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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 13th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.

Match Report

In the midst of their cruel mid-summer schedule of five consecutive matches, Verdy returned home after achieving two wins on the road. On this day, they took part in the fourth match of the streak with a night game against Matsumoto Yamaga.

 

Verdy’s starting lineup for the match included several changes. Rookie Yuan Matsuhashi, who had yet to make the squad in an official match, was given a sudden start at left wide striker. At free man, Jin Hanato was rested out of concern for fatigue and Shion Inoue was his replacement. Finally, while midfielders Yuhei Sato and Haruya Ide began on the bench, Joel Chima Fujita started at libero, along with Rihito Yamamoto and Koki Morita at central midfield. The team thus sought their third victory in a row with a midfield of three young academy graduates.

 

The match began with Verdy in possession and the players wasted no time pushing into opposition territory. It was Matsuhashi, making his pro debut, who would receive the first chance. Moving the ball quickly on the half counter, Inoue acted as an outlet in the channel and Morita received the ball before passing into space for Matsuhashi to react. The rookie continued his run and launched a shot from the diagonal left of the goal that unfortunately cannoned of the right post, leaving his first pro goal for another occasion. In the 18th minute, Verdy intercepted a pass and started the counter. Inoue dummied to let the ball run free and it was picked up by Morita, who dribbled and hit a fierce shot that was just kept out by the goalkeeper. As their opponents dropped back to erase the space, Verdy continued to move the ball but they also did not overlook opportunities to exploit seams in the opposition shape. In the 34th minute, Morita controlled the second ball after a free kick and played it into space on the left side of the penalty area for the running Inoue. Inoue hit a cross in front of goal, but Junki Koike was just unable to get a touch.  At the end of the first half, the team once again hit Matsumoto on the counter and stretched the defense before playing a cross that just missed the feet of Inoue. The half thus ended scoreless, despite the consistency of Verdy’s attacking play.

 

As the second half began, the Verdy bench made an early move. It was the 55th minute and Matsuhashi was replaced with Ryoya Yamashita, while Morita was also taken off for Ide. A big chance would arrive just moments later. Fujita recovered the ball after a corner kick and drilled a strong early cross into the box. Koike made a run to get onto the ball, but it was cleared after he was just unable to meet it. Verdy now saw even more of the ball than in the first half and began controlling the play from opposition territory. The question soon became if and when Verdy would be able to raise the gear on their attack and pick up the tempo. That timing eventually arrived in the 68th minute. Fujita retrieved the ball high up the left side after a throw-in and dummied to his left before cutting back into the middle and playing it to Inoue in the final third. At almost the same moment, Yamashita made a diagonal run into the penalty area and Inoue raised the tempo by instantly playing a through pass with his right foot after his first touch. Yamashita was first to reach the ball and from a slanted position on the right of the box, he twisted his body to fire a diagonal shot that went through the legs of the covering defender and into the left corner of the net to give Verdy the lead they had been waiting for. Verdy now moved immediately to finish the match off. In the 73rd minute, Fujita’s direct pass to Takayuki Fukumura was cut out by an opponent but quickly retrieved by Inoue, who immediately played the ball to Fukumura again with his first touch. Fukumura also played a first-time pass behind the defense and after a stylish one-two return pass, Inoue was free on the left corner of the box and curled a first-time effort beyond the hands of the keeper and into the net. It was a speedy, elegant attack that left the Matsumoto defenders flat footed and out of position. Once again, the Verdy attack did not lose momentum. In the 84th minute, Inoue played a no-look through pass for the running Fukumura. With space behind the defense on the left side of the penalty area, Fukumura threw his body to the ground to hit a low cross in front of goal. Yamashita then drew two markers with a dummy at the near post and allowed to run free to the far side, where Koike met it unmarked to claim the team’s third goal of the match.

 

Having extended their lead, Verdy still did not concede possession and continued to control the play, knowing that the opposition could not score without the ball, a philosophy that had now given the team their third straight win.

