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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 17th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Ehime FC

Match Report

After beginning their fall streak of five consecutive matches with a 2-0 victory over Kyoto Sanga F.C., Verdy next earned 2-2 draw on the road against Jubilo Iwata. On this day, they returned home looking to regroup as they faced Ehime FC.

 

The biggest changes to the starting lineup were on the back line. Masashi Wakasa began as a right-side attacker, while Shohei Takahashi returned from injury to line up at center back.

 

In the early minutes, Ehime pressed man to man and prevented the Verdy players from moving the ball as they like. With markers waiting at the end of every pass, the game evolved into a physical battle with Ehime winning several opportunities on the counterattack. In the 17th minute, Verdy lost the ball in a high area of the pitch and found themselves stretched in the wide areas, allowing an unmarked opposition player to hit a cross from the left that was put into the back of the net by a stylish volley to give Ehime the early lead. Verdy attempted to hit back immediately and moments later, in the 23rd minute, a long feed from Takahashi found Junki Koike in space unmarked on the right. The latter played a pass across the face of goal to the far post with his first touch and Okubo leapt to meet it with impeccable timing, but his powerful header was kept out by the goalkeeper.

 

Verdy began the second half looking to change the momentum and Ryoya Yamashita was brought on for Koki Morita to help break the deadlock. The substitution would have an immediate effect in the 48th minute, when Yamashita played a one-two with Yuhei Sato and pushed the defense back into their own third before hitting a mid-range shot that went just over the right post. In the 55th minute, Yamashita received a direct pass and played a one-two with Okubo, putting him in free on goal. As a defender closed him down, Yamashita then played the ball into space on the left side of the penalty area for the overlapping Takayuki Fukumura, whose placed cross was nearly met by Okubo on the far side, only to see it just escape his touch. Koike also made the run behind Okubo, but he had a tight angle for a shot and his effort went just over the bar. In the 74th minute, Koike claimed possession after a mistake in the opposition build up and carried the ball into the penalty area. His shallow cross would reach the unmarked Haruya Ide, but the latter’s first-time shot went slightly wide of the post. Just afterward, in the 75th minute, Sato’s powerful mid-range effort went mere inches over the bar. With their opponents exhausted from their intense pressing in the first half, Verdy played nearly the entire second half inside Ehime territory with only their finishing lacking. In the 83rd minute, Shion Inoue carried the ball on the counter and pushed the defense back by working the ball through Yuan Matsuhashi, whose cross back into the middle was blocked by a desperately retreating defender. In the 5th minute of additional time, Matsuhashi dummied to let a pass from Inoue through to the left side, where Fukumura was unmarked and played a cross. His near-perfect pass entered the space between the goalkeeper and back line but just missed the touch of a teammate. On the opposite side, Mizuki Arai reached the ball and played it back across the face of goal for Wakasa, only for his effort to miss the target.

 

In the end, Verdy were never able to make up for the momentary error that led to the first goal and suffered their first loss in five matches. While they were troubled by the opposition’s man marking in the first half, they were able to break Ehime down several times in the second and the match did not end without a show of strength. However, Verdy would suffer from the gap in finishing precision between the two teams. The closer they get to the top of the table, the more that ability to finish chances will make the difference. Verdy must now take hope from the fact that those chances were not few in number as they travel to face Fagiano Okayama in three days, hoping to make the most of their opportunities and this time bring home the full three points.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
Obviously, it must be said that this match was played under difficult conditions, as the team had only two days of rest, and I think the players performed well under those circumstances. As we began the game, our opponents were lined up man to man and I regret that we were unable to determine where we could create numerical advantages, where we could create space and which areas of the pitch we could bypass. Even so, we were able to play our game for some periods. You often hear me say so after matches like this, but I really believe that we must work hard to raise the quality of our finishing and the overall precision of our team play. The players have done their work today and now they must rest and shift their mindset to prepare well for the next match. We’ll work on the things that need to be addressed and I hope we can improve at the end of moves and finish with greater authority. It pains me that we were not able to deliver the joy of victory to our home supporters who came to see the match. We will put this behind us and keep working hard.

