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Manchester City 1-3 Bayern Munich

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Bayern Munich decimated Manchester City at the Ethiad Stadium.

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Pep Guardiola made one change to the side that defeated Wolfsburg this weekend. Toni Kroos returned to partner Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield, while Thomas Muller led the line in Bayern’s 4-1-4-1. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery kept their spots on the flanks, while Phillip Lahm started as the sole holding midfielder.

Manuel Pellegrini made four changes to his starting eleven that fell to Aston Villa on Saturday. Edin Dzeko led the line in Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1, ahead of Sergio Aguero, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri. Gael Clichy and Micah Richards returned to the City back four, while Yaya Toure and Fernandinho played in the double-pivot.

Bayern produced a magnificent away performance, which saw Guardiola’s men press efficiently and dominate the midfield from the opening whistle.

Pressing

It was always going to be interesting to see how City coped with Bayern’s pressure. Guardiola’s men pegged City into their third of the pitch – getting numbers around the ball carrier, thus forcing Pellegrini’s men to concede possession. Frankly this pressure led to Bayern’s dominance, as City was unable to sustain possession for the entirety of the first half.

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It all started with Robben and Ribery closing down the City fullbacks – Muller charged down the centre backs, Bayern’s fullbacks pressed City’s wingers, while the European champions had a distinct numerical advantage in midfield. Bayern repetitively won the ball in City’s third which led to the European champions dominance for majority of the match.

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City without the ball

With Bayern maintaining a large portion of possession, City’s aim to maintain a solid shape in midfield was logical. City dropped into a narrow 4-4-2 when Bayern was in possession and there were many factors in their shape that led to Bayern’s superiority.

First off the duo of Navas and Richards were unable to cope with Alaba and Ribery’s attacking threat. The Frenchman constantly got the better of the Manchester City fullback, and Navas struggled to track Alaba, who was persistent on surging forward. The Bayern duo’s persistence to get forward led to Ribery’s opener, as Alaba’s overlapping run confused Navas and Richards, thus leading to Ribery cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot from distance that slipped past Joe Hart at the near post.

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Yet, on the opposite side, Nasri played narrow attempting to maintain a compact shape, but this urged Guardiola’s men to penetrate on the right flank. Rafinha constantly scampered down the right side on several occasions attacking space and aiming to create overloads with Robben. Schweinsteiger also ventured over to the right side when Nasri protected Clichy to help Bayern overload the right flank. Clichy was an isolated figure at left back, and Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate the space available – and to no surprise, Bayern’s goals in the second half came down that flank.

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City’s shape without the ball was questionable – as Guardiola instructed his men to penetrate wide areas.

Bayern dominate midfield

Another key element in City’s shape was their numerical disadvantage in midfield. The Bayern trio of Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm and Kroos dominated Fernandinho and Yaya Toure for large portions of the match. Also, the intelligent movement of Robben, Ribery and Muller into central areas presented Bayern with several passing options in midfield.

More so, Pellegrini’s idea to play two strikers was logical – due to Dzeko’s height and ability to hold up the ball, while Aguero’s pace to run behind defenders – but it allowed Guardiola’s men to dictate possession. Aguero wasn’t instructed to press Lahm – who was often the spare man in midfield – and the German international was allowed to control the tempo of the match.

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Each member of Bayern’s midfield trio had a pass completion rate over 90%, but it was Kroos who shined brightest. Kroos possesses a wonderful gift of finding pockets of space in midfield to receive the ball – frankly there aren’t many in the world better than him at doing this.

And despite being pressed by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, the German midfielder still managed to stamp his authority on the match – specifically in the final third. But despite Kroos’ positive impact going forward, he played a key role in Bayern’s high-press – relentlessly working hard to win the ball in City’s third. Kroos cleverly dispossessed Fernandinho in City’s third and played in Robben, who danced past Nemanja Nastasic and beat Hart at the near post.

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Furthermore, City’s shape without the ball allowed Bayern’s midfield to dictate the tempo of the match, as the numerical advantage in midfield allowed Guardiola’s trio to thrive.

