YOKOHAMA – Yokohama F. Marinos hit V-Varen Nagasaki with a second-half blitz to head into the J. League’s World Cup shutdown on a high with a 5-2 win on Saturday.
V-Varen, playing their first-ever season in J1, twice took the lead at Nissan Stadium through goals from Juanma and Keita Nakamura, only for Marinos to equalize both times thanks to a Yuki Otsu penalty and a goal from Teruhito Nakagawa.
Nakagawa then put the home side in front for the first time in the match in the 67th minute, before further strikes from Takahiro Ogihara and Milos Degenek made the game safe for Marinos.
Yokohama now heads into the World Cup break with 17 points from 15 games under first-year manager Ange Postecoglou, and the Australian is confident of an upturn in form when the league resumes on July 18.
“It was a good game for us,” said former Socceroos manager Postecoglou. “Our performance was good, particularly in the second half. We still conceded two goals that maybe we shouldn’t have and maybe that made things a little bit difficult, but the players showed tremendous spirit and in the second half we probably could have scored three or four more goals.
“In summary of our first half of the year, our good has been very good and our poor has been very poor. For anyone who has watched the team in the last couple of years, it has been a major change. We’ve asked a lot of the players. Getting that consistency is the next challenge. If we do get it, then we’ll be hard to stop. I’m very confident that you’ll see the best of us in the second half of the year.”
V-Varen have also had mixed results in their first season in the top flight, with 17 points from 15 games, but manager Takuya Takagi believes his team is learning as it goes along.
“I thought we were very unlucky today,” said the former Japan striker. “We had possession and with just a little extra in defense we could have avoided conceding all those goals. It didn’t have to be that way. It was a bit of a waste.
“But after 15 games I can clearly see what we need to do and where we are as a team. Obviously we need to able to hold onto our leads when we go in front. It’s just a lack of experience and we need to build that up. It’s a matter now of looking at the data and working on things in training.”
V-Varen opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Nakamura slid a pass across the six-yard box that eluded every Yokohama defender, and Juanma tapped it home from close range.
A foul on Keita Endo in the box then gave Marinos their chance to get back into the game from the penalty spot in the 21st minute, and Otsu duly took it, stroking the ball low into the corner past goalkeeper Kenta Tokushige.
Nagasaki retook the lead just two minutes into the second half when Juanma fired off a shot that Yokohama goalkeeper Hiroki Iikura parried, and Nakamura reacted quickest to finish off the rebound.
“We knew that their fullbacks would come inside and leave space, so I think we were able to make the most of the few chances that we had,” said Nakamura. “It was great that we scored two goals, but the fact that we couldn’t widen our lead was what sunk us.”
Marinos hit back again 13 minutes later when a Kota Yamada shot deflected off Nagasaki defender Shogo Nakahara and sat up nicely for Nakagawa to smash past Tokushige.
And the home side went ahead seven minutes later when Nakagawa found himself in possession on the edge of the box, made himself some space and again drove the ball past the Nagasaki ‘keeper.
“He’s working hard,” Postecoglou said of Nakagawa, who was making his seventh league appearance of the season. “For me it’s about understanding the players and the players have to understand the system. It took him a little bit longer than the others to understand how we want our wingers to play. We always knew that he’s very quick and we now know he can score goals.”
Ogihara gave Marinos some breathing space seven minutes later when he produced a clinical left-foot finish after the ball had fallen perfectly for him in the box.
And there was still time for Marinos to add a fifth, as Degenek crashed home an 82nd-minute header direct from a corner to cap an impressive win for the home side.
“It was a little bit different circumstances because it was very hot and some of us were a little bit tired, but I think we controlled the game,” said Degenek, who will now join Australia’s World Cup squad. “Really they only had two opportunities and they scored two goals. We should have defended better but we’re happy that we scored five goals and we deserved to win the game.”
In the day’s other games, Gamba Osaka and Urawa Reds drew 0-0, and Ryunosuke Noda scored a 71st-minute winner as Shonan Bellmare beat Jubilo Iwata 1-0.
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