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Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus

Alvaro Morata of Juventus celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League semi final match between Real Madrid CF and Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.

Juventus progressed to their first European final in 12 years, earning a significant 1-1 draw against holders Real Madrid.

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Massimiliano Allegri made one change to his XI that defeated the Real Madrid last week in Turin, slotting Paul Pogba into midfield alongside Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo.

Carlo Ancelotti persisted with a 4-4-2, welcoming back Karim Benzema to his attack, and pushing Sergio Ramos to centre-back alongside Raphael Varane.

In ways, this was very similar to the first leg: despite Real negating service into Juve’s strikers, the away side nicked an early second half goal, and remained organized and compact in deeper positions to close out the match.

Real stop overload/Shape

Sometimes it’s interesting to see how a personnel change can shift the pattern of an overall tie. Juve maintained an overload in central areas in the opening stages of the first leg due to Gareth Bale’s reluctance to press Pirlo – along with Vidal dropping deeper – thus providing Allegri’s side with an outlet into the strikers.

Benzema’s inclusion, however, ensured it was 4v4 in midfield. Juventus, though, encountered a few issues with their system. Even though Marchisio and Pogba pressed the Real full-backs when they received the ball, the Juventus midfielders couldn’t cope with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal’s adventurous running.

kroos juventus

Also, while Benzema stuck close to Pirlo, neither Carlos Tevez nor Alvaro Morata were interested in picking up Toni Kroos. Kroos was free to dictate the tempo of the match from deep positions, often playing a few exquisite diagonal balls behind Pogba for Carvajal.

Marcelo

It’s not often that defensive players serve as the most significant factors in key European ties, but both full-backs were pivotal to Real’s goal threat. In the first leg it was Dani Carvajal’s clever ball into half space that allowed James to create Ronaldo’s goal, and here, Marcelo was equally important.

Against sides that play in two narrow banks of four, with midfielders playing in wide roles – specifically Atletico – Ancelotti has relied on the width from his full-backs to stretch the game – it’s quite simple, but the quality in these areas coincide with Real’s efficiency.

However, Marcelo’s threat was displayed in several ways throughout the match. In the first minute he stormed past Marchisio and clipped the ball to the far post, but Bale’s tame header flew over the net. Later on in the half, the Brazilian showcased his passing range – Marchisio also failed to close him down quickly – by clipping a ball into half space for Benzema, but Patrice Evra cleared his compatriot’s pull back to Ronaldo.

For the most part, majority of Madrid’s attacks stemmed down the left flank, with Ronaldo occasionally drifting over to the touch-line to create space for himself to receive the ball, It was Marcelo’s pass into Ronaldo that led to the Portuguese forward charging towards the box, before James won the penalty that put Madrid ahead.

Where Ancelotti may have introduced attacking full-backs later in the second half to torment a leggy back-line, both started at the Bernabeu as Madrid were required to score. Still, Marcelo didn’t tire and overloaded the left flank on two occasions – with James and Isco initially, then Ronaldo – but Bale skewed both chances inches wide of the net.

Marcelo juventus

Marcelo was undoubtedly Madrid’s best player — he was the catalyst behind Madrid’s best moves, and recorded the most take-ons and passes in the final third.

Juve approach

It appeared that Allegri might have reverted to a 5-3-2 to preserve a slender first leg lead, but the Juventus manager persisted with four ball-playing midfielders, and simply instructing his defensive line to sit a few yards deeper.

Following a shaky 10-minute spell, it was evident that the plan was to instantly get the ball into Morata and Tevez’s feet. Initially, Tevez aimed to scamper between the lines, while Morata played off the last shoulder, but the away side got into dangerous positions through the former breaking into Madrid’s half.

Tevez dispossessed Kroos twice in the first half to break forward, storming into Madrid’s half to win a corner, while Vidal forced Iker Casillas to make a key save. Though Juve was calm in possession, and retained the ball confidently in short spells, apart from quick breaks through Tevez, the away side failed to create legitimate goal scoring opportunities from open play.

Madrid counter

Another interesting feat at the Bernabeu was the pattern change following Ronaldo’s opener. Both sides operated in a variation of a 4-4-2, and where Juve initially dropped into two banks of four, Real followed suit knowing Ronaldo’s penalty would secure progression.

The issue with Allegri’s selection, however, was the lack of natural width. This meant Evra and Stephane Lichtsteiner surged forward to help stretch the pitch, thus leaving space in the channels for Madrid to break into. Similar to Juve, Ancelotti’s side easily ignited swift counters to move into dangerous positions, but this was purely based on the system tweak opposed to individual errors.

First, James’ clearance into the left channel freed up Benzema to play a reverse ball into Ronaldo, but the recovering Lichtsteiner’s presence – despite being dropped to the floor – forced the Portuguese forward to deliver a cross, rather than shoot. Real exposed space behind Lichtsteiner minutes later through a simple Bale outlet pass, but this time the Swiss defender’s recovery run forced Ronaldo to rush his shot into the side netting.

Pogba moved in-field to create space for Evra in the early stages, but the Juve were susceptible to counters when they pushed the full-backs forward. Both Lichtsteiner and Evra were cautious with their positioning in the second half.

Ramos – Varane

Sergio Ramos’ poor outing in Turin led to Ancelotti placing the Spaniard in his preferred position at the Bernabeu, which helped Real shut down Juve’s main threat. Real’s centre-backs proactively stepped forward to intercept passes and prevent the away side’s front pairing from turning towards goal.

Ramos juventus

Although this effectively limited passes into the strikers, there were moments, when Morata in particular, held up the ball superbly and linked play with his teammates. Likewise, this forced Ramos and Varane into silly challenges away from Juve’s half, enabling the Italian club to push forward to alleviate constant waves of pressure.

Morata and Tevez fouled

Coincidentally, it was Ramos’ clumsy challenge on Vidal that resulted in Morata scoring from the subsequent set-piece. Perhaps Ramos and Varane’s proactive defending stifled Juve’s main strength in the first leg, but it equally backfired on the European champions.

Final half hour

Morata’s equalizer prompted both managers to make identical moves from the first leg to alter the match. This time Javier Hernandez replaced Benzema, whereas Allegri reverted to a 5-3-2 with Andrea Barzagli moving into defence at Pirlo’s expense.

