2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 18th Sec - Fagiano Okayama vs Tokyo Verdy

Match Report

Last week, in the midst of their streak of five consecutive matches, Verdy suffered a 0-1 loss at home against Ehime FC. The defeat came after they had successfully pinned the opposition back for long periods and created a number of chances. On this day, they traveled to Okayama with only a day’s rest and two days of match preparation as they looked to make up for the victory they previously let slip away.

The changes in the squad were made at midfield. Rihito Yamamoto was given the start at the libero position, along with Yuhei Sato and Haruya Ide at front central midfield, while Ryoya Yamashita also made his first start in several matches at right wide striker and Yoshito Okubo started for the fourth straight game.

Perhaps having seen the success that Ehime FC had last week with their man marking and high press, Fagiano also pressed Verdy resolutely from the front. As the Verdy players moved the ball, they looked to be pinned back in their own area, but their pass work gradually shed the opposition markers and let to quick attacks on the break. Yamashita, in particular, made the most of his rare start by using his pace to find space behind the Okayama back line and attack the goal. The first chance came in the 7th minute. Sato played a set piece to the far side and a header bypassed the onrushing goalkeeper, only to be cleared off the line by a covering defender. In the 13th minute, Verdy launched a series of attacks after another set piece, but in each instance, they were one step away from goal. On the other end, the Verdy defense conceded a free kick to the left of the penalty area in the 15th minute and suffered a point-blank shot from a header. The ball looks destined for the right corner of the net, but Matheus adjusted his body while stepping backward and showed sharp reflexes to beat the effort away. As the opposition’s pressing gradually lost steam, Verdy would receive a clear opportunity. It was the 21st minute and Ide secured the ball in front of the halfway line before playing a pass to Takayuki Fukumura, who had pushed all the way into midfield. Yamashita then feinted as if he would drop into space in front of the defense and just as he shifted gears to burst behind the back line, Fukumura found him with a perfectly weighted through pass. The ball traveled just out of reach of the defense and Yamashita’s quickness was enough to play him round the onrushing goalkeeper, allowing him to find the empty net and give Verdy the lead. After the goal, Verdy maintained possession but could not get on the same page at the end of moves, leading to opportunities for Okayama on the counter. In the 40th minute, the penalty area was breached after a run broke the back line, but Tomohiro Taira was able to block the shot with a desperate lunging challenge. As a result, Verdy finished the half with their one-goal lead intact.

In the second half, Okayama began employing a long-ball attack. The Verdy line were forced to drop deep and the players tried to regroup in a compact shape to recover their passing rhythm, but the opposition’s intensity left them struggling to retrieve the second ball. In the 54th minute, Yamashita used his dribbling skills to pull the switch on the counter-attack. Ide dummied in the center of the pitch to allow the ball to reach Inoue on the wide right and the latter ran with the ball before taking a shot on goal. The effort was saved by the goalkeeper and rolled loose for a second opportunity, but this too was blocked and Verdy failed to build on their lead. It was one of the few clear opportunities of the second half and in his post-match interview, Inoue voiced regret over the fact that he hadn’t played the ball to Koki Morita, who had made a free run into the box in support. From that point, the match proceeded at Okayama’s preferred rhythm. Verdy patiently absorbed the pressure as Okayama continued pouring long balls into the box, but they were unable to effectively carry the ball to the front line after winning possession. In the 78th minute, a swerving mid-range effort tested Matheus, but he kept his cool and responded as the ball changed direction, eventually batting it away for a fine save. Moments later, in the 79th minute, another fierce mid-range effort was on target to reach the left corner, but Matheus showed astonishing reflexes as he dove and stretched his entire body to rescue the team with another big save. After that, the back line dealt persistently with the opposition’s long balls and did not allow them another opportunity to finish. As the match entered additional time, Okayama made one last foray into the Verdy final third, but Shohei Takahashi read the attacker’s feints and blocked the shot to suppress the final danger.

In their previous match, Verdy were defeated after dominating the play and on this day, they were victorious after failing to play their game. Football remains as mysterious as ever, but it is always important for clubs that wish to evolve into strong teams to win matches when their style fails. Even so, Verdy’s objective remains winning by fully dominating the play. To avoid compromising and win with attractive football, they must now do their best to prepare with little time and achieve a winning streak with a victory at home.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
We suffered a tough loss against Ehime last week and we had to reflect on that as a squad while making improvements in preparation for today’s match. In the first half, we did a good job of observing our opponents and I think we accomplished 70% of what set out to do. As far as the second half is concerned, when we think about our ideals for the full 90 minutes, we didn’t have control of the ball for long enough. I think the fact that we couldn’t dominate the match is something we have to reflect on and we must make improvements before next time. To do that, we will make adjustments throughout the squad. However, when thinking about things in terms of the season as a whole, matches aren’t always going to go as planned. The sort of game we saw in the second half is especially like to occur from now on. Of course, it can’t be something that we take as a given, but if things do unfold like that, we still have to demand ways that we can win and I think that during the second half, the way the squad pulled together to help the defensive line and every player performed without error was excellent. Overall, I don’t think we can be satisfied with the way we played, but I think the fact that we won the full three points is a sign of how much hard work we’ve put in and that’s something to be proud of. Our objective remains to play good football and to win by playing good football. We want to do both, so in preparation for the next match, we will demand greater quality and better play as we look to win. With all that said, the players really did work hard and I think they performed very well.