Muller

However, the most interesting talking point pre-match was the role of Muller. The German midfielder rarely receives the plaudits he deserves, but once again he performed exceptionally on a monumental European night.

Muller closed down defenders efficiently and ran the channels superbly, aiming to find cracks in City’s high line – but his ability to win 50/50 challenges from direct balls was pivotal. Despite Bayern’s constant passing in central areas, the Bavarian’s did mix up their play, spraying a few long balls towards goal that Muller nodded down to his teammates.

And Bayern’s winner stemmed off a similar play. Muller drifted to the right flank and made a run behind Clichy – who was caught ball-watching – controlling a well-weighed Dante long ball, and his second touch was magnificent, which guided the German past Hart to tap the ball into the net. Muller’s movement in the second half was great – he constantly rotated with both wide men, taking up their positions when they drifted centrally, and the City back line was unable to cope.

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Muller produced a mature performance as the lone striker – he allowed his teammates to get into better positions by linking play, provided them with forward passing options, his energy and will to close down defenders was vital, and he scored a great goal that highlighted his wonderful movement and tactical intelligence.

Second half

Bayern continued to flex their muscle and out pass City in the second half and it was surprising to see Pellegrini stick with Dzeko and Aguero upfront. It was strange considering he had James Milner – a hardworking utility player – on the bench, while Javi Garcia was also available to add numbers in midfield. But Pellegrini stuck with his shape, and replaced Dzeko with Alvaro Negredo.

Aguero began to stick closer to Lahm, but as the game wore on, the Argentine tired. David Silva and Milner then replaced Aguero and Nasri – and life was restored in the match when Jerome Boateng took down Yaya Toure who was clear on goal, thus resulting in a red card. City’s shift to a 4-2-3-1 did mount a positive end to the match – Negredo scored a well-taken goal as Bayern failed to press efficiently when they lost the ball, Milner began to trouble Rafinha, and Silva was lively in the final third after Boateng’s sending off.

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Zonalmarking.net editor, Michael Cox makes a great point on Bayern’s performance in the final 15 minutes of the match. Guardiola’s men began to tire, resulting in a decline in their pressing. Like the game at the Emirates in 2010 – when Guardiola was Barcelona manager – Arsene Wenger’s substitutions were pivotal to their monumental win, as Barcelona’s energy levels dipped after pressing for majority of the match.

This, along with Bayern’s tie against Freiburg – earlier this year – are examples of Guardiola sides fading after pressing for large portions of the match, leaving them likely to concede in in the final quarter of matches. It’s an issue the Spaniard will need to sort out, as Heynckes was able to find a balance between pressing and an organized shape – whether he decides to do so will be pivotal in the latter stages of this competition.

Bayern continued to dominate for majority of the second half, yet Pellegrini’s changes did harm the European champions in the final minutes of the match.

Conclusion

Bayern Munich blitzed City for majority of the match, yet Pellegrini’s approach needs to be questioned.

Pellegrini’s decision to play with two strikers wasn’t absurd, but his inability to alter the problematic issue was irrational. The Chilean failed to change his sides shape or add numbers in midfield – as Bayern’s midfield and constant pressing, pegged City in their third for large portions of the match. 

“We pressured them well when we weren’t in possession and thus forced City to play long balls, which we were able to win. We moved the ball around well. Ever since Philipp Lahm started playing further up the pitch, we have started to create more chances,” Guardiola said. 

“We now need to show the same presence and dominance in the return game, but until then we won’t stop working hard and trying to improve,” he said. 

Guardiola’s men were superb on the night, and we’re beginning to see his philosophy reap rewards, as they produced one of the better European away performances we’ve seen in sometime.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Brazil 4-2 Italy

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Courtesy of Ranzag

 

Brazil win Group A after producing their best performance of the tournament thus far.

Luiz Felipe Scolari made one change to his starting line up introducing Hernanes for the injured Paulinho. Brazil stuck with a 4-2-3-1 that saw Fred lead the line ahead of Hulk, Oscar and Neymar.

