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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 19th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Thespakusatsu Gunma

Match Report

Verdy have now arrived at the final game of their autumn streak of five consecutive matches. Having so far compiled a record of 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw, the match was played at home against Thespakusatsu Gunma.

 

There were three changes to the squad that last week defeated Fagiano Okayama. Joel Chima Fujita returned to the libero position and Rihito Yamamoto began the match on the bench. Meanwhile, Junki Koike started at wide right striker in place of the previous game’s goal-scorer, Ryoya Yamashita, and Haruya Ide was left out of the squad, replaced in midfield by Koki Morita.

 

The match would have its first talking point in the early minutes, before either team had a chance to grasp control of the play. It was the 5th minute and the team built on Koki Morita’s switch of the play from a wide position to penetrate deep into the opposition’s right side. The ball was worked back across the shallow face of goal, moving through Koike, Yuhei Sato, and Koike again before finally reaching Fujita. Fujita then played an early cross that was met by Okubo with a header at the far post. Traveling on target, the shot was initially kept out by the goalkeeper, but the loose ball fell to the feet of Wakasa, who tapped home to give Verdy the early lead. With a goal in hand, Verdy would continue to take the initiative, but a lapse in concentration would hurt them in the 17th minute. The opposition broke deep down the Verdy right side on the counter and when the final cross was blocked by the shoulder of Fujita, the latter was judged to have committed a hand ball and Gunma were given a free kick. The place kick was taken by Omae, whose looping effort dropped into the box and was met point-blank by the head of Tanaka to bring the teams level. Afterward, the Verdy players would try to reclaim the momentum by moving the ball and pinning their opponents in their own half, but they were unable to create opportunities to finish. In the 33rd minute, Verdy reached the final third after a series of short passes, setting up a powerful right-footed shot by Fujita. The ball changed course after striking a defender and looked on target to reach the left corner, only to be kept out by the hand of the goalkeeper. On the other end, Verdy seemed to be managing the risks of counter attacks without concern, but another lapse would occur in the 42nd minute. Omae breached the Verdy line with a run and though the defense closed him down as he controlled the pass, they were unable to track the overlapping run of Tanaka and the latter met a floated pass first-time, placing the ball in the right corner of the net.

 

After finishing the half by conceding a disheartening goal, Verdy would quickly change personnel as they attempted to secure the majority of possession first after the break. Koike was brought off for Yamashita and Morita was replaced by Yamamoto.

 

Verdy began the second half with their attack in a higher gear. In the 53rd minute, they broke down the center of the defense and Okubo was in on goal after a lateral pass from Inoue, but his shot was deflected by a defender and veered wide of the left post. Three minutes later, a series of one-touch passes led the team through a tight space in the middle and Yamamoto was brought down in the penalty area as he looked to receive the ball, giving Verdy a penalty and a golden opportunity to equalize. The kicker was Okubo and as silence filled the stadium, he aimed down the middle, looking to send the ball into the roof of the net. However, the goalkeeper remained patient and didn’t move, thus allowing himself to get a hand on the ball and send it cannoning off the crossbar with a dry thud. The second ball fell straight to Inoue and he reacted with a header but was unable to keep it down and the shot sailed over the bar. Having blown their big chance, Verdy now had to face an increasingly conservative opposition who left numbers at the back. The minutes ticked away as the team kept possession, moved the ball in the final third, and searched for avenues to finish. In the 73rd minute, a counterattack brought the opposition deep into Verdy territory and the ball was met as it was played across the face of goal. However, Matheus was on hand to make a fine save and avert the danger. Verdy now began to avoid the tight spaces in the center of the pitch and build by working the ball out wide, while Gunma packed numbers in front of goal, preventing the attack from finding angles to shoot, even after moving the ball with first-time passes. Then, in the 82nd minute, Verdy were once again hit on the counter and faced a numerical disadvantage. The opposition stretched the defense out wide and created space for an unmarked shot that found the net and put the match out of reach.

 

In the final minutes, Verdy tried their best to change the circumstances by bringing on Hiroki Kawano for his first appearance since returning from injury, but they were unable to draw out the defense and the match came to an end. The team had begun play hoping to decorate the last of their consecutive matches with a win, but after spending several matches managing to survive and defend against dangerous counterattacks, they were ultimately undone by those same counterattacks today. In attack, meanwhile, the pattern was similar to several other games this season when the players were unable to break down an opponent who parked the bus in front of goal. As the team will now have a one-week interval before their next match, it will be a welcome opportunity to look over their recent play and make corrections before their final match of the season’s first half against Renofa Yamaguchi FC.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
As the final match of our streak of five consecutive matches, I demanded both good play and a result from the players and to be honest, I am very frustrated. I think the biggest regret I have is that we didn’t play according our plan in the first half. In the second half, we pushed our opponents back for long periods and half-succeeded, as I often say, but what we do from there has been a recurring issue for us this season. It’s a matter of breaking them down, setting up the finish, and scoring goals, so I will look on this as an opportunity to make improvements before next time. Overall, I think the players performed very well over the streak of five matches and with regard to today, as well, all the players worked wonderfully hard until the end, including the substitutes, and I am grateful to them for their preparation levels. Now we just have to shift our mindset to the next match and prepare well for what I consider the fifth stage of the season. I feel regret toward the fans and supporters who came out to the game today believing that we would play Verdy football and deliver a win. They gave us power until the very end and we will work hard to bring them the thrill of victory next time.

