After taking part in the last of a consecutive streak of matches the previous week, on the heels of an unbeaten run to start the season’s second leg, Verdy conceded a goal from a set piece and ended the game with a loss after their opponents retreated in defense of their lead. On this day, with only two days of rest in-between, Verdy faced Ehime FC. The match was one in which they could not afford to drop points if they hoped to make a move up the table. It was also a chance for revenge after losing to the same squad in the first leg, and the team were highly motivated as they arrived at the away ground.
Verdy made several changes to the squad from the previous match. Mizuki Arai was given his first start of the season, while Naoto Sawai also made a start for the first time in several matches. Meanwhile, Rihito Yamamoto took the libero spot and Klebinho stared at right wide attacker. Lastly, Koki Morita was given a start in front central midfield, after proving effective as a substitute in the previous week.
The match was an eventful one from the beginning. In the second minute, the opposition attempted to switch the ball to the opposite side of the pitch, but the pass was intercepted by Arai on the left. After immediately initiating the short counter, Arai received a return pass from Shion Inoue and broke into the left corner of the penalty area. The Verdy forward then swung his foot to drill a powerful diagonal shot that beat the goalkeeper and gave Verdy the lead. Afterward, Verdy continued to push the opposition back by taking positions high up the pitch and creating chances. In the 16th minute, the team won the bell with counter pressing and Arai fired a fierce mid-range shot, while in the 21st minute, a free kick chance saw Klebinho try a placed shot on goal. With the attack remaining potent, an event would soon take place that pulled the match even more in Verdy’s favor. It was the 23rd minute and having been whistled for a late challenge on Yamamoto, Ehime’s Naganuma was sent off after being shown his second yellow card. Verdy were now a man up and would press their advantage for the remainder of the game. In the 29tth minute, after a corner kick, the team held the bell deep in opposition territory and the Ehime goalkeeper failed to punch away a cross from Klebinho after leaving his line. The ball fell to Taira, who responded with a looping header that hit the post but rebounded to the feet of Shohei Takahashi. The latter as then able to finish and extend Verdy’s lead. Finally, in the third minute of first half additional time, Takayuki Fukumura began a move on the left side and Arai retrieved a loose ball before running with at his feet, breaking through the defense. After carrying the ball to the edge of the goal line, Arai hit a shallow cross that found Koike on the far side for a free header. The ball initially cannoned back off the post, but fell right in front of the Verdy again and he was able to tap home on his second try and give the team a three-goal lead at half time.
In the second half, the opposition emerged from their shell and began to apply pressure from the front. In response, Verdy maintained possession and moved the ball with poise, eventually pushing up the pitch once again. It was Arai who would create the first clear chance of the half. In the 60th minute, the Verdy forward ran with the ball on the left side and got his head up in time to see Sawai make a run at the face of goal. Arai elected to play a low cross and the nearest defender was unable to clear, allowing the ball to reach the feet of Sawai, who attempted to blast the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper, only to send it over the bar. From that point, the match was a calm affair and Verdy allowed the opposition to press while remaining on the alert for a chance at a fourth goal. In the 79th minute, a passing move pinned the opposition in their own half once again and Sawai received the ball unmarked in the final third. He attempted a mid-range shot that looked bound for the top right corner, but the goalkeeper was able to keep it out with a fine save. It would not be until the 85th minute that Verdy put the finishing touch on the result. The goal was created by substitutes Yoshito Okubo and Yuhei Sato and began when Sawai found himself with space on the right in the opposition half. Sawai called for the ball and attempted a first-time pass as he received it at his feet, seeking to play it behind the defense. However, he failed to make good contact and the ball was chipped into the air. Still, the defense failed to clear and it drifted on in the direction of goal where Okubo was waiting. The Verdy man continued his run after retrieving the loose ball and as he drew within range to the diagonal right of the goal, he feinted as if to shoot and instead laid the ball off to the middle, where the running Sato calmly applied the finish for Verdy’s fourth. In additional time, the team would make a mistake that saw them wastefully concede a goal of their own, but the final result was a victory, ending with a score line of 4-1.
In their previous match, during the season’s first leg, Verdy had pinned Ehime back but were made to regret the concession of a single goal. On this day, however, their plan worked perfectly in attack and defense. They were also aided by an explosive performance from Arai that enabled them to breach the Ehime goal at last. More than merely achieving revenge via the result, the team also relieved the frustration at being kept from scoring in their previous encounter and gave themselves positive momentum for the weekend’s coming fixture. With only two days to prepare, there is only so much they can do, but they will give everything they have to build a winning streak as they take the pitch at Ajinomoto Stadium.
Your thoughts on the match?
In our previous match against Ehime, we finished with an extremely frustrating result, so we entered this game looking for revenge. The players were truly focused from the opening whistle and did an excellent job of executing our plan. We saw some stand-out performances, today, from players who haven’t had a lot of match time, but our objective has always been to play the same football no matter who is on the pitch and I have full belief that all of my players can perform at the same level. Today, the players proved me right, so I am very happy. Over the course of the 90 minutes, we did a brilliant job of recycling possession, keeping the ball and earning goals in the midst of that process. In defense, we pressed from the front and maintained control of our back line to deal with the opposition’s threat from long balls. I think the team did a great job in every aspect. Once again, we only have two days of training available before our next match, but it’s a home game and I will work with the players to prepare well and get the win. Today, I am simply grateful to the players for an excellent performance.
Arai and Sawai both had standout performances, today, and contributed greatly to the result. How did you rate them both, individually?
As far as Mizuki (Arai) is concerned, he always gives 100% in training. In the training match we held last week, his heart didn’t seem to be in it and I had to be a bit harsh with him. I may have even told him to give up as a footballer if that was the best he could do. I wouldn’t say that it is the reason he played well today, but either way, I am very happy to see him grit his teeth and bounce back. The goal he scored with his left foot was exactly what Coash Fujiyoshi and Coach Hosaka have been working with him on one-to-one and I am happy to see the results. It reminds me once again that effort in practice doesn’t lie. I’m sure Mizuki will be a big plus for the team from now on and when I think about his potential, I’m sure he can do even more. I’m excited to watch that future growth. As far as Sawada (Sawai) is concerned, I thought he played very well. He has been with the club for a long time and I know that he will work harder and play for his teammates more than anyone else. I can often be heard telling the players that they need to understand the way we play and take up the correct positions, However, his sense of responsibility sometimes leads him to focus too much on doing what he’s told and that sometimes leads to ineffective play. Today, however, he did brilliantly from the opening whistle and his work was of great benefit. If I were to be greedy, I would point out that I counted at least three big chances that he had to score and had he finished properly, he could have claimed a hat trick and been the man of the match. Still, the fact that he did not step into the spotlight is true to his personality and one of things I like about him. I hope that today’s result gives him confidence and fuels his further growth. Both players did an excellent job.
In attack, it seemed like the players lined up in something like a 4-2-4, with Inoue and Sawai both playing in a free role. Can you tell us what was behind that?
We expected Ehime to try and man mark us, so I developed a lot of plans to deal with that and the formation we went with was what I judged to be the best option. I think it gave us a big advantage and I am satisfied with the performance of both players you mentioned, along with the entire team. All the players who came on as substitutes, as well, understood and executed their roles brilliantly and I am grateful to them.