Italy were without Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo, so Cesare Prandelli was forced to make personnel changes, but he also changed Italy’s shape. The Italians also lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Mario Balotelli leading the line ahead of Alessandro Diamanti, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva. Alberto Aquilani partnered Riccardo Montolivo in the double pivot, while Ignazio Abate and Leonardo Bonucci were included in the back four.

Brazil was the better side – they defended and attacked as a unit, got into better positions across the pitch and dictated the tempo of the match.

Brazil press

Throughout the group stage, Brazil has started games brightly – they would press high, overload wide areas and the fluidity in their intricate passing was mesmerizing. In the opening two games, Neymar scored within 10 minutes, giving Brazil the lead, but their intensity levels dropped severely after. This not only allowed the opposition back into the match, but it left many uncertain as to whether Brazil were reacting to their opposition or content with keeping a compact shape.

Surprisingly, Scolari’s men stepped away from that approach and pressed admirably as a unit. Fred and Neymar pressed Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini on goal kicks and when Italy tried to play out of the back, while the other nine Brazilian players moved forward as a unit to minimize the space between midfield and attack. Brazil’s approach was identical to the Japanese – close down Italy’s deep-lying playmakers and press higher up the pitch when Italy attempts to play from the back.

Brazil maintained their pressing for majority of the match, and it prevented the Italians from gaining a rhythm in midfield – ultimately they struggled to dictate the tempo of the match.

Italy without the ball

Prandelli’s men took a cautious approach to the match – they chose to sit back in two banks of four or a 4-5-1, but they kept a relatively high line. It must be said that wingers on both sides were disciplined over the course of the match – Candreva and Diamanti kept Marcelo and Dani Alves from surging forward in the opening 20 minutes, which is vital considering both fullbacks contributed to three of Brazil’s 5 goals prior to kickoff.

Italy’s shape was effective, and Abate played a key role to their success. Abate kept Neymar quiet during his time on the pitch – he stayed close to the Barcelona winger when he received the ball, often preventing him from turning and causing havoc with his dazzling runs. Unfortunately for Italy, Neymar’s late challenge on Abate forced the AC Milan fullback to leave the match with an apparent dislocated shoulder.

Brazil’s midfield

Despite Italy’s organized shape, Brazil was able to create chances due to the intelligence of Oscar and the lack of pressure on Luiz Gustavo. It was a surprise to see Prandelli’s men avoid replicating Mexico’s nearly successful defensive approach – Mexico closed down Gustavo to prevent Brazil from playing out of the back and Scolari’s men were unable to dictate the tempo of the match. Nevertheless, the Bayern Munich midfielder dropped between the centre back to receive the ball and set the tempo of Brazil’s attack.

The inclusion of Hernanes also benefitted Scolari’s men because now he possessed two proficient passers in his double pivot. When the Lazio midfielder received the ball, he displayed a wide array of forward and diagonal balls. Brazil was better in possession compared to their first two matches and Hernanes’ inclusion was pivotal.

The final key element to Brazil’s superiority in midfield was Oscar. For a 21-year-old that’s played 70+ games for club and country over the last 12 months, it’s quite impressive to see a player play at this level. Oscar completed his defensive duties on both flanks, but when Brazil had possession of the ball, the Chelsea midfielder became a key asset to their attack. Oscar dropped into midfield to help Brazil retain possession, along with finding pockets of space in deeper positions to give Gustavo an additional passing outlet. His positional sense and tactical awareness is rarely praised, but the young Brazilian has played a key role in Brazil’s success thus far.

Maggio

Both managers were forced to make first half substitutions – Prandelli was the unlucky one out of the two, as Montolivo and Abate were unable to continue. Scolari had the luxury of introducing Dante for David Luiz – Luiz was key when Italy occasionally pressed the Brazilian defenders, as he pushed forward to play balls into the midfield. Surprisingly, Dante and Emanuele Giaccherini both scored the opening goals for the respected sides, yet Maggio’s introduction had the biggest impact on the match.