Can you give us more detail on why you think things didn’t go according to plan in the first half?
When we crossed the halfway line during our buildup, we had a few too many players at the back. That’s something we need to review.

The second goal you conceded seemed to be a pretty basic one. What was your outlook as the manager?
We didn’t put pressure on the ball holder. On top of that, the players at the back were slow to react and no one tried to win the second ball. There are a lot of things for us to look at as a team, as far as that goal is concerned.

What do you think about the fact that you lost to the team at the bottom of the table and have now had consecutive losses at home?
That’s exactly what we talked about in the pre-match meeting. I told the players that rather than achieving our game plan, our biggest hurdle today would be complacency. I do think the players began the match without being complacent and it’s not that I think they let up at some point during the 90 minutes, but we do have to reflect on what happened and determine what happened. We will reorganize as a team and if there was a problem, we will address it on a fundamental level.

You made two changes at half time, bringing on Yamashita and Yamamoto. Was that to done as part of your adjustments from the first half?
Yes. We made changes in personnel but we also made changes to the way we lined up in midfield, so that we could move the ball with greater efficiency, and I think things did improve in the second half. However, the end of moves is the most important point and that’s an area where I feel we still need to elevate our quality.

In the first half, Morita seemed to line up next to Fujita at the libero position, rather than in front of him at central midfield. Was that part of the team’s strategy?
We began with that shape, but in terms of observing our opponents, I feel like we should have had Koki (Morita)’occupy the space in front of him a bit more. He did as he was instructed to do by the bench and worked hard at it, but it didn’t go that well.

The front line was fairly fluid in their positioning in the second half. Did you ask them to keep moving, rather than give them specific positions to take?
Sometimes those changes occur from my instructions, but for the most part, it’s the players on the pitch who decide. Naturally, if we’re not fluid in our positioning at the end of moves, we won’t score, so I’m fine with the players making their own decisions and I hope they do that more in the future.

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Post-match comments

DF2Masashi Wakasa

Tell us about your goal.
I don’t really know why I was in that position(laugh). But basically, that’s how I get a lot of my goals, so I will continue aiming for those balls in the future. (Do you mean that you were aiming for goal from the moment the ball switched sides?) I think that was probably the case. I anticipated that the ball might come loose or be deflected by the keeper after Yoshito (Okubo)’s header, so I ran into the space I had in front of me and tried to hit the ball first-time.

What were your thoughts on the match as a whole?
Overall, I think we could have done a better job of observing them and built up more from the back. In addition, we should have gotten a goal quickly after they equalized.

Tell us what improvements in attack were needed after they retreated in front of goal in the second half?
We should have had more ideas and tried to probe them for gaps a bit more.

When you were pinning them back in the second half, did it feel like you were playing with only two at the back?
I think it was more like two at the back after I was substituted. I’m not sure how it looked when I was on the pitch. But individually, I was playing the way I always do.

What thoughts did the players at the back have about managing risks while you were chasing the lead?
In general, when it’s me on the right side of the back three and Taira on the left, I often take up a higher position, while Taira, Shohei (Takahashi) or Joel (Fujita) manage the risks. When we lost the ball in bad spots on the pitch, they were able to carry it in on goal fairly quickly, so we had to close them down or be more thorough about how we tracked back as a team after giving up possession.

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MF36Joel Chima Fujita

Your thoughts on the match?
We did well to get the lead when the match was even in the opening minutes, but we conceded the equalizer less than ten minutes later. After that, we had more of the ball, but we weren’t very threatening. I don’t think it was a good game for us.

The manager said things didn’t go as planned in the first half. Did you feel the same way?
I don’t think it was what we planned and at the very least, if we could have ended the half at 1-1, I think we could have patiently attacked them in the second half.

Do you think you were too impatient while attacking the second half, then?
Impatience was a factor and there weren’t many moments where I was in the positions where I needed to be. The goal we conceded on the counter came after I got too far forward, so I want to make the necessary adjustments to prevent that happening again.

Does the fluency of the front line make things more difficult for you in terms of positioning?
It wasn’t so much a matter of people not being where we wanted them to be. It was more that we got too far forward and there weren’t enough players at the back. They took advantage of that to score. I enjoyed getting involved in the attack, but I wasn’t able to be a threat when I did.