The match followed a similar pattern at the Bernabeu with Madrid chasing a goal, and Juve sitting deep in their half to defend their lines. Ancelotti’s side reverted to hopeless crosses that were comfortably dealt with, and shots from distance that failed to test Gianluigi Buffon.

Juve, on the other hand, equally had their chances, with Vidal breaking lines on two occasions, yet Morata and Tevez were reluctant to set the Chilean free on goal. Another example of Morata’s hold up play was also on display when he rolled Varane to play a pass into Vidal, who instantly slid the ball to Marchisio in the box, but Casillas made a key save.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF duels for the ball with Arturo Vidal of Juventus during the UEFA Champions League semi final match between Real Madrid CF and Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF duels for the ball with Arturo Vidal of Juventus during the UEFA Champions League semi final match between Real Madrid CF and Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.

Fernando Llorente and Roberto Pereyra were summoned in the latter stages, with the former also holding off Varane to create a chance for Pogba – further showcasing Allegri making better use of his bench than Ancelotti. Madrid lacked imagination for large portions of the second half, and despite the home side’s territorial dominance – and a few squandered Bale efforts – they never looked like scoring.

Conclusion

Stylistically, there were minimal changes to the tactical battle at the Bernabeu. Madrid continued to attack through their full backs, and attempted to thwart Juve’s threat through proactive defending from their centre-backs.

Yet the pattern in both legs perfectly illustrated Real’s issue this season. They squandered several chances in the opening period, stagnated and conceded a goal midway through the match, and failed to provide Ronaldo with service (reverting to hopeless crosses into the box) in the latter stages.

More importantly, Juve didn’t concede in open play, and deserve credit for defending superbly in two banks of four, while executing from a set-piece. Allegri comfortably out-coached Ancelotti over two legs, and will likely be forced to adopt similar tactics against Barcelona’s fluid South American attacking trio in Berlin.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid

TURIN, ITALY - MAY 05: Alvaro Morata of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League semi final match between Juventus and Real Madrid CF at Juventus Arena on May 5, 2015 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images) Credit: Marco Luzzani / stringer

TURIN, ITALY – MAY 05: Alvaro Morata of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League semi final match between Juventus and Real Madrid CF at Juventus Arena on May 5, 2015 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Credit: Marco Luzzani / stringer

Juventus recorded an impressive home victory against reigning European champions Real Madrid, courtesy of goals from Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata.

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Massimiliano Allegri was still without Paul Pogba in his preferred 4-3-1-2, and handed Stefano Sturaro a place in midfield alongside, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo in midfield.

Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a pacy strike partnership upfront in Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-4-2. Sergio Ramos maintained his makeshift role in midfield with Toni Kroos, whereas James Rodriguez and Isco drifted infield from the flanks.

This was something of a traditional European Juventus performance under Allegri: the Bianconeri attacked directly with balls into the strikers, and once they regained the lead in the second half, showcased the ideal manner in closing out a match through organized defending.

Juve welcomes pressure

The most interesting tactical approach throughout full-time was Juve’s approach in the first half. Most Serie A teams are often ridiculed for their inability to cope with intense pressing and dynamic opposition, but under Allegri, Juve have managed to overcome the stereotype.

Similar to their victory over Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, Juve intended luring Real forward with patient passes in their half, and then bypassing the press with simple lofted balls into their strikers. Real, however, weren’t keen on blitzing the hosts with pressure in the opening minutes, and were at times reluctant to move higher up the pitch as a unit. A simple Leonardo Bonucci punt saw Morata’s presence fluster Pepe, but the Spaniard’s audacious chip nearly fooled Iker Casillas.

Nonetheless, with Vidal dropping deeper into midfield to create overloads, Juve were free to play vertical passes into advanced positions, and Tevez shifted into space behind Ramos and Kroos. It was Pirlo’s ball into Tevez between the lines that led to Sturaro recording Juve’s first shot on target. Following a terrific Juventus passing move, it was Tevez again that drifted into an ocean of space between Marcelo and Raphael Varane to receive a pass from Marchisio, and fire a low shot at Casillas, which ultimately resulted in Morata’s tap in.

Juventus goal real madrid

This was a brave decision from Allegri, but Morata’s positioning on the last defender stretched Real’s shape, and the Spanish side’s reluctance to press, combined with Juve’s overload in central areas, enabled Tevez to find space between the lines.

Real sloppy in possession

Juve was equally proactive without the ball in the early stages. The shuttlers pushed forward on the wingers, and while Kroos was free to retain the ball, Juve’s centre backs weren’t scared to step forward ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

There was a moment when Chiellini stepped forward to dispossess Bale, which resulted in Tevez receiving the ball in space and firing an audacious effort wide of the net. Sturaro also nicked the ball off Ramos in the opening half and broke down the left channel before cutting the ball back to the Argentine striker, but his effort was poor once again.

More importantly it was Morata who led by example: the Spaniard forced Casillas into a poor pass to Marchisio that led to a Vidal penalty shout, and dispossessed Varane in Real’s box, but was harshly penalized for a foul. While lackadaisical play from several Real players resulted in several Juve transitional moves, the hosts’ discipline to quickly close down their markers proved beneficial.

Real attacks

Real eventually settled into the match once Juve dropped deeper into two narrow banks of four. This was the identical shape Real adopted when Juve monopolized possession, but where the Italian champions appeared perplexed when required to break down the opposition, the away side overcame their issues through width from the full-backs.

With James and Isco moving infield, central areas were congested, which could also explain the former’s delivery into the box for Varane serving as Juve’s first scare. Prior to Ronaldo’s goal, it was the Portuguese forward’s diagonal run between the centre-backs to meet Isco’s delicate through ball that stretched the Juventus back-line.

However, Juventus’ deep positioning prevented Ronaldo and Bale space to run into, and their narrow shape limited Real’s creative players from sliding incisive balls behind the back four. Where Juve bypassed Real’s midfield band with balls into the forwards, the away side countered their issue by pushing the fullbacks forward. Coincidentally, the duo completed the most passes in the attacking third at Juventus Stadium.

