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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 24th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Omiya Ardija

Match Report

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.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

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.

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Post-match comments

FW48Ryoya Yamashita

Your thoughts on the match?
I think we expressed our team philosophy well in the first half, but in the second, we allowed them to have too much control of the ball. That’s something we need to work on as a team.

For what reasons do you think the opposition were able to grasp hold of the possession in the second half?
Each of us was a bit slow to get to our positions and when that happens, every successive pass is just a little more off. When those things pile up, we can’t keep control of the ball well. That’s something we have to improve as a team.

The more they pushed from the front, the more space you, individually, had to make runs behind them.
Individually, that’s something that I try to do no matter what the circumstances. I had chances to do so in the second half today, but I wasn’t able to create shots from many of those moves. That’s what I have to work on and I hope to do better next time.

Tell us about your goal, which was the team’s second.
As soon as Yuhei (Sato) took hold of the ball, I knew he would find me with a pass, so I trusted in him and made the run. He played a perfect ball and I was able to run with it at my feet. I saw Shion (Inoue) unmarked on the opposite side, but I was confident that I would score, so I elected to take the chance myself. When I carry the ball that deep, it limits the angles I have and that was the only spot I had to aim for, so I didn’t hesitate. We’ve built a shared understanding about those sort of passes in training, so I knew the ball would come.

Did you think you also had the option of cutting inside before taking the shot?
I did think about cutting inside, but had I done so from that position, a defender might have gotten a foot in and we would have lost the chance to counterattack. I believed that taking the shot myself was the best option and took the risk.

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DF5Tomohiro Taira

Your thoughts on the match?
My goal may have been the match winner, but I’m not satisfied with the way I played, overall. I will work to make improvements before the next match. We were pinned back for long periods of the second half, but we needed to increase the amount of time we had in possession or create more chances to score a fourth goal. Things got tough several times in the second half, so we need to improve.

Tell us about the opening goal.
We knew that they used zonal marking when defending set pieces, so I practiced aiming for the near post in training. The ball came just like we had rehearsed, and I was able to make the run to the inside, so I think it went well. When competing against zonal marking, I can get more height if I run before my jump than if I jump from a still position. I look to build up some momentum in those situations and if a good ball arrives, all I have to do is meet it. A good ball did indeed come. It was just as we worked on in training.

Tell us about your second goal.
I had another teammate aiming for the near post on free kicks, so I tried to make my run behind them. I’m happy that a good ball arrived when I did.

It was reminiscent of your playoff goal against Omiya in 2018. Do you think you match up well against them?
No, it’s just a coincidence (laugh).

That must have made a good birthday present for your new child.
With a new baby (Taira’s second) arriving, my aim has been to play with a greater sense of responsibility. I’m glad that helped contribute to the result.

What did you focus on in terms of dealing with Ibba at the heart of their attack?
The first thing was to not let him receive the ball. As a team, we talked about not letting them make easy passes to his position. I think we did a good job of that in the first half.

The team are now on a 4-match unbeaten run. How do you feel about that?
I can’t say that things have gone smoothly in most of those matches but every player has been tough in defense. That goes not only for the back line but also the players at the front, who have been fighting for the ball or retreating to help us in front of goal. I think that is the reason we haven’t given up many goals.

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DF6Shohei Takahashi

Your thoughts on the match?
We were nearly perfect in the first half and scored goals. We were stable at the back, as well. I think we played a good match.

You were pushed back for long periods in the second half.
Things aren’t always going to go as well as they did in the first half. When the opposition has control of the pace, every player stays in communication on the pitch about how we’re going to defend. I think that worked well for us.

You conceded your first goal in four matches and it came from a set piece. Even so, it seemed like everyone was strong in defense.
It’s not only those of us at the back. We all have to shift our focus and recognize that there are periods where we need to defend. I think everyone was aware of the that, today. In addition to the defense line, Matheus also issues a lot of instructions and we pressed from the front a lot. I think we accomplished what we set out to do.

What improvements remain for the team to continue to grow in the season’s second leg?
I think defending set pieces is one. We’re not the only team with such a problem, but we don’t have a lot of tall players in our squad and that leaves us vulnerable to set pieces and long throws. Each player has to take responsibility. If the score had been 0-0 when we conceded that goal, we would have lost. Today, we happened to be up 3-0, so we were able to finish the match off as we did, but the further up the ranks we get, the stronger our opponents will be and if we can learn to defend in those situations, I think we’ll grow into a stronger team as well.

What do you think about the fact that the team had less possession in the second half?
The opposition were more focused on attack and it became difficult to maintain our shape. They attacked with five against our back four, so that made things tricky for us. There are always going to be games like this, so in some ways, I think it can’t be helped. I think things got worse in the second half because we weren’t winning the second ball after the initial clearance and we were losing out to their pressure. Still, I think it’s a good thing that we were able to hold on to our lead.

