2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 25th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Fagiano Okayama

Match Report

With the second leg of the season underway, Verdy had so far compiled an undefeated record of two wins and no losses. On this day, they would look to build a winning streak as they faced Okayama on home ground at Ajinomoto Stadium.


After scoring the decisive goal in the previous match against Okayama during the season’s first leg, Ryoya Yamashita began the match at right wide striker, while Shion Inoue began on the left. The back line featured revisions from the previous week, with Masashi Wakasa playing at right wide attacker and Takayuki Fukumura playing on the left. Rounding out the back line were Shohei Takahashi and Tomohiro Taira at the crown.


In their previous encounter, Okayama quickly retreated into a defensive block but on this day, they pressed at the front from the opening minutes. Verdy attempted to evade the pressure by involving Matheus in the buildup and moving the ball, but the high tempo of their pass work led to mistakes on the front line and they were unable to develop a positive rhythm. It was the 8th minute when the momentum finally began to shift. In their urge to attack, Verdy had gradually pushed up into opposition territory while keeping a compact shape and they now sought to exploit the space behind Okayama’s back line. The key man during this period was Yamashita. In the 15th minute, Haruya Ide played a perfect through pass as Yamashita burst forward and was brought down by a defender to earn a free kick. Sato attempted to drill a ball to the near post as his teammates ran forward with full momentum, but a defender was able to get a touch at the last moment and change the flight of the ball. In the 35th minute, Yamashita received the ball from Sato and made a dash as a gap opened in the opposition’s defense. Free on goal, the Verdy forward swung his foot for a powerful shot, but the ball flew over the crossbar. In the 40th minute, Matheus and Fukumura combined to peel away the opposition’s press and Haruya Ide bought time by carrying the ball forward at his feet.  Yamashita once again made a run as Ide played the ball into space, but as he came within sight of goal, he attempted to make a lateral pass to an unmarked teammate and the ball was cleared before a shot could be applied.


Having been unable to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by Yamashita’speed, Verdy would find themselves in a pinch at the start of the second half. In the 55th minute, they conceded a free kick on the right side and the ball crossed the face of goal to the opposite end, surprising the Verdy defense and leaving them unable to react as it was played back in front of goal and headed into the net by Yamamoto. Verdy would now try to push and created their biggest chance of the match in the 63rd minute, when Joel Chima Fujita made a brave direct pass from a tight area in the center of the pitch. Yamashita was then able to turn on the ball and enter the penalty area for a shot, but a desperate lunge from a defender just managed to get a touch on the ball and send it inches wide of the right post. Verdy continued to press the attack by bringing on Rihito Yamamoto, Koki Morita, and Klebinho, but the opposition displayed good concentration as they locked up space in their own half, bringing the match to an end.


While the team will be disappointed to have suffered their first loss of the second leg and dropped points, another streak of five consecutive matches is about to start and there is no time for them to let their heads down. The players must now rest their bodies and shift focus as they prepare to face Ehime FC, a team who inflicted a painful loss on them in the first leg. This will be their chance for revenge.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
We had more time in between matches this week and the players engaged in training in an incredibly positive way. To be honest, given how well we had trained, I was looking forward to today’s match, but instead it turned out to be a very frustrating one. That doesn’t mean that it was nothing but negatives, but I do feel that if we had done a better job of getting numbers in the finish zone at the end of moves and were on the same page more about the timing of when we pull the switch on our attack, I think we could have been more effective and I regret that somewhat. Of course, I think the players worked very hard. I will now help them to shift their feelings and mindset to the next match and prepare well. Since it was a home game today, I had been worried about the effects of the typhoon yesterday on the pitch condition today, but thanks to the stadium and club staff, the pitch was in excellent condition with no impact from the rain at all. They have my gratitude. Lastly, as is always the case, I would truly like to thank the fans and supporters for cheering us on. I always feel terrible when we fail to repay their faith with the thrill of victory, but we will prepare well so that we can do so in our next home match.

Can you tell us what the aim was in switching to a back three after the introduction of Klebinho?
It was to place more emphasis on attack and actively trying to get a goal. In terms of numbers, we lined up as a 3-4-3, but it was merely a shift to an attacking phase of our game plan. I will work with the players so that they can do that a little better.

You seemed unable to raise the tempo of your attack throughout the first half. What do you think was the reason?
Just as you say, when we began today’s match, my biggest point of emphasis was to change the tempo throughout the match. I wanted us to have a shared switch we could pull to change the tempo on the pitch and speed up our attack. I regret that we weren’t able to do that a bit better today. Of course, part of that is because Okayama were extremely tight in defense, but considering the quality of our players, I believe that they can definitely do better. As we retain possession during the match, pulling the switch on our attack and controlling the tempo will be the next step for us as a team.