Marcelo Carvajal juventus

It was Dani Carvajal’s clever ball into half-space for James that bamboozled Juve’s defence and allowed the Colombian to deliver the cross for Ronaldo’s equalizer. It was one of many long passing moves – and also similar to Juve’s patient buildup for Morata’s opener – that eventually prevailed due to width. Real nearly took the lead minutes from half-time from a similar move that saw Marcelo and Isco overload the left flanks, but James’ nodded the latter’s cross off the bar.

Second half

Juve started the second half with the energy that was displayed in the early stages of the first. Allegri’s men pressed higher up the pitch once again to prevent Real from playing out the back, and created the first legitimate chance of the half when Tevez turned Pepe and fired a shot directly at Casillas.

Although the home side’s ambition to win possession higher up the pitch was successful in the first, the initial ten minutes of the second was stop-start due to Real constantly breaking lines. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sturaro and Bonucci all committed cynical fouls to half Real breaks, and it appeared the match was shifting in Real’s favour with every passing minute.

2-1

Then came the equalizer. While it may have been another direct move involving the two Juventus strikers, it was rather fortuitous then planned. Still, Real were caught on the break, a situation Ancelotti should have been wary about heading into this tie – particularly following Juve’s triumph over Dortmund earlier this year.

Marcelo’s shot ricocheted off Kroos, igniting a 2v2 break between Juve’s strikers and Real full-backs, which resulted in both men being fouled – Carvajal clipping Tevez in the box. Tevez notched his 29th goal of the season from the spot, but also shifted the match back into Allegri’s hand despite a nervy start to the second half.

Both managers react

The goal forced both managers into significant system alterations. Ancelotti turned to his only fit striker, Javier Hernandez, to replace Isco, as Madrid effectively became a 4-3-3. Allegri instantly reacted by inserting Andrea Barzagli into defence for Sturaro to make Juventus a 3-5-2 that eventually transitioned into a 5-3-2 out of possession.

Bale Ronaldo Juventus

Bale was finally involved in the match, receiving space downn the right flank, but Real’s attempt to blitz the penalty area with hopeless crosses proved unsuccessful, as Juve’s experienced back trio and Gianluigi Buffon coped well. In theory, the move was supposed to provide a focal point upfront, but also offer more service into Ronaldo, but the Portuguese star’s threat in the final third was scarce.

Juve, however, comfortably managed the final quarter of the game. They were organized defensively, whereas Morata held up the ball well to bring his teammates forward. Allegri’s substitutions were equally impressive, replacing Morata for compatriot Fernando Llorente, and Tevez for the energetic Pereyra.

Llorente was involved in the two best chances of the match subsequent to Tevez’s winner. Once again a simple Marchisio ball over the top troubled Varane – who had a poor outing – enabling Llorente to round Casillas, but Carvajal intercepted his pull back to the onrushing Pereyra. Then, from a stoppage time Pirlo free kick, the Spaniard nodded a tame effort at Casillas.

Tevez’s winner forced the Italian managers to alter their approach, but in terms of preparation and overall efficiency, Allegri outwitted Ancelotti.

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Carlos Tevez of Juventus celebrates as he scores their second goal from a penalty during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Juventus and Real Madrid CF at Juventus Arena on May 5, 2015 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) Credit: Michael Regan / staff

Conclusion

The overall pattern of the match went as expected when you assess Juve and Real’s road to the semi-finals. Ancelotti has often relied on width from the full-backs to overcome narrow defensive lines, whereas direct balls into Morata and Tevez has been Allegri’s method of bisecting the opposition’s pressing.

But Juve’s method of baiting Real into pushing higher up the pitch was interesting. Yet it’s difficult to understand Ancelotti’s approach in this tie. Surely several players performed poorly – Bale, Varane, Ramos, and to an extent Marcelo – but Real appeared flabbergasted by Tevez’s movement in the opening stages, and constantly looked vulnerable when balls were played into the strikers.

It’s unlikely that Real will perform this poorly at the Bernabeu, but they haven’t been entirely impressive at home this season.

Allegri’s second half changes preserved a positive home triumph over the reigning champions, and it’s likely he may stick with a three-man defensive system with the wingbacks maintaining cautious positions, and rely on quick counters led by their dynamic front two in the return leg at the Bernabeu.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Orlando City SC 0-2 Toronto FC

Bradley orland

Toronto FC snapped a four game winless streak in Orlando courtesy of two-second half Jozy Altidore goals.

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Greg Vanney made two changes to the side that fell to Dallas last week, recalling Benoit Cheyrou and Robbie Findley to the starting XI.

Adrian Heath transitioned from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 following Orlando City’s three goal defeat to Columbus, replacing Cristian Higuita for Eric Avila, while Tyler Turner started at right back for the suspended Rafael Ramos at right back.

TFC went back to the basics to secure a vital road victory in Orlando: They were organized out of possession, and relied on individual brilliance from their designated players for goals.

Orlando possession/TFC reactivity

Pragmatism was expected from Vanney’s TFC following their first half debacle in Dallas a week prior, and their reactive approach was evident from the opening minute. TFC weren’t eager to push higher up the pitch or swarm the ball to quickly regain possession, thus leading to Orlando’s territorial superiority.

The Reds maintained a low block, dropped into two banks of four to contain space between the lines. Michael Bradley and Cheyrou allowed Darwin Ceren and Amobi Okugo to operate in deeper positions. However, when the Orlando midfield duo moved into the final third, Bradley and Cheyrou quickly harried the opposition.

Orlando’s issue, however, involved Avila and Kevin Molino moving infield into a congested midfield area. Heath’s midfielders often moved into these central positions to receive the ball, and although they found openings in tight spaces, TFC’s back-line cleared their lines continuously.

Orlando’s intent to play through the middle was beneficial to the away side due to their narrow shape. Ramos’ absence deprived Heath’s side of creativity from wide areas, and the production from the fullbacks was underwhelming. Apart from an early Joe Bendik save on Kyle Larin – stemming from Findley being dispossessed in TFC’s half – the Reds’ goalkeeper was untested throughout the first half.

Kaka

In fairness, the match was filled with several marquee players, but none as big as former World Player of the Year, Kaka. Operating in the no.10 role behind the striker, Kaka was likely expected to provide creativity, yet TFC didn’t go about neutralizing the Brazilian.