 

In recent games, the Verdy players have done a brilliant job of executing the philosophy long called for by manager Nagai of observing their opponents as they play. When they determined that they wouldn’t be able to break down their opponents by maintaining the tempo of the first half, they immediately raised the pace of the play when the result was up for grabs in the second half, made and exploited space in narrow areas of the pitch, an securely claiming the goals they needed. It is no fluke that the team have now risen to the fifth in the table and there is still more they can accomplish, as well as more attractive football that they can play. After claiming eight goals in three matches, the objective now is even greater quality. That pursuit will never end – another message that has been delivered repeatedly by the manager. Without focusing too much on what lies at the end of their journey, they must make progress one step at a time. The first task will be to prepare hard for a head-to-head match with second place Giravanz Kitakyushu.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
It was a home game, so I spoke to the players about playing great football for the fans and supporters who had been looking forward to seeing them. The players did a brilliant job of executing our plan from the opening whistle and playing the attractive football we aim for. I feel nothing but gratitude toward them. The other reason I have to be grateful is that six squad members from the Verdy academy started the match and there were another two on the bench. This is the result of work by Verdy’s youth development team, including the junior youth, youth, and club affiliate levels, as well as on a more fundamental level that begins with scouting recruits at various schools. I think it’s truly been a collective effort by all involved with development. In the terms of the match, the first half was spent by putting our stamp on the game and I told the players that if they could push their opponents back into their own territory, they will have been half successful. They did a wonderful job of performing what I asked by getting over the halfway line, carrying the ball, and recycling possession. I believe that the next stage, when you play with our style, is always going to be how you break down the defense when they play with blocks of four or five. In the second half, our side did a brilliant job of doing that and scored excellent goals that are illustrative of nothing less than the growth of the team as a whole. The players executed what we’d worked on regularly in training, as well as what we discussed would be our game plan, and Inoue’s goal was a brilliant move that exceeded all of our imaginations. When I think about my gratitude to the players and their growth, I truly feel that we are playing good football no matter who is on the pitch and I think it was a great game for us.

Can you tell us why you decided to start Matsuhashi on his pro debut?
Matsumoto’s wingbacks take extremely high positions when they attack and I felt that Yuan (Matsuhashi) was the player who could make the best of the space between them and the back three. I’ve watched him play since I was coach of the youth team and I had no doubt that he would be the best at getting behind them in those positions, so I never had any concerns about starting him. I think he did an excellent job.

What plan did you employ in the second half, in terms of the revisions and early substitutions you made?
We have pre-determined areas where we want to draw out the defense and to do that, we have to think about where to probe with the ball and which players will aim for the gaps at the rear. I gave them a plan for how to carry out those tasks and they executed it well.

Can you tell us about the changes you made to the squad for this match?
Basically, we did a thorough analysis of Matsumoto and chose the players who could achieve what we set out to do. If you ask if I was concerned about the schedule, of course that was a factor and I had a plan in my own mind for how to deal with this match and the coming game against Kitakyushu. There were some considerations that had to be made for condition today, but the first thing is always to look at the match before us and choose the best players for the approach we want to take.

It seems like the team is able to raise their play a gear when they really need a goal. Can you tell us what you do to get them focused on scoring?
The truth is that I chewed them out a bit at half time. I told them that they absolutely had to break them down and score in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. We talked about the appropriate timing to shift gears, just as you mentioned, as well as when, who, with what pass, and what space to aim for. Once again, the players did everything I asked and more, which makes me very happy. I feel nothing but gratitude. I thought they were excellent.

Ryoya Yamashita was not developed by the Verdy youth system, but he has fit in fairly quickly. What sort of process has he gone through to adapt?
Honesty, he’s fit in from the earliest stages when he began training with us, but I think the biggest thing is that he has concentrated tremendously on understanding our style of football. He also has the ability to inspire support from those around him. Of course, we on the coaching staff give him a lot of instructions about what positions to take and how to time his runs, but I’m happy to say that he also communicates well with the players in the middle. Not only Yamashita, but all the other players who were developed outside of our system have all contributed greatly to the team. I believe we are blending well and things are starting to move in a very positive direction.

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Post-match comments

FW48Ryoya Yamashita

What were your thoughts on the match up until the point when you entered as a substitute?
I watched the first half from the bench and I felt that we could create clear chances as long as we got behind their back line at the right times. Once I entered the match, I was focused on using my speed to make those sort of runs.

