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Marseille 1-2 PSG

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PSG earned an important away victory against Marseille despite being a man down for majority of the match.

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Andre-Pierre Gignac was fit enough to start on the bench, so Ellie Baup started Jordan Ayew as the lone striker in his 4-2-3-1. Andre Ayew, Mathieu Valbuena and Dimitri Payet played behind the Ghanaian striker, while Gianelli Imbula and Jacques-Alaixys Romao protected the back four.

Laurent Blanc stuck with the 4-3-3 that was successful against Benfica midweek. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi kept their places in the attack, while Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti formed a midfield trio.

This was far from a Sunday night spectacle – PSG’s threat from set-pieces and direct balls proved to be pivotal, as Marseille produced a mediocre performance.

Marseille shape

It was always going to be interesting to see how Marseille approached the match considering they were the home side – so it was disappointing to see their overall caution. Braup’s men dropped into two banks of four and allowed PSG to have possession of the ball.

Marseille kept a highline and focused on minimizing space between the lines for Blanc’s men to penetrate. While PSG struggled to push forward as a unit, Marseille’s failure to press Blanc’s men limited their time on the ball. This meant that Braup was content with his side’s performance without the ball, despite PSG’s superiority in possession for large portions of the match.

PSG press

Like Braup’s men, PSG was content with allowing their opponents to hold possession – this could be down to Marseille’s lack of urgency when going forward, as Valbuena was their only spark in the final third. Yet, Marseille was beginning to create a few half-chances and Salvatore Sirigu was forced into making a double save midway through the first half to deny Andre Ayew and Valbuena.

Blanc urged his men to push forward and press Marseille off goal-kicks. Ibrahimovic and Cavani pressed the Marseille centre backs, while Verratti followed Imbula, who dropped deeper to receive the ball. This prevented Braup’s men from pushing forward as a unit, and gave PSG more leverage in the match.

Once Blanc’s men began to press higher up the pitch, they stifled Marseille’s attack, but unfortunately for PSG, their success was short-lived.

11v10

Controversy sprung in the 29th minute, when Thiago Motta was sent off for fouling Valbuena in the box. The Italian failed to clear a header and Valbuena beat Motta to the ball, forcing him to kick down the French playmaker. To make matters worse, Andre Ayew converted from the spot, handing Marseille the lead.

This forced Blanc to introduce Adrien Rabiot for Lavezzi, as PSG were now a 4-3-2. Based on Cavani’s fantastic work ethic in wide areas, it was logical for Lavezzi to depart, as he had no significant impact on the match. The change left PSG with no direct winger, which gave Marseille’s fullbacks license to push forward.

However, Cavani drifted to both flanks on countless occasions when Marseille was in possession to protect his fullbacks. There was also a reshuffle in midfield, as Verratti became the deepest midfielder, while Matuidi and Rabiot were handed the responsibility to drift over to the flanks if Marseille’s fullbacks pushed forward.

With approximately 70 minutes left to play, PSG looked destined to drop points, but Blanc’s immediate tactical change was significant towards the pattern of the match.

Set-pieces

For all of PSG’s dominance in possession, it was surprising to see them score after Motta’s sending off. The issue with PSG’s possession was the lack of conviction in the final third – in fairness Marseille’s organization without the ball was also decisive. Despite possessing a numerical advantage in midfield, Blanc’s men encountered issues finding openings in the final third. Ibrahimovic dropped deeper and encouraged runners to attack space behind him – a role he played effectively last year in the Champions League.

More so, it was PSG’s aerial presence that caused Marseille’s backline many issues. Based on the personnel at Blanc’s disposal, it wasn’t much of a surprise, but the amount of time and space PSG players received to win aerial duels was shocking. Prior to Maxwell’s equalizer, both Ibrahimovic and Verratti forced Steve Mandanda to make saves – as they broke free in the box to connect with set-piece deliveries.

However, it was evident Marseille couldn’t cope with PSG’s aerial presence, and it showed in both goals.

