Analysis: Slick Yokohama outclass Sydney FC
Yokohama: It’s been six years since Yokohama F. Marinos last appeared in the AFC Champions League, but judging by their performances in claiming six points from six, their return to the competition is a welcome one.
On Wednesday, Ange Postecoglou’s side followed up an away win at former champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors by dismantling Sydney FC 4-0 in Japan to move six points clear at the Group H summit.
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Possession with a purpose
Away at Jeonbuk last week, the J.League champions’ 68.05% of possession was a weekly high; at home to Sydney they bettered that with a tournament best 69.41%, while also recording the highest number of successful passes (662) in the 2020 edition.
But this is not purely keep-ball, as Yokohama attack with a purpose. Their 19 chances created was a weekly high and has yet to be bettered in the 2020 competition and an impressive 24 shots on goal was also a tournament high so far.
Beginning in their own penalty area, the hosts’ third goal was team play at its best. Patient build-up eventually saw the ball with Keito Endo in the opposition box, but with nowhere to go he went back to Theerathon Bunmathan, who then threaded through the eye of a needle to tee up Teruhito Nakagawa’s second.
If that goal displayed Yokohama’s on-the-ground capabilities, the fourth showed their ability to mix it up. A long ball over the top from Takahiro Ohgihara found the advancing Endo, whose neat backheel played in Marcos Junior and he crossed for Ado Onaiwu to tap home the final goal of the night.
Nakagawa shows his class
Lively throughout and clinical when it mattered, Nakagawa was a constant thorn in the Sydney side and delivered a performance of true quality.
If Nakagawa’s opening two games of the campaign are anything to go by, the 2019 J.League MVP and top scorer looks to be bringing his form from last year to the Continental stage. After creating Yokohama’s first goal against Jeonbuk, the Japan international twice found the back of the net on Wednesday.
After playing a key role in his side’s first goal, the striker then got on the scoresheet following a sumptuous chip over goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne. Two minutes later, he found space for himself inside the box and showed great composure to finish with his left foot into the bottom corner.
The 27-year-old, in many regards, could be described as a late developer having only made his international debut last year. But Nakagawa is now thriving under Postecoglou as Yokohama aim to truly deliver on the Continental stage for the first time since the inception of the AFC Champions League.
Sydney’s ACL struggles
Runaway leaders in the A-League, Sydney were second best in every department on Wednesday after falling behind to Ado Onaiwu’s slightly fortuitous opening goal as they suffered their first defeat since late October.
The 4-0 loss mirrored the scoreline of their previous AFC Champions League game when they were defeated by another J.league side, Kawasaki Frontale, in their final group match of a winless 2019 Continental campaign.
In the A-League, the Sky Blues boast the best defence but on Wednesday they struggled to cope with wave after wave of Yokohama attacks. The hosts found space far too easily and, for the third goal in particular, Nakagawa was afforded acres of room in their penalty area.
With his side having so little of the ball, meanwhile, there was not much the A-League’s top scorer, Adam le Fondre, could do but – despite managing no shots on goal – the Englishman continued to chase lost causes and saw more of the ball than most of his teammates.
Although Sydney managed just one shot on target (above), a true test of their credentials may come on March 4, when they host Jeonbuk.
With the Korean side also having suffered defeat to Yokohama, the A-League’s dominant team will hope home comforts can help them return to something that resembles their domestic form.
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