What instructions did you receive from the bench when you came on?
I was told by the manager to continue trying to get behind them, as well as to track back and help defend.

Tell us about your goal.
Joel won the ball and I was certain that Shion (Inoue) would receive it next, since he had taken up a good position, and I think what helped me was that I had already imagined what I would do after Shion got the ball there. As soon as the ball was played toward him, I was focused on making the run to the spot where he found me and things turned out as I imagined. In terms of the shot I took, I didn’t actually have time to see where the keeper was. I just instinctively took the shot as I made my run.

Have you adjusted anything about your individual play to fit with Verdy’s style?
I didn’t really change myself. Instead, since I’ve joined the squad, I’ve made a point of thinking hard about all the advice and instructions I’ve gotten from manager Nagai and the other coaches. However, I had also spent time under Coach Takeshi Oki since my second year of high school and his style is very similar to Verdy’s. Due to that, I already had a bit of an instinctive feel for how to play and since then, I’ve been playing by trying to employ Coach Nagai’s advice in my own way.

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MF20Shion Inoue

Your thoughts on the match?
We had a lot of the ball in the first half and if we had ended the match at 0-0, I’m sure people would have been thought our style had reached its limit (in other words that all we do is keep the ball). That’s why I think the fact that we broke them down and claimed three goals in the second half has a lot of worth. We proved the value of our style and I think it was a good match.

As far as the first half is concerned, issues remained with the precision of your final ball and finishing.
Both the manager and others players argued that we weren’t threatening enough when the opposition were defending and that was something that hit me pretty hard. I was confident that we would score, so I had the way the game developed in the first half was a positive. In the end, we got three goals, so I think we did well.

We heard that Coach Nagai was pretty vocal at half time.
We know that if we don’t score and win matches, it’s all for nothing. In order for us to prove the value of our football, it’s important to get results. Winning or not winning matches like this will make a big difference in how we are seen as a team.

What, specifically, did the manager say?
He told us that no matter what it takes, we absolutely had to break them down, get a goal, and win this match.

Tell us about your assist.
When the forward ball came in from Joel (Fujita), I confirmed that there were no defenders behind me and turned on the ball. As I did so, Yama(shita) made a good diagonal run and I was able to play the ball into a good spot. After that, Yama did well to score.

What about your own goal?
I don’t have a clear memory of what happened. I just knew that if I received the ball, I was going to shoot. It ended up traveling on a good course and I’m glad it went in.

How did you split your duties with Morita at the beginning of the match?
At first, I was in the free role, but Coach Nagai had told us we could switch positions as we played, so Koki (Morita) and I kept an eye on where we each stood and alternated.

What was your primary focus when playing in the free role in the first half?
When there was a gap between the central midfielders, I tried to get into that space to receive the ball. The manager had also told me that when a second of their five defenders came forward to close down Rihito (Yamamoto) or Koki, I should make runs into the space behind them. That was something I concentrated on.

You’ve been playing well lately. Has there been any change within yourself or a greater understanding that led to that?
The biggest change was that I am now more conscious of playing for the team and for my teammates. When I do that first and then show my own individual skills, it feels like those efforts are repaid. That’s also something that the manager tells us often. When you contribute to the team, the benefits will come back to you in the end. So, over the last few matches, the importance of playing for the team and my teammates is something I have felt strongly.

Do you feel comfortable playing in the free role?
It’s a position that allows you to freely locate space on the pitch as you play and that’s something that suits my individual play style. I do feel comfortable. The biggest thing is that I can take full advantage of my skills.

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MF19Junki Koike

Your thoughts on the match?
Finding ways to convert our possession into goals was an issue in the first half, just as it was in the last match, but we held the opposition to zero and I think that enabled us to create more chances in the second half.

In the first half, the precision of your final ball and finishing was an issue.
In the first half, our opponents have a lot of energy and they are able to concentrate and shift in defense, so the issue is how we break teams down when that is happening. We have to grow capable of breaking our opponents down whether they push from the front or sit back in front of their own goal.