Okubo played only in the first half, today. Is there a problem with his condition?
No, it was in preparation for the coming streak of five matches.

Losing on a single chance from a set piece made this a bit of a wasteful result. Can you tell us your honest feelings about that aspect?
It’s just as you say. I don’t think we were taking that situation lightly or anything, but we simply have to be more careful than usual on set pieces. Considering that, I believe that addressing this can help us grow as a team. As far as retaining possession and seeking goals, as well, I believe there will always be more that we can do, so I will work to build a shared understanding among the players. We don’t have a lot of time, but we will discuss things in our team meetings.

Do you think the players need to show greater bravery by trying direct passes or more aggressive play?
I think you’re right. Where we flip the switch on our attack and where we penetrate the defense are all determined by calculating backwards from goal. By moving the ball in the square (zone), our objective is to draw the opposition forward. As long as we play with this style, we cannot be satisfied with simply keeping hold of the ball. Everything we do is part of the process of earning goals. I will continue building that understanding among the players and work to improve the quality of our finishing.

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Post-match comments

FW48Ryoya Yamashita

Your thoughts on the match?
We needed to build a winning streak, so dropping points today is very frustrating. We prepared all week to win this match. I ‘m truly disappointed.

You weren’t able to create many clear-cut chances. What do you think was the reason for that?
We work on different ways to carry the ball within range of goal during training. Naturally, that’s something the opposition will prepare to deal with too, Our job is to open up the space in the areas they’re trying to protect and to do that, we need to make more runs behind the defense. I think each of us needs to do that a bit more, so we can create more room to play.

How do you rate your individual performance, today?
I always try to get behind the defense and add an extra element to the team’s play, so I did that throughout the match.

As you aimed behind them, it seemed like there were few times when the ball arrived with the timing and form that you wanted.
The players behind me were working hard in defense as well, so I think it may have been taxing on them physically. I also felt that the players making the passes and those receiving them need to increase the quality of our understanding.

Can you tell us what steps you are taking to supplement your speed and runs with better quality and decision making at the end of moves?
As long as I’m playing on the front line, I’ll be concerned with getting goals and assists. I don’t think there’s ever a point where you stop seeking greater quality and I do think I have to demand that from myself. However, I think it’s important first to increase the number of opportunities I have to finish and to take more shots on goal. After that, it’s about achieving better quality.

You had two clear opportunities in the first half. Did you have a clear view of your surroundings?
(Regarding his shot in the 35th minute) I could see everything. At that time, we didn’t have any shots as a team and I was confident that I could put in an effort there, so I just swung my foot without hesitation. (Regarding the run in the 40th minute, where he elected to pass the ball rather than shoot) On that occasion, I could see that Sato was unmarked and I thought that if I made a solid pass, he would have a first-time shot and that would have a greater chance of finding the net. That’s why I elected to pass there. With that said, if I can develop enough that I can run with the ball and take a shot myself in those situations, then I will have more options. I will work on that in the future.

Tell us about the clear shot you had in the second half.
The ball took a bit of a deflection off the defender’s foot, but if not for that, I think it was headed for the right corner. I was disappointed that he got a touch. I knew that he was closing me down, so I tried to keep my swing compact and make contact before he could get there.

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MF14Koki Morita

What were your thoughts on the match before you came on as a substitute?
Even though we were controlling possession, we couldn’t get into the final third or dangerous zones on the pitch. It felt like time was just drifting by. Still, we did have a few good moves and there were points where all we needed was a more precise pass or a little more attacking quality.

What instructions did you receive from the manager when you took the pitch?
He told me to play in a way that put more pressure on their goal. That’s something that was on my mind already, but I heard it from Coach Nagai as well. My hope was to get on the ball as much as possible and help the team move in the right direction.

You did make some runs with the ball that opened things up in key areas.
They were man marking us, so if I could dribble well and beat the first defender, there was space behind them that would allow me an opportunity. I think I did that somewhat. But they were very tight at the back and I don’t think I showed enough ideas or quality to overcome that.

At the end of the match, you were putting more players on the front line, but it seemed like the players had heavy legs. Did it feel like you were just knocking the ball around?
I think it hurts us to have too few or too many players in the box. When we don’t get those numbers right, we can’t create space, so I don’t think it does us any good if everyone is trying to be the one who scores. When we break teams down, we have lots of numbers but at the same time, we’re all on the same page about what we want to do. Today, we weren’t able to work the ball to the finish, but I think we were on the same page to some degree.

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DF2Masashi Wakasa

Your thoughts on the match?
We wanted to prevent them from scoring an opener, but then they got one through a set piece. That was frustrating.