Can you tell us any areas that you think you’ve made progress, individually, this season?
I’ve gotten used to the speed at which the game is played at this level. In defense, I still occasionally get beat and we end up suffering on the counter, but I’m focused on improving there and I feel I’ve become able to see the routes for a final ball more quickly. Lastly, I’m often told that the next step is for me to see more of the pitch and I’m starting to get my head up more often.

Do you feel that your focus on playing direct balls forward has increased?
I feel like I’m getting free more often and when I do that, I can face forward more. Even so, I don’t think I’m achieving enough of the direct balls that Yoshito (Okubo) is looking for and it’s something I want to work on further. I do watch for Yoshito’s runs when I can and I feel like my awareness has increased more than before.

What instructions did you receive from the manager during the water break in the second half?
It was about how we formed a back three. When Waka(sa) was taken off for Klebinho, I wanted to ask the manager whether it would be Klebinho or Fuku(mura) who would stay back.

When you dropped between the center backs to help with the build up at the end of the match, was that about risk management?
It wasn’t so much about risk management. It was that there were a greater number of times that I had to stay at the back and help the team build its passing rhythm.

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MF7Hiroki Kawano

Your thoughts on the match?
Giving up the lead and then having the opposition drop back in defense made things difficult for us. We tried hard to break them down and get back in the game, but then they hit us on the counter. We weren’t thorough in our risk management and overall, we didn’t go a good enough job of tracking back. I think that’s something we have to reflect on.

You were brought on at a time when the attack was growing stagnant. What instructions did you receive from the manager?
He told me to get two points and reclaim the lead. I think I could have contributed more if we had seen a bit more of the ball. Perhaps I should have dropped deeper and helped with the buildup, but I wanted to get position close to the goal, so I tried to be patient and wait for the ball to arrive. Because of that, I wasn’t able to get on the ball that often and I didn’t have a chance to run at the defense with the ball at my feet. I regret that.

In the second half, you pinned your opponents in their area as they retreated. How did you imagine breaking them down?
I didn’t know what position I’d be playing but I imagined that if I was out wide, I would try to stretch the defense and run with the ball before taking a shot. When I did finally come on, I was playing up top and I focused on positioning myself so that I could receive the ball and set up others for shots.

When the team is playing well, you track back quickly enough that you never allow the opposition to counterattack and recycle possession to attack in waves. Were you feeling the effects of the schedule today?
I suppose things looked that way where the other players were concerned, but those of us who came on as substitutes were getting too far forward. If the game develops like that, the substitutes have to keep balance in mind and track back in defense. When we got hit on the counter, the players who had been on the pitch the whole time were tired and it was the job of the substitutes to show concern for their condition.

Was the fact that you got too far forward due to frustration with your attack?
Our crosses were caught directly by the goalkeeper and that led to more counterattacks. I suppose there were errors with the way the ball was played, but there were also errors with the timing of our runs and that contributed to the ball going straight to the goalkeeper. There were just a lot of things that didn’t go well with our attack. If we had ended our moves with shots, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but since our attacks ended halfway, they were able to hit us on the break. That’s what we have to reflect on. The goal we conceded, as well, came after I forced a ball into the box. That was wasteful.

Do you also regret not sticking thoroughly to the team’s normal style of play?
There was a consistent determination throughout the squad to attack and get the win, and those of us who came on as substitutes were put in for that purpose, so while it’s important for us to work on how we defend the counter and the precision of our attacking, I do think that all of us were on the same page in terms of what we want to do. As such, I don’t really think we were mistaken in our approach.

I’m sure you don’t change your football depending on the table position of your opponents, but lately, you’ve had home games against teams at the bottom and failed to get results. What are your thoughts on that?
We’re not concerned with our opponents’ position and our team concept is to play our style no matter who we’re up against. The manager has also told us many times not to think about table position and we’ve never looked down on any of our opponents. We’re simply doing what we always do and trying to play our game, but there are times when our finishing hasn’t gone well and we’ve lost. We always concentrate on our own play more than the opposition and on the contrary, if we achieve our game, I’m sure that we can beat anyone we face.

This was your first time on the pitch since the match against Machida, the first after the restart.
I had a bit of an injury, but I’ve finally made it back and my condition is starting to improve. Next, I will have to work in training on my match sharpness and stamina. Then, I think I’ll be able to run for the team.

It wasn’t reflected in the result today, but do you feel that the team has grown since you were out?
I wasn’t on the pitch and was only watching from above, but even then, I could tell that we really have been playing good football. No matter who we’re up against, we keep hold of the ball and while we haven’t reached full maturity, I can tell we’re moving in the right direction. There will always be a lot to say when we lose, but you never know what will happen in football and all we can do is believe in what we’re doing and concentrate on the next match.

You will continue to have a packed schedule from now on, but with players returning to the squad, including yourself, and newer players improving fast, it should be a boost.
I got to see everyone playing well while I was out and the younger players have been competing hard. In that sense, I will do my best to improve my condition so that I can contribute to the competition within the squad. I hope that the other substitutes and the players who don’t make the match squad will do the same.

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