Verdy have now reached their third match of the season’s second leg, tallying a record of one win and one draw so far, and have also kept a clean sheet for three games in a row. As the previous home match took place at Nishigaoka, this encounter marked a return to Ajinomoto stadium after a short absence.
The manager made changes to the back line with Klebinho starting as right wide attacker. Meanwhile, the crown was formed by birthday boy Naoya Kondo and Tomohiro Taira, pushing Shohei Takahashi over to left wide attacker. Yuhei Sato also returned to the starting lineup at the front of central midfield, while Okubo slotted in a free man, along with Ryoya Yamashita at right wide striker and Shion Inoue in the corresponding position on the left.
The match began with the two squads looking to get a feel for each other's game plan. Both teams kept a compact shape and moved the ball in tight areas, as each side fought fiercely to win the ball. Amidst that, Verdy were the first team to build a sustained period of possession. With precise positioning and smooth, accurate passing, they were able to probe the gaps in the opposition’s spacing and carve avenues toward the goal. The first chance would come in the 29th minute. As they lined up for a corner kick from the right, Verdy tried a trick play that led to a fierce shot from Inoue. The effort initially looked bound for the top left corner, but it took an unfortunate touch off a defender that changed its course. With a second corner kick in hand, the team would then force the match’s first turning point. The kick was played by Sato from the left and found Taira at the near post as the Verdy defender met the ball at the peak of its flight, sending the ball into the right corner of the net with a glancing header. After the goal, most anticipated that Omiya would press forward in response, resulting in an end to end game, but the match continued to go Verdy’s way. In the 32nd minute, just after the restart, Sato moved into a position on the right touch line and after receiving the ball, he played a first-time pass into space at the front. Yamashita was off his mark with an astonishing first step and used his pace to leave the defense stranded as he carried the ball into the box. Despite having a difficult angle to the right of the goal, he took a chance and swung his right foot for a shot that beat the goalkeeper at the near post and found the top right corner, extending Verdy’s lead. With the momentum now fully in hand, the team would not let go of the reins. In the 35th minute, Yamashita made another blistering run onto a ball played into space on the right side, drawing a foul from the defense to earn Verdy a free kick. Sato once again played a sharp ball across the face of goal and Taira was once again a head above the rest, leaping with brilliant timing to make full contact with the ball and find the net for a third goal. Omiya were now showing signs of desperation, but it was Verdy who took advantage by patiently moving the ball around their press and pushing them back once more. While they did not build on their lead, the team still ended the first half in an ideal way.
In the second half, Verdy looked to quickly score a fourth goal but they were held in their own half as the opposition attacked with renewed energy. However, the Verdy line never retreated too far and the players remained committed to winning the ball. When Omiya carelessly tried to recycle possession at the back, the Verdy players would burst forward with a high press and start the counterattack after winning possession. However, time passed with the team unable to build on their lead any further. In the 72nd minute, the opposition pulled a goal back from a corner kick and looked to build off their momentum, but the Verdy players maintained tight defensive spacing and moved the ball patiently when possession was won, upsetting the opposition’s attempts at counter pressing. As the end approached, the lead was intact. The team even created another chance in the 91st minute, when Kondo made a run in front of goal during a set piece and made contact with a diving header. However, his effort was not on target and a birthday goal was not to be. Still, Verdy avoided giving the opposition any hope of a further comeback and the match ended with a victory at 3-1.
While the Verdy attack was unstoppable for those four minutes in the first half, the manager was unsatisfied after the match at the way the players failed to completely finish the game off. A truly strong team will build on a three-point lead and put the nail in the coffin. With a win in hand, the team must now maintain their ambition as they head into a one-week interval before their next match. The fixture will be at home, giving them a chance to further improve their positive second-leg record of two wins and one draw. There is no time to fool around or grow complacent. The players must continue to aim even higher.
Your thoughts on the match?
In the previous match against Kofu, they defended with a 5-4-1 block and I was extremely frustrated that we were unable to break them down. Omiya may not have exactly the same style, but they did line up in the same way, so I was determined that this would be the day that we would succeed in attack and score some goals. That was what I told the players during the short time we had available for meetings. At the same time, I also told them that set pieces would be effective against a team that plays on the defensive like them. The players concentrated very well during the short training period and I think that truly showed in today’s result. Since I became manager, we’d had two matches against Omiya in which we pushed them back and were half successful, only to end with a frustrating result, so this was meant a lot to me personally. I really did strongly express to the players before the match that we had to get revenge, today. The first half went according to plan and we changed the way we line up in defense in order to neutralize their strong points. The players were nearly perfect and I was very proud of them. Those forty-five minutes were brilliant in nearly every aspect, from keeping the ball to recycling possession, our passing, and the way we aimed to get behind the defense. However, I must say that even though I know 3-0 is a difficult score line, I felt that we should have had more control for longer periods during the second half and we should have tried to quickly earn a fourth goal or even more. I confirmed that intent with the players at half time, so that’s something we need to reflect on. We will look to make some adjustments and improve in that aspect before our next match against Okayama. Lastly, in addition to the brilliant work performed by the players on the pitch, I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the brilliant home atmosphere we had today. We saw the true strength of Verdy as a club. Despite having limits on attendance, the postings by the sales staff and the work of many others in spreading word of mouth enabled us to fill the stands all the way up to the second level today. I am also grateful to the supporters themselves for giving the players a push and an extra boost of power. I am happy that we were able to pay them back with a win. We will continue to prepare over the next week so that we can once again play good football and reward our fans with a victory in each and every match.
The opposition took more risks in attack during the second half. Did that impact your ability to seek a fourth goal?
I began my talk by telling the players to think about how their opponents would react psychologically. Naturally, we all expected them to regroup and try to attack us from that point, so I do think we should have done a little better. Becoming a team that can do that is a path that we will have to travel if we hope to reach the next stage of our development. I will work hard with the players to improve.
What are your thoughts on how the match proceeded after they pulled a goal back?
Basically, our desire to get a fourth goal did not change and I did not have it in mind to retreat and play defensively. With that said, what I wanted to see from my two proteges (Morita and Yamamoto) was for them to help the team win the ball back for longer periods. I can’t say that I’m satisfied with them, today. They have a greater understanding of our football than anyone else and I put them in to push the team’s play to a higher gear. I’m satisfied with every other aspect, so that may sound harsh, but when I consider how we are going to grow even further from this point, I am very unhappy with those two and how they played as substitutes.
Can you tell us why you decided to play Shohei Takahashi at left-side attacker?
Our analysis of Omiya told us that one of their strong points was that they get forward on the right through Ippei Shinozuka and we wanted to neutralize that. We also had to deal with Ibba in the middle and we expected them to try and use their height advantage, so I felt that it would be best to place Kondo in the middle with Taira to repel their crosses. We also had Klebinho on the pitch for the first time in a while and I wanted him to be able to take full advantage of his attacking abilities.