This was the first time that you started as a side attacker. What did you focus on?
Individually, I focused on defense first and if there was an opportunity, I wanted to get involved in the attack by putting in a cross or shot, but my quality is lacking in those areas and I feel that I didn’t do that enough, today. That’s something I regret.

You did put in one dangerous cross in both the first and second halves. How did it feel to get involved in the attack?
I hadn’t played in that position for several years, so it really did feel new. However, it was something that I enjoyed, personally.

The team seemed to attack mostly from the right in the first half. Were you more focused on maintaining balance on the left side?
Part of it is our team concept, so there was that, but I felt like I could have played a few more direct passes from my position. That’s an area where I think improvement can be made for me individually and for us as a team.

Playing against your old club must have brought back memories.
Omiya are the club that gave me the chance to play and grow on the J1 stage, so I’m grateful to them. The fact that I was able to play in J1 for so many years is due to that experience and I think that continues to help me now.

Getting a win against an opponent like Omiya, who have given you problems before, should make the single point earned in the last match have greater value.
We play every match believing that we can win and we prepare for every match with the intention to win. I think that’s true for every team, but Verdy in particular need to show that we can compete and I want us to win more matches from start to finish. There are a lot of things we have to do, so we will continue to communicate as we proceed.

Breaking down teams who defend with a 5-4-1 shape and scoring multiple goals against them has been an issue, but you accomplished that today.
Football is about more than just breaking down your opponents. I’m sure there will be more teams line with a 5-4-1 in the future, but if we can get goals from set pieces in those situations, the opposition will have more to worry about that and our attacking repertoire will grow as well.

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MF11Haruya Ide

You seemed to accomplish your objectives nearly perfectly in the first half.
I think we were able to observe our opponents as we played. As the match went on, we had a good team understanding of where they would come forward and what spaces would open up. I think doing that, plus having every player participate in defense, was what enabled us to achieve the 3-0 score line. We eventually conceded from a set piece, but I still think we had a very good first half.

If you can score from set pieces against a team that plays defensively like Omiya, that should have the added benefit of helping your attack during the run of play.
Ideally, we want to score from more than just set pieces. Today, Ryoya (Yamashita) did that for us. However, we had been working on scoring from set pieces and were able to get two goals today. I think that is partly owed to the play we achieve leading up to the set piece. In that sense, I’m glad we scored from both our attacking moves and from set pieces.

Beyond the goals you scored, it seemed like the other elements of your game went well in the first half, too. Compared to the previous match against Omiya, do you feel that getting the opening goal had an impact?
After scoring the first goal from a set piece, Ryoya immediately got us a second. From that point, our game plan was to get a third goal and finish the match off. We executed our game plan extremely well in the first half. `Players were in the right positions and I think that led to a good rhythm.

You were pinned back a bit in the second half, though.
As far as the second half is concerned, we talked in our meeting about beginning the half as if the score were still 0-0. We wanted to put the game away and we started fairly well. However, as long as we had the ball, the opposition were pressuring us and we weren’t able to spot the openings as much as we did in the first half. A truly perfect game would mean that we reclaim possession and carry out the play inside opposition territory. To do that will require improvement throughout the team. Since we were able to control the play in opposition territory during the first half and got three goals as a result, I do feel that we should have done that a bit more.

In the second half, you seemed to take a simple approach of aiming for the space behind the defense. Do you think you should have continued to connect passes like you did in the first half?
When there is space behind the defense, I think we should use it. Individually and as a team, where the decision making comes into play is whether we do that on the counter or whether we continue moving the ball first. Today, I think we should have held onto the ball a bit more. Still, with the score at 3-0, it’s reasonable to prioritize defense. We just need to do a bit better.

Breaking down teams who defend with a 5-4-1 shape and scoring multiple goals against them has been an issue, but you accomplished that today.
I think the goals we got from set pieces played a big part, but compared to the match against Kofu, I think we did a better job of recognizing where they would come forward and what parts of the pitch would have space to aim for. That’s something that was as issue in that previous match. Today, however, we had multiple players making runs behind and every player was committed to observing those things as we played. I think that was positive.

The team seemed to attack mostly from the right in the first half. Were you more focused on maintaining balance on the left side?
Shion (Inoue), Yoshito (Okubo) and myself did a lot of passing on the left side, while on the right, we had Yamashita and Klebinho. I think we aimed to take advantage of the right side as a team and we accomplished our objective. Shohei (Takahashi) was playing as the side attacker on the left, so as a team, we would build up on the left side and then look to create numerical advantages on the right.

You’ve now ended this streak of five consecutive matches with a win. What still needs to be done for the remainder of the season?
We need to observe our opponents, then determine which spaces are open and where to aim. I think every player accomplished that in the first half, today. Other than that, it’s about our play at the end of moves and the timing with which we try to set up a finish. That’s an area where we have to grow if we’re going to reach the next level. We have a week off now, so we’ll address those areas and prepare for the next match.

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