1) Maxwell received a pass from Cavani – who did well to keep the play alive– and squared the ball to Ibrahimovic, who sprayed a pass out wide to Gregory Van der Wiel. Maxwell made a diagonal run into the box and nodded Van der Wiel’s cross past Mandanda.

2) Mandanda saved Alex’s header from a Verratti free kick, and Marquinhos chased the ball – that was rolling wide – and was blatantly fouled by Andre Ayew in the box. Ibrahimovic stepped up to the spot and sent Mandanda the other way, giving PSG the lead.

Although PSG struggled to break down an organized Marseille side, they provided an aerial threat on set-pieces and balls from wide areas, which earned them two goals.

Second half

There was a bit of a role reversal in the second half based on Marseille’s numerical advantage. Yet, Marseille were disappointing going forward – they lacked creativity, invention and urgency in their buildup play. In fairness, the only player that looked capable of creating a chance or winning the game was Valbuena, but he found himself linking play in wide areas, opposed to threading balls between the PSG backline.

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Blanc’s men were keen on sitting back in their initial shape – with Cavani dropping into a wide position – as they waited for Marseille to make mistakes and concede possession. Essentially, PSG played with no direct striker as Ibrahimovic maintained a position yards away from the midfield – becoming Blanc’s main facilitator going forward.

With Marseille failing to press PSG, Verratti dropped between the centre backs to sustain possession and dictate the tempo of the match, while Matuidi was given the duty to make penetrating runs into the space behind the defenders.

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Blanc decided to add steel and pace in his midfield as they closed out the match by introducing Zoumana Camara and Lucas Moura – and they focused on winning the ball in midfield and launching Moura on the counter.

PSG had a game plan going forward that didn’t necessarily succeed, yet Marseille’s naïve approach going forward gave Blanc’s men the incentive to gamble.

Conclusion

PSG earned three massive points to keep pace with Monaco, while Marseille displayed why they’re not legitimate title contenders.

Blanc’s men weren’t spectacular – the PSG manager’s decision to maintain numbers in midfield was pivotal, as they controlled central areas and were efficient in front of goal.

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Meanwhile, it was a dismal performance from the hosts – they failed to stamp their authority on the match, struggled to defend set-pieces, and were wasteful with possession. The main concern going forward for Marseille is whether they can threaten a side if Valbuena isn’t performing, as they looked dreary when he wasn’t on the ball.

 
 

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AC Milan 1-1 Napoli

Two first half goals in the span of four minutes, saw Napoli share a point with 10-man Milan, as they remain four points clear of the Rossonieri for second place.

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Walter Mazzarri made one change to his side that defeated Genoa last weekend. Juan Zuniga replaced Pablo Armero as a wingback in Mazzarri’s 3-5-2. Edinson Cavani and Goran Pandev played as strikers while Marek Hamsik, Valon Behrami, Blerim Dzemaili and Christian Maggio made up the midfield five.

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Massimiliano Allegri made three changes to the side that gave up a two-goal lead against Fiorentina last week. Milan played in their traditional 4-3-3, which saw Giampaolo Pazzini replace the suspended Mario Balotelli, Robinho started over Stephan El Shaarawy and Kevin Constant was chosen over Mattia De Sciglio. The main headline going into this match was whether El Shaarawy was fit or if Allegri didn’t want to risk him getting booked, in which he’d be suspended for next week’s clash against Juventus.

Shape

Milan had the ball for majority of the first half, and this forced Napoli to drop into a 5-3-2. Mazzarri’s men stood off and allowed Milan to dictate the match, and sacrificed the wings, so that Milan wouldn’t find space in between the lines. Ignazio Abate was a key outlet throughout the game, as he often got forward, and delivered a few crosses into the box. Boateng drifting centrally, also played a factor, and the Ghanaian midfielder had a few chances to put the Rossonieri ahead in the opening minutes, but was denied by Morgan De Sanctis.

When Milan didn’t have the ball, they’d press the Napoli midfield, and drop into a 4-5-1. The wingers occasionally tracked back to help their defenders, but Boateng did a poor job with his defensive duties, which led to Napoli’s equalizer.

