In their previous match, Verdy made a positive start to their autumn series of five consecutive matches by earning a victory over Kyoto Sanga F.C. with a score line of 2-0. With only three days of rest in between, their next encounter was the 16th match of the season, an away game against Jubilo Iwata.
There were two changes to the squad from the previous week. Klebinho made his first start since the season opener as a right-side attacker, while Yuhei Sato started at the front of central midfield. Lastly, Yoshito Okubo was assigned a start at the free man position as he prepared to play against his former club.
It was Verdy who displayed their strength in the early minutes. One minute after the opening whistle, a high-tempo passing move allowed Junki Koike to burst behind the defense on the wide right. Koike’s cross was blocked at the near post, but four minutes later, a nearly identical move would lead to a big chance. After moving the ball to the wide left, Sato played a through-pass and Koike once again made a run into the space. This time, however, his shot went wide of the left post. Verdy did not let up from there and the third time proved to be the charm. After evading the opposition press inside their own half, Shion Inoue acted as a decoy while the team moved up the pitch and Joel Chima Fujita ran with the ball at his feet, playing it to Sato, who in turn laid it off to Klebinho. The Brazilian then drilled a strong pass to Koike, who stood at point-blank range in front of goal. After shedding his marker with his first touch, Koike fired from right of the goal and found the top left corner of the net to give Verdy the lead.
The joy was short lived, however, as Matheus would make a mistake with the ball at his feet in the 11th, allowing the opposition to score. Verdy attempted to push back and their up-tempo passing once again pinned the opposition, allowing the team to control the play inside Jubilo territory. In the 30th minute, Takayuki Fukumura broke down the left side of the pitch and hit a cross to the far side, where Okubo made the run and chipped the ball over the head of the on-rushing keeper, only to see his effort cleared off the line by a covering defender. At this point, Verdy had complete control of the play, but they would be undone by a piece of individual skill. In the 44th minute, Lukian carried the ball on his own into the final third and Matheus was unable to get a finger to his shot, despite leaving his line, allowing the ball to find the empty net.
Despite conceding the lead, the manager emphasized at half time that the team had done well to play their game and that the goals they conceded did not come after being broken down by the opposition. As such, the fuse was lit for the players to continue controlling the pace in the second half and push hard for the win. Iwata began the half with intense pressing, but Verdy remained patient and moved the ball well, gradually claiming the momentum once again and preventing the opposition from getting forward. While Jubilo retreated and left nine men at the back, Verdy kept their poise and used the full width of the pitch to move the ball and probe for chances. In the 58th minute, Inoue received the ball on the left and played a looping pass into the far side of the penalty area. Koike responded to play the ball back across the face of goal with a reverse pass, but Okubo’s point-blank shot was blocked by a defender. In the 72nd minute, substitute Haruya Ide began a move on the left side and Inoue made a run into the penalty area. However, his left-footed shot was saved by the goalkeeper and the second ball was cleared just as a Verdy player looked to tap it home. After having showed enough muscle to punish the retreating defense, Verdy would next look for a break-through from long range. In the 72nd minute, Sato played a sharp corner kick to the near post and Naoya Kondo met it with a run, changing the flight of the ball with his glancing header and sending it into the near corner of the net.
With Verdy having equalized, the opposition would finally throw numbers forward and the team now had more space to grasp the momentum. In the 77th minute, the biggest chance of the final phase would arrive. After recovering the second ball from a corner kick, Fukumura played a ball across the face of goal from the left and found Koike unmarked at the far post. The Verdy player swung his foot for a powerful shot, only to see it blocked by the on-rushing keeper. In the 81st minute, Tomohiro Taira managed a powerful header after a corner kick from the right, but his effort went just wide of the left post. After that, Verdy maintained possession and continued to create chances, but their moves broke down before the finish and they were unable to break the deadlock despite controlling possession.
As the final whistle sounded, both teams were left frustrated over the sense that they could have avoided conceding, but for Verdy, the quality and tempo of their pass work was exactly what the team have been working toward and a source of confidence. The team rarely allowed their opponents much of the ball, pinned Jubilo back, and threatened the goal a number of times. As a result, they earned a point from the match. Now, to further ensure its value, they will prepare for a home game with only two days rest. It will be another test of their ability to dominate the match and gain a win.
Your thoughts on the match?
We were playing away against an extremely powerful team who are high up the table and we began the match with the concept of first grasping more of the possession than our opponents. In those terms, we achieved our plan of dominating the play and gained a brilliant goal from our ideal brand of attacking play. It was a great way to start the match. In terms of the goals we conceded, there were some mistakes that were made, but we’re all human and over the course of a year, that’s going to happen once or twice. Matheus has rescued us many times and that one mistake doesn’t undo all the other things that he’s done for the team. In terms of the second goal, we lost the individual battle there, but after that, we made fine adjustments in the second half to our spacing and support. The players truly did everything I asked for and more. I want to thank them for their play in the second half. It’s true that we had worked on finishing moves over the past week in training, but when another team leaves that many players at the back, it‘s always going to be difficult to break them down. Even so, our objective is to become a team that can get goals, even in those situations, and I feel that is the best way to reach our ideals. We don’t have much time, but we will continue working on our final ball and how not to lose possession in ways that put us in trouble. Things are difficult in terms of our conditioning, over this series of consecutive matches, but I truly feel the players have given 100% and my honest feeling is that I can’t thank them enough. Next up, we have a home game, so we will prepare well and concentrate on raising our quality even more.
As an away game, how much consideration did you give to bringing home a point from the match?
To be honest, we weren’t aiming for anything less than the full three points. Until the very end, my mind was always on breaking them down and getting a third goal. It never crossed my mind to settle for only a point.
In terms of your substitution plan, can you tell us why you first took off Okubo for Ide?
Yoshito (Okubo) had worked very hard from the opening whistle and with so many games on our schedule, I had to think about the next match as well, so that timing was somewhat according to plan. We had alternative game plans that I believed would enable us to score, even without Okubo leading us from the front like that, but it was still a very difficult decision. It was just one plan among many.
As you were heading into the half-time locker room, Inoue went looking for you and sought to receive instructions. What did you two talk about?
We confirmed where I wanted him to stand and make runs as we tried to finish off moves on the left side. I think it’s a sign of his growth. You can see that in the way that he kept his head in the game and showed determination to make a difference. He’s demonstrated wonderful growth over the last several matches. I think it’s an excellent development. I am impressed with the way that not only Shion (Inoue) but all the players are working so hard to bring our style of football to its completion.