The common misconception throughout Kaka’s career is that he’s a natural no.10 capable of playing incisive passes to unlock organized back-lines, but his display against TFC vividly epitomized his style of play.

In the first half, Ceren located Kaka in a deeper position, and the Brazilian zipped past three TFC midfielders to combine with Molino to surge clear on goal, before Perquis quickly intervened. It was a vintage Kaka move that lacked a goal: at his best with Milan, Kaka played behind several playmakers and was provided the freedom to use a sudden burst of pace to evade defender.

Likewise, it was one of the rare occasions were Kaka varied his movement in central areas. The Brazilian was floating on the last shoulder of TFC’s defence, equivalent to forward Cyle Larin. Considering TFC’s line sat on the edge of their 18-yard box, within close proximity of the second band, Kaka was isolated upfront, deprived of service into his feet.

Bradley and Cheyrou’s protection of space in the final third improved throughout the match, thus leading to Kaka drifting into the channels for freedom. However, the Brazilian failed to provide a positive influence as his final ball was underwhelming. Kaka was unable to make penetrating runs into advanced zones due to TFC’s organized shape out of possession, and his reluctance to constantly vary his movement limited his threat.

TFC attacks

With Orlando monopolizing majority of possession, it was always going to be interesting to witness TFC’s method of attack. Nevertheless, Jackson nearly scored a remarkable opener from distance, following Larin’s clearance from a corner, but Donovan Ricketts made a key save to keep the scoreline leveled.

Jackson received plenty of the ball down the right flank, but the Brazilian stagnated quick attacks, opting to pass, opposed to taking on his defender. The Reds relied on opportunistic pressing to surge forward on the counter with Bradley and Sebastien Giovinco driving into Orlando’s third on a few occasions, but neither player offered a final ball or finish to punish the hosts.

TFC’s goals followed the same suit. A quick Altidore free-kick saw the American combine with Giovinco, before storming past Ceren and Seb Hines to open the scoring. This was ultimately about the DP’s combining as minutes prior to Altidore’s second, Giovinco and Bradley’s neat combination passes led to the former nearly doubling the Reds’ lead.

Minutes later, Altidore scored a truly remarkable goal. Orlando pushed men forward in search of an equalizer, which could explain why it took Vanney’s men 82 minutes to ignite a counter that didn’t involve powerful running. Cheyrou launched a sensational ball over Hines, and Altidore’s brilliant first touch set the American free to secure maximum points.

The Reds soaked up pressure for long spells, and heavily relied on the quality of their DP’s in transition to punish Heath’s side. Vanney made straight player swaps on the flanks to ensure his full backs were protected, and later turned to Collen Warner to provide additional defensive solidity in midfield.

Conclusion

TFC currently sit at a crossroad. They’re much better in possession this season, but tend to concede goals when their defensive line is higher. On the other hand, although it’s impractical to play reactive football on a weekly basis, TFC have recorded two victories in this manner.

Still, we learned very little about either side. Very few chances were created in open play, with Orlando struggling to get behind TFC’s back-line, whereas the Reds relied on Altidore’s individual brilliance to push them over the line.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Bayern Munich 6-1 Porto

thiago jackson

Bayern Munich overturned a poor away leg result with a convincing performance at the Allianz Arena.

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Pep Guardiola made one change to the side that suffered a defeat at the Dragao, introducing Holger Badstuber alongside Jerome Boateng at centre back.

Julen Lopetegui was without his first choice full-backs, which saw Diego Reyes and Marcano slot into Porto’s makeshift back-line. The Portuguese club’s front six was unchanged.

This was the antithesis of Bayern’s performance at Dragao, as they comfortably monopolized possession, whilst focusing on width to create chances.

Porto’s shape

The most interesting feat prior to the second leg was whether Porto would replicate the effective pressing that thwarted the Bavarians at Dragao. In Portugal, Lopetegui’s side pressed in phases out of possession, but here, the away side displayed considerable caution by dropping deeper into their half when Bayern surged forward.

Jackson continued to position himself goal-side of Xabi Alonso to prevent service into the Spaniard, along with preventing him from dictating the tempo from deep. Ricardo Quaresma and Yacine Brahimi moved towards the Bayern fullbacks, with only Hector Herrera pushing forward to aid the front three.

For the most part, Lopetegui’s makeshift back four weren’t keen on surging into advanced areas, and Porto often sat deeper in a 4-5-1 with the wingers pegged back due to Bayern’s adventurous fullbacks. The Porto wingers couldn’t dribble away from pressure, and with two makeshift fullbacks – who are natural centre backs – the decision to play a highline would be too risky.

Guardiola adjusts

However, the main talking point surrounded Bayern’s set up. In the first leg, Bayern’s 4-3-1-2 deprived the German side of natural width, and they equally encountered difficulties getting service into their attacking players.

Gotze Lahm Porto

Guardiola reacted to Bayern’s insufficiencies at Dragao by moving to a natural 4-4-2 with Phillip Lahm and Mario Gotze as wingers, while Lewandowski and Muller formed a natural strike partnership. Lahm aimed to combine with Rafinha and Muller, whereas Gotze stuck wide and drifted infield to create space for Bernat to surge into.

Thiago Alcantara porto

Both elements of width were non-existent in the first leg, enabling Porto to congest central areas and easily regain possession. Here, their initial shape was stretched, which presented more gaps for the likes of Thiago and Alonso to play into. But with both men faced with the task of evading Porto’s pressing in midfield, Badstuber and Boateng continuously pinged passes into wide areas.

Ultimately Gotze and Lahm’s wide positioning benefitted Lewandowski and Muller, as they effectively thrived as a natural strike duo. Lewandowski, renowned for his ability to operate as a poacher and a player to drop deep, was at his supreme best here.

Apart from the goal, Bayern’s best moves were created from the front two’s movement – Lewandowski would drop deep, whereas Muller would charge into the space behind the Porto defence. Bayern’s first legitimate chance was a prime example. Lewandowski dropped to the centre circle to receive service, and subsequently flicked the ball into space for Muller, thus leading to Fabiano making a good save, and the Pole hitting the post.