Was Ehime’s man marking something that you expected to face?
Not only Ehime, but every other team we face will have scouted the way we play and the possibility of facing man marking is always in my mind. I think that improving the way we deal with such tactics will be the gateway to reaching the next level as a team and an important part of our further evolution. In simple terms, we have to recognize when the keeper is playing high off his line like today and one way to deal with that is to aim for mid-range or long-range shots. Of course, we also have to carry the ball in on goal and force the keeper to drop back. The other thing we can do is respond to their high line by aiming for the space it leaves in their half and trying to build numerical advantages there. My regret today is that once the line did drop back and we began to play our game, we didn’t show the best aspects of our style.

In terms of stretching the opposition formation or trying to draw them forward, do you feel that today’s opponents didn’t succumb to your plans?
It’s a matter of flexibility in the way we think. Today, the opposition were so committed to closing down our central midfielders that there was no need to try and draw them forward. On the contrary, they left enough space behind them for us to use and I do not feel like we did a good job of recognizing that. It’s true that under normal circumstances, our game begins from drawing them out, but it’s wasteful if we do that when there is no need.

Despite having only two days of rest, you only made two changes to the starting lineup. How do you feel about the team’s condition overall?
It’s easy to find excuses for what happened today if we go looking for them, but it’s difficult for me, personally, to blame the loss on condition alone. It can be tough to find the right answers when you’re dealing with all these irregular circumstances, but it could also be that there are no right answers and that this is merely a challenge we have to overcome. I will continue to think about condition before the next match and will consult with our medical staff. It’s going to be difficult to create a plan that fully addresses the challenges of conditioning, but either way, I think the players are doing an excellent job.

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Post-match comments

MF20Shion Inoue

Your thoughts on the match?
They marked us man to man and we let ourselves absorb that pressure head on. That was particularly true during the first half. We weren’t able to find the openings that would bypass those tactics and suffered as a result. In the second half, we pushed them back more, but the first half was largely a waste.

You seemed to receive a lot of instructions during the water break. What sort of image did you have as a team about how to break them down?
First, it was important for to get behind the wide players and since they were playing man to man, I think we needed to break them down in specific areas or produce more movement.

Did you expect them to defend with man marking like that?
We hadn’t done any specific preparation. However, we may face more teams like this in the future, so I would like to think of today’s match as a good experience.

You had trouble dealing with the hard charge of your opponents and lost the ball often. Did fatigue from the packed schedule have an effect?
I think we made the wrong decisions on how to deal with their man marking. Rather than try and withstand the pressure, if we had moved the ball with one-touch passing or laid it off with flicks, I don’t think they would have been able to keep up with us. One-touch passing and flicks are important against these tactics and I think we needed to make better decisions.

At times, you and Morita dropped deep enough that your opponents wouldn’t follow and were able to face forward with the ball. Was that your own judgment?
It was the judgment of those of us on the pitch. As long as we stay in the same position, it’s easier for them to mark us, so while Koki (Morita) and I didn’t specifically discuss things between us, I imagine that he felt the same way. We judged that it was necessary for us to switch positions and break the shape a little.

You attacked with five players up front at the end of the match. What image did you have in mind for how that would help you score?
With that many players up front, choosing the correct ball forward is important and I felt it would be difficult to make the pass from Joel’s position on the inside, so I first played it wide to Waka(sa) or Fuku(mura) and then aimed to get onto diagonal balls from their position. I think that was effective. We broke them down a number of times, so it was important for us to finish off those moves. If we had gotten a first goal, I think we would have gone on to win the match.

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DF16Takayuki Fukumura

Your thoughts on the match?
We were placed under a lot of pressure in the first half and I think things became difficult for us because we didn’t use the space behind them well enough.

Were you expecting them to defend with man marking?
It wasn’t part of the scouting report.

You created clear chances, but what improvements do you think are needed at the end of moves to finish them?
If we had played in the first half like we did in the second, I think we could have created more openings in their defense, but during the first half, I wasn’t that involved in the attack and I don’t think we threatened them that much. If we could have generated one or two dangerous plays in the first half, I think that would have led to decisive chances in the second.

What do you think needed to be done to play the ball behind their defense and defeat their man marking in the first half?
We needed to time our runs behind the defense right and at my position, I think I needed to be quicker about overlapping after we played the ball forward.

What instructions did you receive at half time?
We were told to establish control and play our game. In the second half, Ehime didn’t press us from the front much, so it was actually easier for us to play in our normal fashion.

In order to get goals, do you think you need more precise finishing or is it more about improving the way you break teams down?
Personally, I don’t think it’s about one or the other and both are important. However, I do want to improve the precision of my crosses, even if just a few centimeters, and do what I can to at least meet a teammate with the ball every time.