The second goal was similar to many that were scored last season.
We’ve looked for that sort of move since last season and today, I continued running as hard as I could until the goal came. It reminded me of the importance of running for the full 90 minutes, as long as I’m on the pitch. Today, I was able to keep my poise and meet the ball.

You got the assist from Fukumura. Does it make it easier to score that sort of goal when a left-footed gets deep position?
As we move the ball as a team, it’s important for players to get free with overlapping runs. Today, it was Fukumura and he played a good cross, but you could say that it’s our team play and the clarity of the football we want to achieve that give birth to that kind of scene. Of course, the ideal move for me would be to carry the ball at my feet and score a goal on my own, but by playing Verdy football, I and the other players will be able to express our skills even more. In that sense, we’re in a really good place.

In the first half, you had a near miss after receiving a reverse pass from Inoue.
I wanted him to play the ball in front of me, but it came behind me and I wasn’t able to get a touch. With that said, getting into that position is important, so I will continue to do so.

You had only two days of rest before this match, which was the most difficult portion of this period of five consecutive games. Even so, you dominated possession and showed the superiority of Verdy football.
As with the last match against Mito, the opposition closed us down to try and win the ball in the first half, while also trying to erase space on the pitch with their defensive shape. However, it we keep moving the ball, our opponents cannot continue with that sort of play for the full 90 minutes. Today, too, we earned several goals in the period of the second half that was most difficult for them physically. That’s why it’s important for us to be patient and not rush things.

This was your second consecutive clean sheet. What do you think is the reason for your defensive stability?
The hard work of the players at the back is a major element, but we have also been thorough about instilling our team concept of 5.5, which means everyone tracking back after we lose the ball. Today, for example, we were able to win the ball back from a high position and get a goal on the short counter, so that just shows that our overall defensive strength will contribute to our overall strength in attack. We have a clear focus on how we will defend as a team before the match begins and I feel we are successfully executing the plans prepared by the staff.

In addition to your first three-match winning streak of the season, you also achieved your first win at home in a while.
We’re sincerely happy. There are several restrictions placed on the fans right now because of COVID, such as not being able to raise their voices or having to follow social distancing standards. Even so, there were a lot of supporters present at the stadium today and they definitely gave us a push. We want to win as many matches as possible and share that joy with our fans.

For the final match of the current series of five games, you face another upper table opponent in Giravanz Kitakyushu, a team who are currently in excellent form with a seven-match winning streak. Can you tell us about your motivation for this encounter?
We’ve improved our position in the table with these three matching winning streaks and given the frequency of matches we have this season, if we can keep winning, we can keep moving higher. It’s true that Kitakyushu have momentum and a high table position, but we have learned to focus on ourselves and play Verdy football, no matter who our opponent is, so the important thing for us is to continue improving our precision.

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DF16Takayuki Fukumura

Your thoughts on the match?
I believe it was our patience that enabled us to achieve the 3-0 victory. However, when we were struggling to get the first goal, Yamashita did a good job of scoring. That made the game a lot more relaxed for us and after that, we were able to break them down with ease.

You registered multiple assists for the first time since the match against Fukuoka. Can you tell us about your assists, today?
The first assist was simply because Shion (Inoue) scored a brilliant goal. It was more about his shot than my assist. With regard to the second, the manager has instructed us to always aim for the space behind the side backs. I had a chance to put in a cross before that move, but my teammate was unable to get a touch. I made some adjustments after that and this time, Junki (Koike) met the ball well for the third goal.

You spoke about this the other day, but do you have a particular focus when setting up your teammates with assists?
Before the third goal, the defense had their eye on Junki, so I focused on playing a speedy ball that would be difficult for the defender to touch and I felt that if I could get it past the player in front of him, it would have a chance. I just focus on how I can get the ball to my teammate and then they do the rest.

This was your second consecutive clean sheet and the defense seemed more stable than the previous match.
Against Yamaga, we didn’t suffer many structured attacks from open play and they did not pressure us so much from the front. In response, we had to concentrate on dealing with counterattacks and set pieces, but I still think we defended well.

In addition to taking up good positions in attack, the forward players were also thorough about retreating in defense. That certainly must make things easier for the players at the back?
We have a strong sense that we’re defending as a team and we’re quick to adjust when we lose the ball. I don’t think we rely on the back line alone.