Although a traditional 4-4-2 is quite simplistic in the modern era, Guardiola’s alteration solved the main attacking issues Bayern faced in the first leg. Lahm and Gotze’s width created space for Alonso and Thiago to control the game in midfield, whereas Muller and Lewandowski operated as a classic strike partnership and attacked crosses into the box.

Bayern’s goals

Bayern’s superiority was evident throughout the first half, and width was equally crucial in the buildup to their goals. Coincidentally, their lone away goal in the first leg stemmed from a Boateng cross, and in the first half, Guardiola’s men continuously launched balls into the box.

Initially it was Rafinha’s over hit cross that fell to Gotze, and his lay off to Bernat saw the Spaniard run past Quaresma to deliver a devastating ball towards the near post, which Thiago nodded past Fabiano. Badstuber and Boateng rose high to combine, as the latter nodded in Alonso’s cross from a short corner for Bayern’s second.

bayern goal porto

Still, it was the third goal that epitomized their approach. It was a truly superb goal that witnessed a 26 pass move conclude with a wonderful Thiago diagonal to the right flank and three magnificent first touches: Lahm instantly delivered the ball into the box, and Muller directed it into the path of Lewandowski who finished superbly.

As expected, the Bayern dominated possession, but Porto couldn’t cope with countless crosses into the box, which epitomized Guardiola’s successful tactical modification.

Second half

Both managers reacted to Bayern’s first half onslaught with caution: Ruben Neves replaced Quaresma as Porto transitioned into a 3-5-1-1 with Brahimi behind Jackson. Porto’s additional ball playing midfielder helped the away side enjoy longer spells of possession – Bayern’s pressing decreased – while the wingbacks pushed higher up the pitch to prevent Bayern’s fullbacks from storming forward.

Porto’s changes were made to gain control of the match through possession, and direct balls into Jackson led to a goal and great chance shortly afterwards. Jackson was still isolated upfront, and though Herrera assisted his side’s sole goal, the Mexican and Brahimi rarely combined with the Porto striker.

 Alonso Muller Brahimi

Bayern’s intent to close the match out through possession saw Guardiola move to a 4-3-3 with Lahm moving into midfield. Yet, Bayern’s best chances prior to Jackson’s consolation goal stemmed through deliveries from the right flank. The German outfit won the tie with a terrific first half performance, and the final 45 minutes were merely based around preventing further embarrassment.

Conclusion

Bayern were heavy favourites to mount a comeback in the second leg, and this was a truly remarkable display. Surely Porto displayed increased caution and pragmatism in comparison to their first leg triumph, but this was more about Guardiola altering the mistakes made in Portugal.

Put simply, Bayern focused on width and crossing to overturn the first leg result: it was a simple, yet effective approach. This was another example of Bayern’s augmented flexibility and evolution under Guardiola.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

Hazard United

Chelsea moved within touching distance of their first Premier League triumph in five years, with a narrow one-goal victory over Manchester United.

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Jose Mourinho made two changes to the side that defeated QPR at Loftus Road introducing Kurt Zouma in midfield for Ramires, while Oscar returned to the XI to replace Willian.

With Phil Jones, Daley Blind, and Michael Carrick unavailable, Louis van Gaal made three changes to the side that comfortably defeated Manchester City. Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw slotted into the back-line, while Radamel Falcao started upfront, pushing Wayne Rooney into midfield.

This was a typical big game performance from a Jose Mourinho side – Chelsea were cautious, organized, and eager to pounce on the counter, before dropping deeper to preserve a result.

Chelsea approach

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League placed Mourinho with a significant decision regarding the Blues shape and approach in the opening half. Mourinho’s tactics in big games are rarely groundbreaking, and the decision to play a cautious, reactive game was unsurprising.

Mourinho instructed his men to drop into two banks of four with Zouma tracking Fellaini and Nemanja Matic pushing high on Wayne Rooney. Chelsea’s centre backs were rarely in severe danger due to Falcao’s determination to drop deep and link play – albeit not doing a great job connecting with his teammates.

Chelsea’s approach wasn’t entirely perfect, however, as Shaw found space down the left due to Oscar’s narrow position, whereas the two United centre backs were free to push into the home side’s half. While neither player would fear an opposing side based on their attacking qualities, Paddy McNair stepped forward on two occasions to earn a free-kick and force Thibaut Courtois into a key save, equally recording United’s first shot on target.

Azpilicueta United 2014 2015

Cesar Azpilicueta was arguably Chelsea’s best player throughout, keeping tight on Mata when he remained near the touchline, whilst winning his individual battles against Antonio Valencia. There was no need for Chelsea to be adventurous and attempt to dominate the match, and their ability to maintain their compact shape frustrated United. 

United down the left

However, despite Chelsea’s defensive solidity when United maintained possession, the away side located a flaw in Mourinho’s setup. With Oscar drifting infield from the flank, there was space available down the left for Shaw to storm into.

United’s best chance of the first half saw Shaw and Young overload Branislav Ivanovic, with the latter surging into half space and pulling back the ball for Rooney, who surprisingly curled his effort wide of the near post. Although Oscar remained wide for large portions of the match, Shaw’s threat was evident in the second.

Ramires was also introduced to cope with the England international’s threat from the left, but in terms of overall chances, Shaw served as United’s main threat. Shaw motored into advanced positions in the first half, and turned creator in the second, placing Angel di Maria and Falcao in great positions – the latter fired his effort off the post.

Here, both left backs were arguably the best performers – Azpilicueta played a pivotal role in stifling United’s threat down the left, whereas Shaw was a reliable attacking outlet.

United midfield

Still, United’s dominance at Stamford Bridge was expected. They held 70% possession over 90 minutes, completing nearly 500 more passes than the league leaders. But apart from Shaw’s contribution from the left, United rarely tested Chelsea’s back-line.

Chelsea United passing 2014 2015

With Blind and Carrick unavailable – particularly the latter – Van Gaal was deprived of penetration in deep areas. Where Carrick is keen on playing forward passes into pockets of space, both Herrera and Rooney facilitated horizontal/diagonal balls into wide areas.