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DF6Shohei Takahashi

Your thoughts on the match?
I think we made a few too many mistakes over the match as a whole.

The team seemed to struggle with the opposition’s man marking in the first half.
I think the way they defended man to man was a result of scouting us well and I think we needed to try and pull away one of their markers, not only with our passing at the back but throughout the team. If we had focused more on that, we could have made it a better game for us. It might not be beautiful, but I think Verdy have a lot of players who are highly skilled individually, so we can do more on an individual level to beat a marker or two. Even if one man can’t beat the press on their own, I think we can do more with our build up at the back and try to split the defense with a single pass. We have to read the situation and make the right decisions.

Whether due to the effects of the schedule or the opposition’s tactics, you seemed a bit timid in the closing minutes.
Our intention is always to play our game from the opening whistle, no matter who we’re up against. However, I do think that we were tired and we didn’t play that well, today. When that happens, I think we need to make up for it by showing more desire.

On the goal you conceded, it seemed like the defense wasn’t set and that allowed them to get a cross in unmarked.
If we get ourselves into situations where it’s easy for them to play a cross, they’re going to put in a good ball. Our opponents also have high quality plyers, so those of us at the back need to be more physical and show enough desire to win the second ball. I would have liked to see every player at the back involved with trying to stop them there. It doesn’t matter who does the closing down, we just had to be stronger.

You seemed to create a lot of chances by playing the ball behind the defense, such as when you set Koike free with a long feed just over twenty minutes into the first half.
As long as they’re man-marking us, we have to make good passes, whether they’re passes to feet or passes behind. We have a lot of confidence in our ability to pas to feet, so I think we’ll continue to see more opportunities to score. As I said earlier, even if it’s just one person pulling away a marker, once we make the run behind, Junki (Koike) or Shion (Inoue) can secure the ball and bring others into play. They also have pace. Our opponents played with a high line today, so I think it’s good that we were able to play passes behind them. However, the result is what really matters in the end. It’s not enough just to pass and defend well. It’s important that we get the win.

Your opponents played with a completely defensive approach in the second half. What improvements did you need to break them down?
In attack, we are capable of scoring goals no matter who is on the pitch and we have players that can make good passes. We can also vary our approach as a team, so I think we need to be just a bit more creative. We’re sure to play other teams that defend in blocks and when our opponents don’t come forward at all, we need more craft to break them down.

What changes were most emphasized at half time?
The manager emphasized that there was space at the back and since the opposition were man-marking us, Yuhei (Sato) or Koki (Morita) needed to make runs behind whenever Yoshito (Okubo) dropped into midfield. However, our opponents stopped pressing us in the second half, so we switched to playing more of our normal game.

Other than the goal you conceded, you seemed to manage risks well as you pushed them back.
We weren’t threatened by them many times in the second half. However, we’re going to face more teams that retreat like that in the future, so Taira, Waka(sa), Fuku(mura) and myself have to communicate to manage the risk of counterattacks. I think we do that well, whether it’s me on the pitch or anyone else.

This was your first match in seven games, since picking up an injury. How was your conditioning and sharpness?
My legs started to leave me at around the 80-minute mark, so that’s an area where I need to improve. Even if I can’t move myself, I can direct the play for my teammates, so I have use my head more and take up good positions. There were no major problems with my condition.

How do you feel about the team’s evolution and growth during the time you’ve been away?
Even watching from above, I could tell that we’re playing good football and there is intense competition for places among the squad. I think we’re all competing hard during training and elsewhere, so we’re able to play good football no matter who is on the pitch. It was frustrating for me, in a good way, to watch the recent matches from the stands and observe the team’s play.

You’re closer to your goal of playing the same football, no matter who is on the pitch, but do you think it’s important for players to show their individual skills if the team is to reach the next level?
Everyone on our squad has high individual ability and it’s a strength for us that we can play the same football no matter who is on the pitch. With that said, playing good football means nothing if we don’t get results. On the contrary, the purpose of playing good football is to make it easier to get good results, so I do think it’s important to demand more from players on an individual level.

This was a frustrating result for you, but tell us what you hope to accomplish over the remaining games of this streak of matches?
In order to switch mindsets to the next match, it’s important for each of us to refresh ourselves physically. We have another game coming up, so this time, I hope we can do what it takes to get a good result.

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