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Hamsik and Zuniga combine as Boateng fails to trackback

Boateng came off injured in the 37th minute, and M’Baye Niang’s introduction balanced their 4-5-1 as he tracked phenomenally. Niang’s introduction halted the impact Zuniga and Hamsik were having on the left flank.

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Hamsik and Zuniga fail to combine once Niang replaces Boateng

Flamini vs Hamsik

This was the main battle in the first half, which like the score line, ended in a draw. Both men had great opening halves, and they were both involved in the only goals of the match. Flamini made forward runs occasionally, which eventually led to his goal, when he ran past Hamsik and fired a loose ball past De Sanctis. With Flamini moving forward, Hamsik had to be disciplined, and he was pegged back, which affected Napoli’s counter attack if it didn’t initially go through the Slovakian midfielder.

Due to Boateng staying higher up the pitch, Hamsik was able to connect with Zuniga and push forward up the field. There was no surprise that Hamsik was involved with the goal, Zuniga and Hamsik combined yet again as Hamsik ran past Flamini and the Slovakian midfielder played in Pandev who equalized from six yards out. Hamsik and Flamini played decisive roles in the goals, but faded away in the second half.

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Flamini/Hamsik’s passes

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Hamsik and Flamini ineffective once Napoli equalized

Montolivo

The Italian has been the focal point of Milan’s midfield since arriving at the club, playing as a regista. Montolivo has made an impact in this hardworking Milan midfield, and usually when Montolivo has a good game, the Rossonieri win. Montolivo enjoyed the opening 30 minutes of the match, as Napoli insisted on allowing the midfielder time on the ball.

Montolivo connected with Abate, as the Italian fullback was his main outlet, and this resulted in several crosses played in.

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Once Napoli fell behind, Mazzarri encouraged Pandev and a few of his teammates, to get closer to Montolivo. The closer they got to the Italian midfielder the less of an impact he had, and to no surprise, Montolivo completed more passes in his opening 30 minutes, compared to the entire match.

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Montolivo’s impact on the match prior/after Milan’s goal

Second half

There was no tactical adjustments at half-time and the game proceeded in the same pattern. Both sides sat off and allowed the centre backs to spread passes across the pitch, as midfielders were being pressed. Milan had most of the possession, but was unable to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

Milan was unable to provide penetrating passes or spark any creativity in the final third, and Napoli was happy to soak up pressure, and break on the counter. Both sides struggled in front of goal and it was down to the lack of service to the strikers.

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Pazzini failed to get a shot on target, while Abbiati grabbed Cavani’s one chance. Cavani and Pazzini were isolated, as both sides struggled to create a link between the midfield and strikers.

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Substitutions

Mazzarri made straight swaps by introducing Lorenzo Insigne for Pandev and Armero for Hamsik. Armero nearly earned Napoli three points, but his injury time shot was saved by Abbiati, while Insigne did a better job linking with the midfield and Cavani.

The match turned on its head in the 72nd minute, when Flamini was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Zuniga. El Shaarawy replaced Robinho, while Emanuele Calaio replaced Maggio. Mazzarri introduced another striker, while Allegri brought on El Shaarawy, who’s capable of tracking back and defending, as well as breaking on the counter.

Milan’s final change was another player swap, as De Sciglio came on for Constant. The changes didn’t have any significance to the match, nor were their any changes of shape. Napoli pressed efficiently when Milan were down to 10 men, forcing them to concede possession easily, but Mazzarri’s men failed to take the lead. Calaio also came close to winning the game in injury time, but his header flew wide of the net.

Conclusion

Two moments of brilliance keep Napoli four points ahead of Milan for the final automatic Champions League spot. It was a dull encounter, which saw both sides create few chances, but leaves Mazzarri the happier of managers.

With Juventus away next week, Milan will be looking to stay on pace with Napoli, as Fiorentina is lurking over their shoulder.

Three Stars

  1. Ignazio Abate
  2. Juan Zuniga
  3. Paolo Cannavaro

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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De Sanctis error = Juventus’ Scudetto to lose?

It was never going to be easy, but Walter Mazzari’s Napoli side were favourites to defeat Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi this morning.