It’s peculiar to see a player thrive in a wingback role, yet be so dire as a fullback, but that would be the perfect way to define Maggio. The Napoli wingback isn’t the greatest defender when attackers run at him, and the balance of the match favoured Brazil once the Italian was introduced. Maggio was often dragged out of position, and Neymar was beginning to find space behind the Italian to create. Neymar began to terrorize Maggio down the left flank, and it encouraged Marcelo to be risky and attempt to overload the Italian defender. Neymar scored his third goal of the tournament off a free-kick that was awarded to the Barcelona winger, when Marcelo surged forward and gave the ball to Neymar to run at Maggio.

Prior to Maggio’s introduction, Neymar was quiet and Brazil were slightly on top – Abate’s marking on Neymar was pivotal and once he departed, Brazil had more freedom to express themselves down the left flank against a vulnerable Maggio.

Giaccherini goal

Italy struggled to move up the pitch as a unit, and Balotelli was isolated for large portions of the match, yet Italy found a way to grab an equalizer. This goal was an interesting feat because of the way Brazil defended Balotelli. Throughout the tournament Balotelli has displayed his ability to hold up the ball and turn his defender on either side. Brazil countered that by sticking tight to the Italian, which always led to a foul.

Scolari’s men have been fortunate not to receive more bookings throughout the tournament, as they have committed several cynical fouls. Brazil has made a habit of halting play, seeing as majority of the fouls have been committed when teams are about to break past their first line of press, or when forwards drop deep to receive the ball.

Italy’s opener came off a Buffon goal kick, which led to Dante allowing Balotelli to back heel a ball onto the path of Giaccherini and the Juventus midfielder slotted his shot past Julio Cesar. After the goal, Dante was instructed to stick tighter on the Italian forward, which is why Balotelli failed to have a significant impact on the match.

Brazil’s pressing has been effective, and they have thrived when dropping off and keeping their shape – but that can be down to their last-ditch tackles that keep teams from attacking open space when Brazil is caught out of position.

Second half

Neymar’s free kick and a Fred goal courtesy of another direct ball from a Brazilian fullback, gave Scolari’s men a two-goal lead. Brazil suddenly dropped into a narrow 4-1-4-1, which allowed Italy to take control of the game, as Brazil aimed to break on the counter.

Aquilani and Marchisio, who once again had ineffective matches, were now able to drop deep to receive the ball and play it wide. Unfortunately, Italy weren’t playing any penetrating passes through the middle – instead they distributed balls to Maggio because he was given license to roam forward. Prandelli’s men were getting into dangerous positions across the pitch, and Maggio was delivering crosses into the box, but the Italian’s rarely tested Julio Cesar

Chiellini’s controversial goal saw the two managers make their final changes – Stephan El Shaarawy was introduced to attack space behind Dani Alves and prevent the fullback from pushing forward, while Fernando’s introduction meant Brazil became a 4-3-3. Neither substitution had a significant effect on the match and Fred’s 88th minute goal destroyed the possibility of an Italian come back.

Conclusion

Brazil produced their best performance of the tournament thus far – they pressed high as a unit to prevent Italy from building plays, the midfield’s movement and ability to find space to receive the ball was superb, while Neymar and Marcelo continue to dazzle on the left flank.

Prandelli’s tactical experiments haven’t been a success and his team now faces a semi-final date with Spain. Over the past two matches the Azzuri have struggled severely when teams close down their deep-lying playmaker, which has limited the service Balotelli has received. Defensively the Italians have been poor, conceding eight goals in three games, compared to the seven conceded throughout Euro 2012 – the midfield has been stifled once teams close them down, and Balotelli has often been an isolated figure. With Balotelli and Abate unavailable due to injury, there may be a good chance Italy line up in a 3-5-2 against Spain – reason being they reacted to Spain’s threat magnificently last summer, and it’ll turn Maggio into a threat opposed to a liability at the back.

Scolari’s men produced their best performance of the tournament thus far and now await Uruguay in the semi-finals. Brazil’s pressing was delightful, and the intelligence of Oscar also played a key factor. Once again Neymar steals the headlines, scoring another remarkable goal, pushing his tally to three goals in three games. Scolari also benefitted from the inclusion of Hernanes, who helped Brazil retain the ball and dictate possession. Scolari’s men look to be getting it together at the right time, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Hernanes will keep his spot in the line up if Paulinho recovers. Nevertheless, Brazil stuck to the basics and nullified Italy’s strengths, making them worthy winners on the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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Bayern Munich 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

Match in a sentence

A moment of sheer class from Arjen Robben was the difference maker, as Bayern Munich knocked out rivals Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal quarterfinals.

