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MATCH

2020 MEIJI YASUDA J2 LEAGUE 27th Sec - Tokyo Verdy vs Tochigi SC

Match Report

Last week, Verdy rebounded from their loss against Fagiano Okayama with only two days rest and earned a decisive 4-1 victory on the road against Ehime FC, On this day, they took the pitch after two days rest once again to face Tochigi SC at Ajinomoto Stadium.

 

Changes were made from the previous match on the Verdy front line, along with front central midfield, where Yuhei Sato was paired with Joel Chima Fujita. Meanwhile Hanato was chosen to play the free role, surrounded by Ryoya Yamashita at right wide striker and Shion Inoue on the left. Mizuki Arai, who claimed a goal and an assist against Ehime, along with fellow goal scorer Junki Koike, were both saved as substitutes. The changes clearly reflected the difficulty of the team’s packed schedule.

 

The rain that had been falling since the previous night had yet to stop, forcing the players to begin the match on a wet and slippery pitch. Regardless, the Verdy squad used their skill with the ball at their feet to connect short passes and develop their attacking rhythm, pinning Tochigi in their own half. On the other hand, the opposition would take advantage of mistakes in the team’s buildup to periodically push deep into Verdy territory and carry the ball within range of goal. Neither team would create clear chances until the latter minutes of the first half, when Verdy would have a number of good opportunities. In the 32nd minute, Klebinho took advantage of a gap in the defense during a throw-in and tossed the ball into space for Yamashita to run onto. The latter then entered the penalty area and hit a shallow cross to Inoue, who was unmarked in front of goal. Inoue met the pass first-time, but his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. In the 38th minute, Fujita pounced on a loose ball after a corner kick clearance and hit a powerful volley that was on target but kept out by a diving save from the keeper. The ball then fell to the feet of Shohei Takahashi, but his first-time shot went wide right of goal.

 

In the second half, Tochigi strengthened their pressure up top. In response, Verdy were unable to play effective balls to the front line and in the 63rd minute, the manager brought on Arai and Morita to try and invigorate the attack. In the 64th minute, Arai used his trademark dribbling skills to challenge the defense and threaten the goal with a cross to the near post, but Hanato was flagged for offside as he met the ball. Throughout the half, there were still periods when the team were pushed back by Tochigi and while the players were often able to connect passes at a good tempo and push back into the opposition half, they were still unable to grasp full control of the game. In the final minutes, Koike and Okubo were brought on to try and strengthen the attack even further. During additional time, the team advanced to the final third and broke down the wide areas of the defense, but they were unable to provide the right ball in front of goal and the match came to a close.

 

This was a match in which Verdy hoped to generate momentum for their campaign by earning their second win in a row, but they were ultimately made to pay for not converting the chances they had in the first half. The packed schedule now continues with another match at home in just three days. Despite the short interval, the players must fully recover and prepare to face Jubilo Iwata. A win will surely fire up the fans at Ajinomoto Stadium and also avenge the frustrating draw the team suffered against Jubilo in the season’s first leg.

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Post-match comments

Manager Hideki Nagai

Your thoughts on the match?
It was a home game, so our objective was to ride the energy provided by our fans, fully display our brand of football, and earn the three points. To be honest, it was a very disappointing match. While retaining possession and repeatedly trying to create chances, we successfully broke them down on several occasions, but we were left extremely frustrated when it came to applying the finish. In defense, the players truly worked hard to deal with Tochigi’s long balls and recover the second ball. If we had been more skilled at developing moves on the counter from there, I think we could have been even more effective in our attacking play, so I regret that. However, our plan was to keep hold of the ball after winning it and on those terms, I think the players did a very good job. I’ve said this before, but we have to raise our precision at the end of moves and our finishing. We didn’t have the best of weather today, but I’m grateful to the fans and supporters for giving us power until the final whistle. I am sorry that we weren’t able to reward them with a victory, but we have another home game coming up right away, so we will make our best preparations and work hard to reward them next time. Finally, I say this every match, but I would like to thank the club’s entire staff and all our supporters for working throughout the night to prepare for today. Thanks to them, we were able to carry out the match, despite these difficult conditions. Our next match is in just three days, but we will rely on them for good preparation once again.