 Rooney Herrera Chelsea 2014 2015

Apart from simple lofted balls towards the flanks, Rooney’s short, long and forward passing is mediocre, whereas Herrera’s deep-lying role limited his overall impact. Rooney, though, was involved in one move in first half stoppage time that saw Young nod his dinked ball into the box towards Falcao, but Courtois was quick off his line to clear danger.

Fellaini attempted to replicate the role he played in United’s convincing derby win. The Belgian moved towards the left flank to avoid Zouma’s presence, retain possession, and create a 3v2 overload in wide areas. Likewise, while he comfortably towered over Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta at Old Trafford, the decision to isolate Ivanovic was odd – especially with the diminutive Azpilicueta on the opposite flank.

Zouma pestered Fellaini, preventing the Belgian from freely winning aerial duels to link play with his teammates, or score goals. With that being said, apart from retaining possession, United’s midfield trio was fairly limited, as penetrative passes and long direct balls into Fellaini were non-existent.

Chelsea break

The pattern of the match was set from the opening whistle, and United’s territorial dominance meant Chelsea’s attacks were mainly in transition. Drogba’s inclusion in the XI deprived Chelsea of pace upfront, so the decision to maintain a solid shape, pounce on United mistakes and dart into space on the counter was logical.

First Mata’s poor cut back pass saw Oscar ignite a move that involved Hazard, Terry and Drogba, but the Brazilian’s final ball was intercepted. Then, Fabregas pounced on Falcao’s poor lay off pass, inspired another quick Chelsea break down the left, but David De Gea snatched Azpilicueta’s cross.

Chelsea’s reluctance to dominate possession led to laboured buildup and uninspiring passes, with majority of the Blues’ best moves involving Hazard. To no surprise, the Belgian scored the winner, following a similar template to Chelsea’s initial opportunities on the counter.

Terry dispossessed Falcao, who once again dropped deep in search of the ball, thus allowing Fabregas to find Oscar between the lines. The Brazilian’s improvised back heel connected with the onrushing Hazard, who stormed into the box to slide the ball past De Gea. It was a vintage Mourinho move executed to perfection, as the 38th minute goal served as the first shot on target of the match.

The goal itself decreased Chelsea’s intent to surge forward in the second half. Drogba should have doubled the Blues’ lead in the second half – a move that concluded with Hazard hitting the cross bar – yet, barring Hazard’s smooth slaloms into United’s half, Chelsea’s attacking threat was non-existent.

Substitutions

Van Gaal didn’t alter his side’s shape to chase a result, but he replaced Young and Mata for more direct options in Adnan Januzaj and Angel di Maria. Neither player troubled Chelsea with their pace, but Di Maria could have been used in a central role. Di Maria’s running in central positions would offer an additional source of penetration, opposed to the conservative passing that was displayed in central areas. His threat was highlighted shortly after Falcao hit the post, when he darted into left half-space to receive Shaw’s pass, but the Argentine was crowded out by Chelsea defenders.

Mourinho, on the other hand, made like-for-like personnel alterations, calling upon Ramires to replace Oscar, providing protection for Ivanovic but also a threat in transition. In the latter stages John Obi Mikel and Willian replaced Hazard and Fabregas, further highlighting Mourinho’s intent on preserving the lead.

Conclusion

The contrast in approaches was evident, and both managers were keen to highlight their reaction to their side’s display.

We prepared for it to be like this. It was the game we wanted and expected,” Mourinho said. “Wait for a mistake and score a goal. We were able to make their important players disappear. Nobody saw them. They were in our pockets.”

Van Gaal, equally expressed his disappointment in regards to United’s non-existent threat in the final third.

“We were not effective today, because we created a lot of chances in spite of the defensive organization of Chelsea – three in the first half to their zero. In the second half, we created eight chances and Chelsea three, so that’s unbelievably good,” Van Gaal said.

“We were the dominant team on the pitch but lost and, in football, the result is everything.”

In the end this was simple for Chelsea: they sat deep in two banks of four, limited Fellaini and United’s threat out wide, and quickly broke on the counter, eventually punishing one of many United mistakes in midfield. United are beginning to take shape, but once again, Mourinho’s defensive organization proved decisive.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

PSG 1-3 Barcelona

suarez neymar psg

Barcelona have undoubtedly placed one step into the Champions League semi-finals as they swept aside French champions PSG at the Parc des Princes

 Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.45.57 AM

Luis Enrique recalled Javier Mascherano alongside Gerard Pique at centre-back, while Martin Montoya slotted in at right back for the suspended Dani Alves.

Laurent Blanc was forced into several changes with Adrien Rabiot and Yohan Cabaye starting in midfield for Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s suspension meant Edinson Cavani started upfront, while Marquinhos formed a centre-back partnership with Thiago Silva.

Both sides relied on direct dribbling to make up for their non-existing creativity in midfield, but this was a matter of Barcelona’s ruthless front three executing the few chances created over 90 minutes.

PSG shape

When the Champions League quarterfinal draw concluded a few weeks ago, it was evident that PSG – Barcelona would be one of the marquee match ups at this stage. However, this was the fifth showdown in three years between the two clubs, which left many anticipating a cagey encounter.

PSG initially approached the match with caution. The home side dropped into two banks of four with Blaise Matuidi and Ezequiel Lavezzi sitting narrow, while Cavani, and occasionally Cabaye, stepped forward to press Sergio Busquets. Blanc’s intent to stifle Barcelona’s build up from the back involved negating service to the Spaniard, but his side equally benefited from Messi’s positioning across the pitch.

Messi started on the right as expected, but his persistence to drift into central areas was peculiar considering PSG’s narrow positioning. With Alves unavailable, Barca was deprived of width down the right, and the threat of makeshift right back Montoya was scarce. Perhaps Messi wanted to increase his impact on the match and serve as a link (he was involved in the opener) but PSG’s shape limited his threat from open play.

Initially, Gregory Van der Wiel and Maxwell stuck tight to Neymar and Messi, but when the latter dropped deeper into central positions to receive the ball, Matuidi surged forward to apply pressure. In reality, Blanc’s approach was effective, as Barcelona encountered difficulties creating legitimate chances in the final third. The centre backs, and full backs stuck close to Barca’s front three, Cavani and Cabaye pressed Busquets and Matuidi tracked Messi when he moved into central areas.

PSG down the left.

