be it five at the back, four at the back, or a rotation system. Since they played with four at the back today, I think the players should have tried more, in the first half, to pull them to one end of the pitch and then attack the space on the opposite lane. Everyone focuses on how we play in the square zone or how we break down defenses while keeping possession, but in the first half, there was space behind their back line that we should have exploited. Not doing so is something that we have to regret. If we had been more aware of how the opposition were making their approach, I think we could have done a little better. Even so, I think the players did a great job.

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Post-match comments

DF6Shohei Takahashi

Tell us about your goal.
I owe it to the kicker. Yuhei (Sato) played a good ball, so all I had to do was get a touch.

You hadn’t scored from league play in recent years.
It’s true and in the back of my mind, I was aware of that. Each team that I’ve played on had a different style, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get a goal myself. When it comes to Verdy, I’m a little hesitant to say so, but we don’t have many tall players. I’m one of the taller ones out there, so I have a chance to attack on set pieces and in the midst of all these difficult matches, if I can score a goal, that will help the forward players, so I’m glad I got one today. Yuhei played a pinpoint ball to me and I barely felt it touch my head. It had been so long since the last time I’d scored that I don’t really remember what happened.

You seemed to express to the supporters behind the goal mouth that you could hear their applause.
The supporters are an important presence for us and it’s because of them that we can keep running, even when our bodies are suffering. I felt truly grateful and especially wanted to say thank you to all the people who came to the stadium despite the difficult circumstances.

Your thoughts on the match overall?
In terms of our build up from the back, I think we could have provided some better passes. We players at the back have to get tougher in that respect. In terms of today’s match, it felt overall like things weren’t going well. I don’t know if Niigata had scouted us thoroughly, but they were very good at erasing the space and it felt like there weren’t many places where I could play a pass. I think it’s going to be necessary for the rear players to show more confidence and take part in the build-up.

Still, your distribution stood out at times.
Not only myself, but Taira, Waka(sa), and Hamu (Narawa) can all play a good feed, so I thought we could provide some good passes from all areas of the pitch. It just didn’t go well, today.

We heard you asking for the forward players to make more runs.
They had scouted us well, so we had few passing lanes and little action. I asked the players to either make runs behind or drop back to receive the ball at their feet. It was difficult to provide a good feed, and without some movement, it didn’t feel like we could break them down. They were really good at eliminating space, so I started making my voice heard.

How do you feel about the fact that they equalized at the end?
As a defense, it was the kind of goal that we absolutely cannot concede. At that period of the match, it was a difference of two points, so we needed to concentrate until the final whistle.

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MF36Joel Chima Fujita

Your thoughts on the match?
We played our game less than in previous matches and because of that, I think we were more tired at the end, which is why we conceded.

What did you focus on in dealing with the threat posed by Niigata?
We knew that they had a strong front line, so we wanted to keep them from getting involved, but from the first half on, their #24 (Romero Frank) caused us a lot of trouble. In terms of what I wanted to do, it didn’t really go well.

Since using the space behind the defense was one of your objectives, today, is it your impression that the back line and forward players were not on the same page and that interfered with your passing?
The players making the passes couldn’t see where to play the ball and the players receiving the passes were unsure of how to time their runs or not making runs at all. I think those things combined to prevent us from playing the ball behind very often and made things difficult for us overall.

You fought hard during open play, but in the end, you learned the risk that even a single chance can pose.
Chiba also got a goal from a long throw, so we all intended to concentrate hard and deal with the danger, but the most important thing is to not give them a set piece chance in those areas. If we had held on to the ball for the remainder of the match, that would never have happened, so I hope we can learn to keep possession and dominate the play until the final whistle.

You made your debut against this team last year and this time, you played the full 90 minutes. How much has changed in the meantime?
Personally, the match up against Silvinho had left a big impression on me. He had used his physicality to force me off the ball and almost scored a goal on the counter, so I had wanted to do better this time. However, there weren’t many moments that went well for me. Even so, I do think that I am capable of a greater number of things at my position than last year, I don’t know if my growth was evident in the match, but within myself, I can definitely feel that I have made progress and I’m happy about that.

In terms of getting tighter in defense at the end of the match, what problems did you sense, other than being physically tired?
In terms of our game plan, I think we needed to make our clearances higher up the pitch. If we clear the ball from deep positions, things happen like what we saw, but if we had been moving the ball from a bit further forward, I don’t think we would have conceded that goal.

How do you feel about your status within the squad at this time?
Rihito (Yamamoto) also plays at my position and we’re from the same generation. We have a lot of skillful players, but there were a lot of injuries and that’s how I got my chance. At present, I’m making the most of that chance and I hope I can continue to do so.

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DF5 Tomohiro Taira

Your thoughts on the match?
The goal we conceded was really wasteful, so I hope we can do better in those situations in the future. In terms of content, as well, we didn’t exactly achieve the game we set out to play, so I hope we can do better there, too.

The opposition seemed to line up differently from usual, but did they play in the way you expected?
We knew that they would build from the back like we do, so we defended for the full 90 minutes by trying to pressure them from the front and win the ball high up the pitch.

You had control of the possession after ten minutes of the first half.
It felt like they had scouted our style really well and we weren’t able to move the ball in the way we consider ideal. The match continued to develop in that way and when that happens, I think we need to take different positions or come up with more ideas on an individual level.

What did you find most difficult about moving the ball?
When we build up from the back, the center backs will be free at some point, but today when that happened, they closed me down faster than I expected. I wanted to play the ball to the wings, but they cut off that avenue as they applied their pressure. Our style is to exploit those spaces, so I could tell that they had done their research. It was especially difficult in the first half.

Your forward balls to Hanato were limited today, too.
Every team seems to be aware of that danger and their center backs were thorough about closing him down. We’ve had more games like that lately, so unless the other players make runs into the space that open around him or we use the space behind their defense more effectively, we’re not going to trouble our opponents. I hope we can do that better in the next match.

When they tried to shut down the middle in the first half, it looked like you made effective use of the space behind the side backs.
They would shift their shape from side to side quickly and we knew that the opposite side would be open. I wish we had made better use of that.

After taking the lead, was the plan to maintain possession and eat up time while also trying to get a second goal?
After getting the goal, we all agreed that we should focus on defense and close out the match. However, we conceded in the way we did, so I wonder if we should have tried a different approach.

That was the second time this season you’ve given up a goal from a long throw.
Giving up two goals from long throws may seem like a weakness going forward, but I also think it’s something we can easily fix. Each player needs to take more responsibility for the small details and we need to communicate more.

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