Itakura: “I knew exactly what I had to do”

Ko Itakura on his long-range strike in Wolfsburg, the support of the Gladbach fans and the upcoming home game against Borussia Dortmund.

Ko, how pleased were you after the win in Wolfsburg?

Itakura: It was a very important win for us, so we were all incredibly pleased after the game. We hadn’t won away from home for a long time, or even won any match for a while. That made it even sweeter for us to finally pick up three points again.

You made a vital contribution by scoring the equaliser. It was your third Bundesliga goal, but your first with your feet...

Itakura: I was delighted with my goal! We were behind at half time and wanted to get back into the match quickly, and we managed that with the equaliser. It helped the team hugely at that stage of the game. In the first half, we’d put in a lot of crosses, but were missing an end product. That’s why I decided to have a go from outside the penalty area. In this particular situation, I had a bit of space and just let fly, and luckily the ball was deflected in.

The shot was hit at 113 km/h, making it the most powerfully struck goal of the Bundesliga matchday. Did you know you had this up your sleeve?

Itakura: Honestly? I had no idea! I clearly just connected with the ball well. It’s good to know that I’ve got such a powerful shot (laughs). If I get a chance to shoot from a similar position in the future, I’ll definitely try it again.

You celebrated your goal at the weekend in front of our away fans. What do you make of their support?

Itakura: Our fans are amazing. They’re always there for us and have got our backs no matter what, whether we’re playing at home or away. Unfortunately, there were moments over the past few weeks where we disappointed them, which is all the more reason why we wanted to give back to them with a win against Wolfsburg. I hope that we’ll be able to continue to do that over the next few games.

The team changed their tactics for the game against Wolfsburg and set up with a back five and two central defensive midfielders. How did you find playing with that formation?

Itakura: In the last few weeks, we dropped too many points and conceded too many goals, so it was vital that we concentrated on strengthening our defence. When we’re able to hold our shape and win back possession, it means we have more success in transition and on the counter, which showed through in our performance against Wolfsburg.

This was your first start for the Foals in the central defensive midfield this season. Are you fond of this position, and what’s the biggest difference you’ve found between playing there and in centre-back?

Itakura: When you’ve been a centre-back for such a long time, it takes a while for you to adjust to playing as a CDM. However, I knew exactly what I had to do in Wolfsburg. My role was centred around working together with Julian Weigl to maintain stability in the defensive midfield. I tried my best to ensure I achieved this, and at the same time providing support to both the centre-backs and forwards. That worked out really well.

You’re set to face BVB this coming Saturday. What are you anticipating from the game?

Itakura: Dortmund have a really strong squad, so it definitely won’t be a walk in the park for us. However, we have the advantage of playing at home in front of our fan, who will certainly give us a fantastic level of support. The win against Wolfsburg also provided us with a massive confidence boost, which we’re looking to carry with us into Saturday’s game.

Ko Itakura celebrates his equaliser in Wolfsburg.
Ko Itakura played in defensive midfield in Wolfsburg.

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