Can you tell us what changes you made, after the first half, that enabled you to open up pathways to goal?
If we keep playing that way, gaps will open up eventually and our job is to not overlook those opportunities. Other than that, it’s important that we play with courage in our passing and take up the right positions. Most important of all is to not lose our poise. We have to think about how to win over the whole 90 minutes.

You lined up on the same side as Matsuhashi, who was making his pro debut. Did you speak to him during the match or give him any special attention?
I didn’t have any special focus on speaking to him. I already had the impression from training and test matches that he could play as a pro. He did very well today and I think the things he is capable of outnumber the things he isn’t.

For the final match of the current series of five games, you face another upper table opponent in Giravanz Kitakyushu, a team who are currently in excellent form with a seven-match winning streak. Can you tell us about your motivation for this encounter?
In truth, I haven’t watched any film of them yet this season. However, I know Coach Kobayashi very well. He’s very good at team building, so I’m sure that’s the biggest reason for their good form.

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MF33Yuan Matsuhashi

How did it feel to make your long-awaited pro debut?
I was nervous at first, but my seniors on the squad encouraged me by saying that I could feel free to challenge myself, so that enabled me to play my game.

You said you were nervous, but right after the opening whistle, you ran with the ball at your feet and carried it all the way to the finish.
Actually, my nervousness faded the moment I heard the opening whistle and I was determined to show what I could do and get a goal. That enabled me to take that first shot, but I wish I had finished it off there.

You traveled with the team for the two most recent away matches and there was a sense that you might make an appearance at some point. However, getting called on to start must have seemed sudden.
To be honest, I was very surprised. I had traveled with the team, but in the end, I was the 19th member and didn’t make the squad, which was very disappointing. Despite my disappointment, Coach Nagai gave me a chance here at home and I really wanted to meet his expectations. As the manager, he spoke to me personally and told me to play as I had on the youth team. I was given positive encouragement and told to be aggressive and challenge myself.

Yamamoto and Fujita, who both played with you on the youth team but made their pro debuts earlier, also started the match. What sort of communication went on between you?
Joel (Fujita) and Rihito (Yamamoto) are more accustomed to things than me and already have a lot more experience. I envied them for that but I was also very happy to make my debut with them on the pitch. I had a lot of fun as I played.

In addition to your aggressive runs with the ball, you also worked hard to get back in defense. Is that something the manager spoke a lot about with you?
I was told to run with the ball at my feet as much as possible and with regards to defense, we have a strong team concept, so I had been told during meetings about tracking back in defense. We’ve been told that’s something the manager wants no matter who is on the pitch or when, so I think that’s what enabled me to accomplish it today.

You only played for 55 minutes, but how do you rate your debut?
I’d give myself a 7 out of 10. The areas where I have to improve are my finishing and building stamina. I only played for 55 minutes today, but I know I need the strength to run for 90 minutes. I’m disappointed that we didn’t score a goal while I was on the pitch, but the substitutes scored and more than anything else, I’m happy that the team won.

Did the manager tell you to run full throttle from the start of the match?
He didn’t say those exact words, but since our objective is to play together and win, I felt that it would be more important for me to give everything I had from the start, rather than to think about how to play over the full 90 minutes. I know that I have reliable teammates on the substitutes bench, so I was determined to do whatever I could from the opening whistle.

What was your impression of play at the professional level?
At the youth level, I think I could have scored myself from some of the counter attacks we had. However, this time, I was playing at the professional level, so the defense in front of goal was much tougher and I need to learn to make correct decisions at a much quicker pace.

You made your debut 13 games into the season. Was that about what you expected or do you feel it took too long?
Personally, I was aiming to appear in the season opener, but I wasn’t close to being in the right condition and I went through a difficult period where I couldn’t express my strengths. After that, I worked hard with the strong feeling that I wanted to meet expectations as soon as my chance arrived.

Can you tell the fans and supporters what they can expect to see from you in the future and what particular qualities you would like to show?
I want to be an outlet on both sides of the pitch, receive the ball behind the defense or make direct runs, and record assists or goals. Pros have to achieve numbers, so I want to make sure I answer the call in that regard.

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