In the second half, you had the lead and must have wanted to press your advantage, so what do you think was the reason that the team gradually lost their attacking edge? Do you think you were into much of a hurry to get the ball forward or is it that your contra (counter-attacking) play was ineffective after drawing the opposition forward? Please tell us your outlook.
We always seek to dominate the ball and dominate the space. Our objective is to achieve both, but as you say, if we’re looking to play the ball into the space behind the defense, we have to do a better job of observing where there defensive line is on the pitch. In addition, we have to observe the way their shape shifts from side to side and how far forward they’re coming to press us. I think we may have needed to do a bit more in terms of moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other, so that we could recycle possession and reclaim control. I think the fact that we didn’t do that is what caused us to struggle. Of course, there were also individual mistakes and poor decisions that everyone must do their best to address. I will work on making adjustments both individually and as a team. I’m always grateful when there are things to work on and improve in a match that we still won. We will do our best to review our play today.

You’ve stated before that your objective is to always aim to build on your lead, but was that on your mind at the end of the match today, too?
It’s a very difficult judgment call, but today we made more mistakes and had less time on the ball than we anticipated. There didn’t seem to be any signs of improvement as the match went on and while we naturally still sought to get another goal, it’s true that we did change to a plan with more emphasis on defending at the back.

What do you think about the fact that you weren’t able to finish when you did have chances on the counter in the second half?
While we’re always going to have opportunities to try and get goals with counter or contra attacking, I regret that we haven’t had time to do a full training menu devoted entirely to that sort of play. However, I think the players understand what they have to do and it’s a matter of deciding what areas of the they’re going to break down and how to apply the finish. When we’re contra attacking and have a 3 v 2 or 4 v 3 advantage, we have to decide who will make the run and who should try and get free at the end. The players understand that in their heads, but I want them to execute that in concrete ways on the pitch. I know they’re capable of it and I will work with them so they accomplish it next time.

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Post-match comments

FW48Ryoya Yamashita

Tell us about your goal.
When Fuku(mura) took possession of the ball, I was immediately thinking about getting behind the back line and it was just a matter of timing my run correctly.

Can you tell us why you happened to be in the center of the pitch at that point?
We change our positions fluidly depending on circumstances, so I sometimes played as the free man. In addition, we also work on making runs behind the defense regularly during training. Especially since I was playing in that position at that time, I felt that getting behind them would be the best decision and it was the focus of my play.

Was the through pass from Fukumura the type of ball you expected?
It was exactly as I imagined. He played the pass to match the movement of my run, so all I had to do was finish.

This was your first start in nine matches. What was your focus as you took the pitch?
My only thought was on displaying my skills and getting a result for the team, so I tried to play as aggressively as possible.

Recently, you had been used frequently as a super sub in the second half, but do I guess correctly that you want to be a starter?
The circumstances of the team determine that. Personally, I just try to do as much as I can with whatever time I’m given.

You seemed to pick up a cramp before you were substituted.
Yes, I had a bit of one. It was sort of a combination of pain in my ankle and a cramp in my leg.

You were aiming for chances on the counter in the second half, but things didn’t seem to go well.
The manager had instructed me to continue making runs behind and it’s always a particular focus of mine. I just wish we had been able to get at least one goal from those counter attacks. Our passing was breaking down little by little, so I think each of us has to work on more on our quality in training.

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DF16Takayuki Fukumura

Your thoughts on the match?
All I can say is that it was a difficult match. We were pinned back by long balls and then we were unable to connect our passes after winning possession. They were winning the ball after every move, even our goal kicks, and it was very difficult for us to build from the back. It gave me a good sense of how much we still have to grow as a team.

In the first half, you evaded the opposition press on multiple occasions. Was it more difficult for you in the second half?
Yes. A football match lasts for 90 minutes and our desire is to dominate for the entirety of that time. I don’t think playing well in the first half and then badly in the second is good enough. We had many opportunities to win the ball back after we lost it, but personally, I think we made too many technical mistakes.

Tell us about your assist for the winning goal.
I heard Coach Nagai call out “Yama(shita), run!” and when I received the ball unmarked, I also had a chance to get my head up and see him on the move. After that, it was about putting a slight curve on the ball to keep it out of reach of the defense.

Was its part of the team’s strategy to have Yamashita in the center of the pitch at that point?
(Taking a glance at Yamashita waiting behind him for his interview) Um, you should ask Yamashita himself about that (laugh). I personally don’t know why he was in that position.

You’ve been performing brilliantly this season. How has your experience playing for Gainare Tottori last year helped you?
It’s no exaggeration to say that last season was a turning point in my life. Of course, J3 is a difficult competition in its own way and all the other players were fully dedicated. I think it was a great environment for me. As a club, Tottori did not have much money and they had very few facilities, but I think that made it a perfect environment for me at that time.

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