Analysis

  • Jupp Heynckes opted to set his team up in their traditional 4-2-3-1 with Mario Mandzukic leading the line. Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben played out wide and Toni Kroos played behind Mandzukic. Heynckes’ midfield consisted of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez.
  • Jurgen Klopp lined his side up in a 4-3-3 with Robert Lewandowski leading the line. Mario Gotze and Marco Reus played out wide, with a midfield trio consisting of Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin Grosskreutz and Sven Bender. With Mats Hummels and Jakub Blaszczykowski missing, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Klopp add an extra man in the midfield.
  • The start of the game was equivalent to a chess match in terms of pressing. Bayern pressed the Dortmund defenders, forcing either Neven Subotic or Felipe Santana to distribute play from the back. Hummels is far superior to both men in terms of passing and that was where he was missed. Bayern’s pressing led by Mandzukic forced Dortmund to concede possession in their final third several times.
  • Dortmund on the other hand pressed Bayern’s midfield, which forced Schweinsteiger and Martinez to drop deeper than usual to start plays. Brazilian centre back Dante played a significant role when Dortmund pressed, seeing as they allowed him to string passes and get forward. This was significant because although Bayern’s midfield was unable to dictate play initially, Dante played diagonal balls out wide to Muller and Robben.
  • Klopp’s decision to play Gorsskreutz in the midfield was an attempt to stop Bayern from controlling the midfield, especially with Kroos dropping deeper to create 3v2 situations. Although, Kroos didn’t have one of his best games (credit to Bender), as the half wore on Martinez and Schweinsteiger began to grow into the game. With Reus and Gotze higher up the pitch, David Alaba and Phillip Lahm were cautious about going forward, but this left more space for Bayern’s midfield to dominate.
  • As we approached half time Bayern took the lead, courtesy of a glorious Robben finish. Marcel Schmelzer coneceded possession in his own third, and the ball fell to an unmarked Robben. The Dutch international looked up and calmly curled his shot past Roman Weidenfeller.
Robben goal. Click GIF!

Robben goal. Click GIF!

  • With Dortmund looking to get an equalizer, Bayern opted for a more cautious approach in the second half. Without the ball, they became a 4-4-2, allowing Santana to play balls from the back. It was wise seeing as he isn’t the greatest passer, but Bayern’s cautious approach allowed Gundogan to have a better second half. Gundogan dropped deeper to receive the ball and despite the pressure applied, he was able to pick passes with ease.
  • Dortmund’s midfield along with the introduction of Julian Schieber and Blaszczykowski brought more energy and promise to their attack, but they were unable to make the most of the opportunities presented.
  • It’s also key to note that Weidenfeller was superb on the night, as Bayern had several chances to increase their lead, but the German goalkeeper kept his side in the match. Brazilian defender Dante was instrumental in Bayern’s back line and he nullified Lewandowski for 90 minutes. Not only was he superb defensively, but he came close to scoring as well. It’s hard to remember a game this season where Gotze, Reus and Lewandowski were all ineffective.
  • Despite a better second half, Klopp’s tactical approach to this game was ineffective. It could be down to having a small squad or fatigue, but today’s performance reminded us why Bayern are 17 points clear of their rivals. Along with an inconsistent season, Dortmund has struggled to challenge on three fronts, and this cup exit will surely leave Klopp and his men focused on European glory.
  • The Bavarians have finally conquered Dortmund, defeating them for the first time in their last six attempts. It was a great performance from the league leaders, and it goes to show that their summer acquisitions have paid off. In terms of depth and quality Bayern is the superior side, and their dominant performance today displayed that. This win ensures that Bayern has a legitimate chance of not only winning a league double, but also a potential treble in May.

Three Stars

1.    Dante

2.    Bastian Schweinsteiger

3.    Roman Weidenfeller

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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