Where Barca struggled to create chances from open play, Blanc’s side focused on the away side’s weakest point in the opening half. With Messi reluctant, or perhaps not instructed to protect Montoya, Maxwell received ample space to charge into when PSG held possession. Here, Maxwell recorded the highest passing combination with Matuidi and Pastore, who were also positioned on the left.

Maxwell Barca

Ivan Rakitic appeared to be the man responsible for drifting over to the left to prevent overloads, yet Matuidi and Maxwell still played key roles in creating the French side’s best opportunities. It took seven minutes for the duo to charge down the left channel, but Javier Pastore mishit the Frenchman’s pull back.

Arguably PSG’s best chance of the first half also stemmed down this flank with Matuidi storming forward on the break before playing a pass to the rampaging Lavezzi, who pulled back and squared the ball to Cavani free on goal, but his hesitation enabled Javier Mascherano to make a vital last ditch interception.

Maxwell’s freedom and Montoya’s selection were key factors in PSG trying to exploit possible fragility down the left, but a combination of poor decision making and the quality of the deliveries prevented the French side from harming Barca.

1-0

Based on Messi’s high standard, the Argentine enjoyed a quiet night in open play. The aforementioned congestion in central areas, along with Messi’s intent on drifting into these zones played a factor, but his mazy direct runs to goal served as Barca’s sole threat in the opening half.

Ultimately Messi was the catalyst behind Neymar’s opener, but Barca’s sharpness and intelligence to quickly break on the counter highlights one of many changes under Enrique.

Busquets dispossessed Rabiot and quickly played the ball to Iniesta, who found Messi in a pocket of space in midfield. PSG, as a unit, were caught out of position, as Messi drove at Thiago Silva and played the ball wide to an unmarked Neymar, who calmly notched a vital away goal.

Overall, Barca’s build up and attacking play was poor, but considering the tight marking Messi received out wide, his decision to move infield was largely based on influencing the match and dragging defenders out of position to create space for his teammates. The opener highlighted Barca’s swift transitions – which have improved weekly – but it equally offered the Catalan side penetration in central areas.

Xavi/PSG goes 4-2-3-1

The pattern remained the same in the second half until Xavi slotted into midfield for the injured Iniesta, whereas Lucas Moura replaced Rabiot, pushing Matuidi into the double-pivot and Pastore behind Cavani. The French side was persistent to push men forward in attack, but as a whole they lost structure and balance.

psg xavi

Xavi has often been used this season – a perfect example would be the recent Clasico – to kill off games in the latter stages of matches. Here, the Spaniard was integral to Barca’s second half dominance alongside Busquets. PSG’s formation alteration equally negated their initial approach out of possession, which offered freedom to Barca’s ball playing midfielders in central areas.

Busquets psg 2nd half

In a sense Blanc’s decision to gamble at the half hour mark proved beneficial to Barca – PSG’s threat down the left was thwarted, and the away side received space to exploit in the middle and final third.

Final 25 minutes

The second goal ultimately destroyed the tie. Suarez was kept quiet due to proactive pressing from Marquinhos and David Luiz for large portions of the match, but Luiz’s arrival provided a sense of recklessness. The media heavily scrutinizes Luiz’s subpar defending, and although the Brazilian wasn’t fully fit, Suarez’s movement was integral to both second half Barca goals.

First, Suarez cleverly nutmegged the Brazilian when he drifted into the right channel to receive Montoya’s pass, before skipping past Marquinhos and Maxwell to fire a tame effort past Salvatore Sirigu. Then a simple one-two between Suarez and Mascherano dragged Marquinhos out of position, setting the latter free to run past Luiz and expertly notch Barca’s third goal.

Perhaps both Barca goals represent Luiz’s poor judgment and rash defending, but PSG’s move to a 4-2-3-1 thwarted their cohesive pressing, thus leaving ample space vacant for the away side to kill the game. Blanc’s men scored a fortuitous consolation goal in the final 10 minutes to provide hope for a second leg fight back, but the options on the bench limited the French manager’s flexibility. Of the few breaks PSG received down the channels, most were thwarted by the imperious Mascherano.

 Mascherano psg

Enrique relied on Jeremy Mathieu and Adriano for improved defensive solidity, and Pastore’s role in a deeper position in the final minutes created Barca’s sole second half scare, but both substitutes made key last ditch interventions to deny PSG a second goal. Suarez’s movement and dribbling bamboozled PSG’s back-line on two separate occasions, and once PSG strayed away from their initial defensive approach; his ruthless finishing made the difference.

Conclusion

Barcelona’s display epitomized the side’s identity under Enrique. The away side didn’t dominate the match in terms of possession – until PSG altered their shape – and relied on direct individual breaks and clinical finishing from their front three to sweep aside the French champions.

PSG’s initial defensive approach effectively limited Barca’s threat in attacking zones, but apart from quick breaks, predominantly down the left, the French side weren’t overly convincing in the final third. In terms of defensive structure and overall pressing, Blanc’s gamble backfired as the players looked unsure of their defensive duties, and their use of possession lacked direction.

Returning players should bolster PSG’s XI and improve the French side’s overall performance, but Blanc’s men face an uphill task at the Camp Nou.

The Barca front three were far from convincing with Neymar struggling to get the better of Van der Wiel, Messi’s movement into a congested central area limiting his influence, and Suarez getting the better of Luiz when PSG chased the game. Still, intent on maximizing the talent of three world class attackers – individually, Barca’s most impressive front line – and improved defensive structure has transitioned the Catalan side into heavy favourites to win the tie, tournament, and achieve a historic treble.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

Chicago Fire 3-2 Toronto FC: TFC makes the same mistakes in Chicago which calls for change

BRIDGEVIEW, IL - APRIL 04: Warren Creavalle #3 of Toronto FC and Joevin Jones #3 of the Chicago Fire battle for the ball during an MLS match at Toyota Park on April 4, 2015 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire defeated Toronto FC 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Credit: Jonathan Daniel / staff

BRIDGEVIEW, IL – APRIL 04: Warren Creavalle #3 of Toronto FC and Joevin Jones #3 of the Chicago Fire battle for the ball during an MLS match at Toyota Park on April 4, 2015 in Bridgeview, Illinois. The Fire defeated Toronto FC 3-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Credit: Jonathan Daniel / staff

Toronto FC conceded a second half lead against the Chicago Fire to suffer their third consecutive loss of the season at Toyota Park.

 Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.22.04 PM

Greg Vanney was able to recall Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore to his starting XI, while Justin Morrow formed a makeshift centre-back partnership with Nick Hagglund.

Former TFC striker Quincy Amarikwa led the line ahead of Shaun Maloney in Frank Yallop’s 4-4-1-1. Harry Shipp and David Accam operated on the flanks with Matt Polster and Michael Stephens sitting in midfield.

TFC controlled possession for large portions of the match, but they rarely offered a threat in the final third, and Chicago continuously exploited space in wide areas.

Chicago down the left

The main storyline over 90 minutes, and TFC’s season thus far, has been the Reds’ vulnerability in wide areas. With Mark Bloom unavailable, and Vanney short of centre-back options, the TFC manager was forced to persist with Ashtone Morgan and Warren Creavalle in fullback roles.

But Chicago’s intent to press high, and isolate Creavalle, in particular, was evident from the second minute. Joevin Jones dispossessed Creavalle in TFC’s half and stormed into the box to squeeze a shot on goal, but Joe Bendik pushed the left-back’s effort aside. The away side received an early warning within minutes, which is why it was odd to see both full-backs push forward.

The Fire enjoyed the better chances throughout the match, opting to surge forward through quick transitions opposed to well-worked passing moves. On three separate occasions, simple long outlet balls in transition were played into the left channel, but neither Accam nor Amarikwa could solve Bendik.

Ultimately, the two goals Chicago scored were created down the left, with Jones dispossessing Robbie Findley before combining with Maloney for the first, and the former Wigan Athletic midfielder gaining a yard on Hagglund to snag the second. Creavalle, not a natural fullback, constantly bombed forward ahead of the speedy Accam, and the home-side’s main source of attack were ignited in the vacant space.

Defensive shape

Another interesting feat regarding TFC’s struggles this season has been their reinvigorated 4-3-1-2. The system, however, deprives the Reds of natural width – they also possess one natural winger – which explains why the fullbacks are instructed to maraud forward into advanced positions.

However, the fullbacks lack adequate protection when the Reds drop into their natural shape and sit in front of the ball. TFC tend to defend with seven men behind the ball, with exterior central midfielders, Benoit Cheyrou and Jonathan Osorio responsible for pushing into wide positions without the ball.

But when the duo is unable to move into wide positions, neither Giovinco, Altidore, nor Findley appears interested in fulfilling their defensive duties, enabling the opposition’s fullback’s freedom to surge into advanced positions. The home side, on the other hand, dropped into two narrow banks of four with the midfield band remaining compact with the back four to limit space between the lines. Chicago’s back four proactively pressed TFC’s attacking trio when they received the ball with their back to goal, preventing the forwards from turning towards goal, as Altidore’s influence was scarce, and Findley’s link up play was severely underwhelming.

TFC issue in the final third

One of the evident changes under Vanney, helped by off-season acquisitions, involves the Reds playing proactive football. Under Ryan Nelsen, TFC often defended in deep banks of four with hopes of punishing teams on the counter, and struggled to break teams down in the latter stages of the season.

Where Vanney has assembled an XI capable of retaining the ball for long spells, TFC still encounter the issues that thwarted last season’s playoff run. Giovinco’s space in the final third will decrease with every passing week, but without natural width in the XI, the onus on Bradley, Cheyrou, and Osorio to create chances, and offer adequate service for the front three is significant.

Bradley and Cheyrou were involved in a lovely move for Giovinco’s equalizer, and the latter lobbed a ball into the channel for the Italian to score the second. Still, this is a TFC midfield trio filled with passers, but lacks energy and strength to serve as an additional outlet to unlock organized back-lines.

Although the lack of pressure on Bradley enabled the American to connect short passes to set TFC forward, the buildup often halted in the middle third. Considering Bradley has struggled this season, mainly against teams that press him aggressively, Vanney’s reluctance to start Collen Warner in his natural role is peculiar.

With Bradley higher up the pitch, TFC then receive the energy and running Osorio doesn’t – and may never – offer at this stage of his career. Considering another lacklustre attacking display, the trio of Warner, Bradley, Cheyrou must cross Vanney’s mind, as powerful runs from deep and penetrative balls in the final third have been non-existent.

11v10

Nevertheless, Creavalle’s second half sending off was the defining moment, as TFC was forced to finish another match with 10 men. While it’s uncertain that the Reds would claim a point had Creavalle remained on the pitch, Jeff Larentowicz’s well-taken free kick following the TFC defender’s dismissal, enabled the Fire to sit deeper and play on the counter.

Vanney replaced the ineffective Findley with Jackson, moving the Brazilian to right back, as TFC operated in a 4-3-1-1. The TFC manager also summoned Bright Dike for Osorio, but Yallop, swapping Amarikwa for Kennedy Igboanaike, was the key change.

The away side pushed men forward in search of a winner, thus leaving space for the speedy Igboanaike and Accam to exploit on the counter. This played into the Fire’s hand, as they were equally poor in open play, and simple balls into Igboanaike in the channels constantly stretched TFC’s back-line.

A move in the 83rd minute summarized Chicago’s threat subsequent to Creavalle’s dismissal. Igboanaike was released into the left channel before laying the ball off to an onrushing Accam, but the Ghanaian fired his shot over the net. TFC were unable to trouble Chicago’s back four, and frankly wasteful finishing prevented a Fire onslaught.

Conclusion

TFC squandered a glorious opportunity to obtain valuable road points against a mediocre MLS side, but the loss equally highlighted the current issues at the club. Still, both side’s relished quick transitions, and were unconvincing when faced with the task of breaking down the opposition’s defence.

Chicago’s attacks were calculated, as they constantly relied on their pacy attackers to surge into space behind the TFC fullbacks. More so, TFC’s midfield balance isn’t correct and the current system hasn’t reaped rewards on both ends – they’re vulnerable out of possession, and lack conviction in attacking areas.

Perhaps the Reds miss their sidelined first team defenders, but this performance serves as an indicator that Vanney must show tactical flexibility going forward.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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