While it’s true that Tochigi defended well, what do you think is the reason that they were able to slow you down so often?
There were many occasions when things didn’t go well for us and the reasons were slightly different each time. There were moments when our positioning was slightly off and the supporting players were inconsistent in the spots they found. I think we can raise the level of our play further and I believe we are capable of playing our football no matter how hard the oppositions attempt to press us from the front. If we remain constantly aware of the space behind the defense and observe our opponents as we play, I think I can work with the players to take the next step from there. Still, looking at the match as a whole, I think they did a good job, today.

Was the adjustment in formation due to the fact that you switched Yamamoto for Fujita at the libero position?
Yes. I changed the way we lined up and slightly adjusted the positions of Klebinho and Yamashita. I feel like we played well after that. Of course, I know that Tochigi maintain their shape well and slide from side to side quickly in defense, so it was hard to break them down, but we have to be better in attack than they are at protecting their goal and I think we can do more. I will work to raise the level of our quality.

In terms of runs behind the defense, it seemed like you needed at least one other player besides Yamashita. What do you think, as manager?
Our plan, today, was for Jin Hanato to make runs from the middle to the near-post zone. However, Tochigi’s center backs were quite tough and I think we needed to a better job of pulling them forward in order to get behind them. I regret that. Still, Hanato was able to drop into midfield several times and exploit the square zone by facing forward and making himself available to support his teammates. In that sense, I think he performed according to plan. In the second half, Mizuki (Arai) entered the match on the left and we were able to execute even more of our plan. In the future, I hope that we can create four lanes for runs behind the defense, in the wide areas and in the middle.

When you were pushed back and unable to get forward in the second half, what tactics did you have in mind to change the momentum?
They tightened up in the middle during the final minutes and we had no more space behind them. We tried to attack them from the wide areas in order to break them down and had strong wide players like Junki Koike and Mizuki, along with Klebinho as a weapon on the right. We were able to get from the outside into the corner and near zones but were frustrated at the finish. When we attacked from the left and played the ball across the face of goal in front of the keeper, I wanted to see more players show the courage to run onto the ball. I really think we’re only one step away.

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Post-match comments

FW25Jin Hanato

Your thoughts on the match?
The pitch made things difficult, but it was a game that I think we could have won. I had chances myself, so I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the victory.

Their center backs put a lot of physical pressure on you and when their holding midfielders joined the mix, you were unable to receive the ball throughout the match.
The opposition won most of the floated long balls, but when we kept the ball on the ground, it wasn’t that stressful for me. I don’t know if they were aiming to force us into playing the ball in the air, but they seemed to emphasize that part of the battle. In that sense, it was difficult for me, but it wasn’t incredibly stressful.

As a forward, it seemed like you needed more support at times.
At one point in the first half, I received a direct ball and tried to play a first-time pass, only to lose possession. If I had been more aware, I think I could have turned on the ball and played a quick pass into space for Yama(shita). I want to improve those elements of my play. Still, I didn’t feel that support was particularly late in arriving.

In the second half, it seemed like there were problems with positioning throughout the squad.
I didn’t feel it so much when I was on the pitch, but in the second half, a lot of balls in the air were won by our opponents and I think that hurt our rhythm. That’s what made things difficult for us.

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DF16Takayuki Fukumura

Your thoughts on the match?
We had chances and they had some as well. It was that sort of match.

You created chances, but it seemed like you were struggling with their pressing.
We did struggle at times, but once we shed the initial pressure, we had chances to speed up immediately and attack. I think that was especially true in the first half. In the second half, it felt like we were having trouble getting forward and their pressing felt more intense.

Why do you think things grew so difficult for you?
It was partly a problem with our spacing and partly that we were physically tired, so we were doing less of the small things.

In this match and two matches ago against Okayama, you struggled with the opposition’s pressing. What do you think is needed to increase the amount of time you have on the ball?
I think it comes down to our spacing and most importantly, our timing. The player making the pass and the player receiving it need to be on the same page with their timing. The recipient of the pass, especially, needs to call for the ball at times when they can receive it with the greatest amount of space. If the player making the pass can see them, that might not be necessary, but when they can’t see around them, we need to make our voices heard. I think we have to catch our opponents unaware and find gaps in their defense more.