The set piece that led to their opener looked like something they had worked through on the training ground. What do you think was necessary to prevent yourselves from conceding that goal?
When they took the kick, we heard something that sounded like a signal and I had the feeling that the ball was going to be played to the far side, so I think that those of us in the middle should have been in better communication about our marking.

You played in the previous match against Okayama as well and compared to last time, when they played a lot of long balls, they seemed to have a different approach today. How do you feel now that the match is over?
While they didn’t utilize it as much as last time, their goalkeeper has a good kick in him and when they play the ball back to him, their side backs push into high positions. We knew from our scouting that they would kick the ball to those areas, so I think that we were able to deal with that aspect.

While you weren’t able to score in the first half, you did achieve much of what you wanted on the pitch.
There was more space in the first half than in the second. I think we had more chances to create a shot in the first half. We should have created just a few more clear opportunities.

Somewhat because of your opponents’ style, it seemed like being the first team to score would be important, today.
After they scored, it seemed like every player retreated into their own area in defense, so it would have been ideal to prevent them from getting an opener, score the first ourselves, and then go looking for more. While we were still able to play with poise after they scored, we should have done a better job of playing sharp passes when the opportunity when was right or put the ball into areas of the pitch that would trouble the defense.

You had no shots on goal and including clear chances, you didn’t create many effective attacking moves.
I agree that we didn’t create clear chances and that is something that I hope we can focus on to improve next time. We have to produce more plays that will bother the opposition and pose a threat.

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FW25Jin Hanato

Your thoughts on the match?
The set play they earned that led to their goal was the result of a mistake I made, so I truly feel responsible. The team had worked so hard to maintain a clean sheet over these last few matches, so I am sorry for that. There will always be moments in the match when we lose possession, but looking back, I don’t think there was any need for me to burst forward like that and try to win the ball back. I hadn’t been getting a lot of match time lately, so I think I was too impatient and a bit careless.

After they scored the opening goal, the opposition became even more focused on defense and you were left without much space to try and break them down.
It didn’t feel like they were aiming to score again after the opener and instead, they all dropped back in defense. I received the ball less myself, but more than anything else, it was important to not allow them the opening goal and we gave it up on a set piece, so I have to reflect on that and do what I can to make up for it the next time I get match time.

When you came on in the second half, did the manager give you any special comments?
I didn’t receive any special words, so I tried to do what I did when I played in the first leg of the season by making myself available for the ball and getting into the middle. On one occasion, I received a direct pass from Shohei (Takahashi) and laid it off first-time to Yamashita to create a chance. If we can do that sort of thing more, I think we can threaten the opposition more. When I get the ball up front, I have pressure on me from 360 degrees, so there’s a risk of losing the ball, but if I don’t keep my poise and continue receiving it there, the team won’t be able to create chances. I didn’t have much space, so I think I had to drop back to receive it more.

You got the ball in good spots, but I imagine you feel like you didn’t create enough clear chances or find opportunities to finish.
When we carried the ball into their final third, we should have been bolder and tried mid-range or long-range shots. Especially when our opponents retreat, we have to be more focused on taking shots. We don’t have to find the net every time we do so and it’s important to challenge ourselves.

Given the team’s stability in defense of late, it had been a while since you gave up an opener and had to chase the lead. Did it feel difficult to do so?
We’ve been defending well and it’s true that we haven’t had to chase the lead for a while, but when our opponents score, their concentration increases and it was very important that we not allow them the first goal.

This was your second match back with the squad and you had more time on the pitch, today. How was your sharpness?
In terms of my condition, my trainers have given a lot of their time to help with my rehabilitation and there is really no excuse. With all the time I was given on the pitch, I wanted to do more. In any case, we didn’t win today, so we need to go home and refocus.

In terms of your attack, it seemed like you were maybe a little too careful, overall.
When we’re losing, our desire not to lose the ball easily gets stronger and that’s something that, myself included, the whole squad needs to reflect on. In our case, when we allow our opponents to take the lead, we’re inevitably going to have lots of possession afterward. In the away match against Tochigi, Yuhei equalized for us right away with a mid-range shot. If we’re aggressive like that after we concede, even if we don’t score right away, there’s the potential to make something happen. And when we do equalize, it will give us more momentum, so I just think we need to be bolder in the way we play.

This was the team’s first loss of the second leg and it puts some distance between you and the top of the table. What do you think will be the important points that will enable you to show a more competitive edge as a team?
Personally, I think the opening goal and the way we begin the match are most important. Of course, all 90 minutes are important, but I think the start of the first and the start of the second half, as well as the ways we finish each half, are when we need to be the most alert.

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