I mean, Fiorentina have failed to win a game in 2013 and Napoli had a chance to stay three points behind Juventus.

Thursday afternoon Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava had their match bans lifted and Napoli’s two point deduction was rescinded upon appeal. The tide looked like it was about to turn, and Napoli were once again back in the race for the Scudetto.

Unfortunately, they were held 1-1 on a day that Edinson Cavani scored his 100th Serie A goal to earn a valuable point.

Prior to that, goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis made this error

Napoli, as did Lazio, dropped points this weekend and Juventus once again have been allowed to build a gap in the title race.

Consistency is something Napoli, Lazio and Inter Milan lack, and at this point, it’s Juventus’ title to lose.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Videos

 

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Napoli 4 – 1 Roma

Match in a sentence

An Edinson Cavani hat-trick sunk Roma 4-1 in the Derby del Sole and has reignited Napoli’s surge in the race for the Scudetto.

Analysis

  • Zeman’s side started the game in a 4-3-3 with an attacking trio of Francesco Totti, Erik Lamela, and Mattia Destro.  Roma’s midfield consisted of Miralem Pjanic, Michael Bradley and Daniele De Rossi.
  • Walter Mazzari went with his traditional 3-5-2 with Edinson Cavani and Goran Pandev upfront.  Christian Maggio and Zuniga were the wingbacks with Marek Hamsik ahead of Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler.
  • Napoli started this game in fine fashion as it took them four minutes to take the lead courtesy of a delicious ball from Pandev to Cavani. The Uruguayan striker made no mistake as he slotted the ball past Mauro Goicoechaea

  • Pandev was Napoli’s danger man in the first half as he received the ball in between the lines on numerous occasions. He then would drive at the shaky Roma backline, but only the Cavani opener would result from Pandev’s work.
  • Roma enjoyed majority of the possession but did little with it. With Lamela and Destro switching sides looking to cut in, Roma’s shape was too narrow and it stifled several of their attacks when they got into the final third. They looked better when Federico Balzaretti got forward to provide some width, but they lacked the extra bit of quality. They could use width on both sides, but with Cavani drifting to the left, Ivan Piris has been unable to get forward.
  • Napoli started the second half as they did the first with another Cavani goal. Hamsik held up the play and Zuniga overlapped and cutback a ball into the box that fell to Cavani and the Uruguayan made no mistake.

  • Mazzari’s men were organized and they defended as a unit, and Roma simply failed to produce any magic in the final third. They moved the ball too slow, there was minimal movement off the ball and the front three of Lamela, Totti and Destro struggled to get in behind the Napoli back line.
  • As the game went on, Roma was forced to throw players forward, and finally Piris started  to push higher up the field. Piris as well as Balzaretti’s presence higher up the pitch was non-existent and as expected it was a useful outlet for Napoli to launch their counter-attacks.
  • Cavani added to his tally later on with an unmarked header from a corner kick that put the game out of reach for the Giallorossi.  Pablo Osvaldo brought the game to life minutes later when Pjanic provided a glorious ball that Osvaldo slipped past Morgan De Sanctis.

  • Zeman was tactically naïve tonight, and despite Roma having a few chances to pounce on, they weren’t good enough on the night. Napoli allowed them to have the ball, knowing they had the quality in breaking down that Roma defence. Napoli also believed that Roma couldn’t break them down. They lacked natural width going forward, the midfield were unable to provide quality service to the front men, who were also average today. Zeman’s 4-3-3 was nullified and without a plan B, he simply watched Napoli comfortably defeat his side.
  • Unfortunately for Roma, things went got worse when Pjanic was sent off moments after the goal when he received his second yellow card of the night. Christian Maggio added the fourth in stoppage time to secure the three points for Napoli.
  • The win sees Napoli climb to third in the Serie A table, in what looks destined to be a dog fight for not only the Scudetto, but Champions League spots. The difference in this match was Cavani, because unlike Lamela, Totti and Destro, Cavani was ruthless in front of goal. Today he displayed to the world why he is the best striker on the planet.

Three Stars

1. Edinson Cavani

2. Goran Pandev

3. Gokhan Inler 

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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