The fans were finally able to make noise with instruments, today. Did the atmosphere feel different on the pith?
We could hear their drums from the time of our warm-up and while they’re still not allowed to use their voices, we could feel their passion more from the drums than when they were only allowed to clap. When the drums began, I expected to hear the usual cheers, but with the situation what it is, I can only pray that things improve step by step, as fast as circumstances will allow.

Recently, you haven’t been able to put together a winning streak. How do you feel about where the team stands right now?
All of us are painfully aware that we need to win multiple games in a row to move up the table, but even when we play to win, we don’t always get the results we need and things have felt a bit difficult. Individually, I tried to do the things that went well for us last week by making runs and expressing myself. I did that from the first half on. That didn’t lead to a positive result, but I think we have to continue attempting those positive aspects of our play. Fixing the things, we do poorly is not the only thing that is important. We also have to continue the things we do well. We have to improve our quality in those areas step by step and I think that’s the reason we can’t win the matches we need to build a winning streak.

Still, do you get the feeling that you’re making progress with every match?
Yes. I think our ability to win depends more on ourselves than on our opponents. Last week, we had new squad members come on and make an impact, while those on the pitch today have appeared fairly regularly. The fact that we can play well no matter who is on the pitch is a sign that we are improving. Even so, I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to win.

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MF20Shion Inoue

Your thoughts on the match?
I thought we did a good enough job of getting past their high press, but in the finish zone, I think we were lacking in ideas and initiative.

Due to the intensity of the opposition press, you were often forced to retreat to a shallow position and participate in the buildup.
In terms of our play on the left side, Fuku(mura) took up high positions while I moved into the center. I did that while observing the way they pressed and at times, it worked well. However, I think we could have done a better job of combining with Yuhei (Sato) as a triangle.

As Hanato tried to drop back and lay the ball off to players facing forward, it seemed like you needed another player, in addition to Yamashita, to make runs behind.
After Jin (Hanato) laid the ball off to a player facing forward, I do think that we didn’t have enough players making runs behind or performing other actions. Any one of us is allowed to make the run behind, but I think it’s especially important for the wide players to do so. Beyond that, it’s about reading what will happen next. The moment Jin receives the ball, we need to predict that he will lay it off to a teammate and take our first step before that happens. We were somewhat lacking in that area. In addition, it’s important to achieve balance between those making runs and those who stand nearby in support. We need to observe where our teammates are when we take up our positions and communicate better as a team.

At the midpoint of the first half, you received a shallow cross from Yamashita after a throw-in and had a promising shot on goal.
We’ve worked on throw-ins during training and today, we broke down the right side well. Jin drew defenders away at the near post and that left me space in a shallow position. I really wanted to score from that shot. It flew a bit too straight and I needed to do something more unexpected, like place it in the opposite corner.

In the second half, you were pushed back somewhat, and the entire squad seemed to have trouble getting forward.
The manager said so as well, but I think our performance in the first half was acceptable as a minimum. In the second half, however, we had to get a goal and needed to raise the intensity of our play an extra gear. Our performance has a tendency to drop in the second half, so we have to consciously push ourselves.

Hanato made his first start in recent days, but he displayed effective play several times in the way he fought for position and pulled away defenders to create space for his teammates.
On a basic level, when Jin receives the ball, he won’t lose it easily, so we all have faith in him when we play the ball in his direction. On the other hand, we need to do a better job throughout the squad of supporting him and timing our runs.

Recently, you haven’t been able to fulfill the opportunities you’ve had to build a winning streak. To achieve greater objectives, the team will need to earn results with more consistency.
Of course, we haven’t given up on achieving promotion and to reach second place or higher, we need to do more than build a winning streak. Rather, I think we need to play with the desire to win every remaining match. Results are more important than anything else at this point. I and all the other players recognize, of course, that we are improving with every match, but if we don’t win games like this or let certain results slip away, that’s a sign that we still have to improve. I want us to grow more and more.

Today, the Verdy supporters were allowed to play their drums in support of the team and last week, you had your first home match with away supporters in the stadium. How was the atmosphere for the players on the pitch?
It really does make a big difference whether we have fans in the stadium or not. We’re able to keep running hard when we’re tired or in pain. I think that’s thanks to the fans and supporters. We’re very grateful and their presence is a major one for us.

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