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Napoli 1-3 Juventus: Juventus’ clinical finishing sinks Rafa Benitez’s unadventurous Napoli

CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

Juventus avenged their Supercoppa Italiana misfortunes to claim their first win at the San Paolo in 14 years.

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Massimiliano Allegri handed Martin Caceres a start at right back for Stephan Lichtsteiner, while Arturo Vidal sat ahead of Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba.

Rafa Benitez also opted to leave his attacking six unchanged with Jonathan De Guzman joining Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon in an attacking trio behind Gonzalo Higuain.

In another slow burning contest between two of the top sides in the country, Juventus’ clinical finishing in front of goal was enough to sink Napoli.

Pattern 

While Allegri and Benitez adopted the same attacking personnel, both managers were reluctant to stray away from their initial Super Coppa shape. Unsurprisingly, this meant that the pattern of the match didn’t differ, as the slow, patient buildups that lacked creativity and guile in the final third were evident at the San Paolo.

With both sides displaying discipline and organization without the ball, the non-existent fluidity in attack led to a static, uninspiring match. Put simply, Juve dominated possession, and Napoli intended on breaking quickly in transition.

Without the ball

However, here Napoli were better structured when they dropped into two deep banks of four. Walter Gargano and David Lopez limited space between the lines ahead of the back four, and they received help from De Guzman who tucked infield to limit space in central areas.

Lopez Gargano

Ultimately, this was a logical approach considering Allegri’s decision to field four ball-playing midfielders, as there was an evident lack of invention in central areas. While Callejon was responsible for negating Patrice Evra, Caceres received space on the right to exploit due to De Guzman being pulled into the midfield battle. Oddly, Caceres was reluctant to push forward into this space, yet when the Uruguayan advanced forward he forced Rafael Cabral to make a key save, and delivered a well-weighed ball across the six-yard box that his teammates failed to attack.

Juve equally dropped deeper into a 4-4-1-1 without the ball, opposed to pressing higher up the pitch. Marchisio and Pogba pushed out into wide areas, Pirlo monitored Hamsik’s movement, and Tevez dropped off to track the deep lying Napoli midfielder.

Napoli struggled to create chances from open play, but they continued to pose a threat in transition. The home side’s best – and sole – chance in the opening half saw Hamsik run past three Juventus midfielders, before the ball fell to De Guzman in the box, but the Dutch international skied the ball over the net.

Juventus lacks variety in attack

The one worry for Allegri moving forward was the overall quality of the performance. While Juve dominated possession, and were rarely tested for large portions of the match, both penetration and guile remain non-existent in big matches.

Pogba’s opener was a moment of individual brilliance, while Caceres’ winner was a well-executed set piece combined with poor marking. Juventus didn’t cope well against Napoli’s reactive approach, and with a shortage of creative options available in the final third, Allegri’s side were bound to encounter difficulties.

Juve were often free to play out the back with Pirlo dropping in between centre backs Giorgio Chiellini, and Leonardo Bonucci to play the first pass, but the admirable work from Lopez, De Guzman and Gargano deprived the away side from linking midfield and attack. With Vidal fielded in a trequartista role, the Chilean’ successfully completed tackles higher up the pitch, but his powerful runs from deep were sorely missed.

Allegri’s midfield quartet lacked ideas in central areas, and there was a vast difference in terms of attempted take-ons across the pitch. The decision to overload central areas with ball-playing midfielders wasn’t necessarily incorrect, but Napoli’s ability to maintain a compact shape, along with a lack of variety in attacking areas worked against the current champions.

Juventus Napoli take ons

Tevez – Higuain

Tevez and Higuain were the key men in the Supercoppa Italiana final, scoring both goals for their respected clubs, but the Argentinian strikers were ineffective at the San Paolo. The former was involved in Juve’s best moves in last month’s encounter, while the latter served as a reliable reference point in the box.

Higuain Tevez Napoli Juve

The problem here is that the Argentinian strikers often received the ball yards away from the box.

Here, there was minimal space for Tevez to operate in between the lines. Nonetheless, the Juventus striker was involved in some of their best moves, as his incisive pass should have resulted in a Caceres goal, and he was involved in the buildup to Pogba’s opener.

Higuain, on the other hand, struggled because Napoli sat too deep out of possession. The Napoli striker was involved in his side’s sole break in the opening half, but his involvement was scarce due to Benitez’s caution.

Second half changes

Apart from an individual slalom from Lopez in the opening minutes of the second half, the pattern of the match remained unchanged until Benitez introduced Dries Mertens for Hamsik. De Guzman moved to a central role, and Napoli gained an additional direct threat through the Belgian. Mertens’ impact was immediate, as he constantly ran at Caceres – resulting in the Uruguayan receiving a booking – whilst earning, and delivering the corner that led to Miguel Britos’ equalizer.

Allegri quickly responded to taking the lead shortly after Caceres’ goal, by replacing Pogba for Lichtsteiner. Juve sat deeper in the final 20 minutes, reverting to a 5-3-2, with Vidal and Marchisio drifting wide to protect their wingbacks from being overloaded.

Benitez reacted by introducing Manolo Gabbiadini and Duvan Zapata, thus moving to a traditional 4-4-2. Napoli was handed the onus to break down Allegri’s side, but only received chances in the latter stages of stoppage time: Mertens intercepted Angelo Ogbonna’s stray pass and slid in Zapata, but he overran the ball and was booked for simulation. Then, Mertens’ penetrative pass into the box for Higuain, nearly led to an equalizer, but Giorgio Chiellini’s last-ditch tackle preserved Juve’s lead.

The decision to introduce Mertens improved Napoli’s impetus, but the timing of Caceres winner, along with Allegri’s alteration to a five-man defence, halted Napoli’s attempt to claim an equalizer.

Conclusion

A second tilt between the two sides in the last month resulted in a dire encounter that relied on clinical finishing, opposed to an abundance of tactical themes.

Benitez’s attempt to thwart Juventus’ activity in open play was nearly successful, but their threat on the counter was limited. Neither side offered enough creativity and guile in the final third or central areas, and found joy in wide areas.

Although neither side was fully deserving of maximum points, Allegri’s Juve proved that they have enough talent to overcome poor performances, and cruise past their domestic rivals.

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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Napoli 1-0 Roma

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Courtesy of Flickr/Some rights reserved by calciostreaming

Napoli narrowed the gap with Roma to three points as Jose Callejon’s second half header handed Rudi Garcia’s men their second loss of the season.

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Rafa Benitez was pleased to welcome back Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol to his starting XI, while Blerim Dzemaili slotted in midfield alongside Gokhan Inler.

Rudi Garcia was forced into making a few alterations as he was without the injured Francesco Totti, while Daniele De Rossi is currently serving a three-match suspension. Miralem Pjanic, Michel Bastos and Alessandro Florenzi formed an attacking trio behind Gervinho, while Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan retained their roles in midfield.

This was a tight affair in which Roma’s wastefulness in the final third prevented Garcia’s side from keeping pace with Juventus.

Shape

With both sides adopting identical formations, a significant feat in the match was based on which side defended better without the ball. Neither side opted to press high up the pitch, as they focused on limiting space in midfield. Nainggolan and Pjanic pressed Napoli’s double-pivot, while substitute Rodrigo Taddei tracked Marek Hamsik’s movement.

Likewise, Napoli’s front two occasionally pressed Roma’s centre backs, as they aimed to contain Roma’s threat in midfield. Unfortunately, Pjanic’s movement and Taddei’s energy exposed Napoli’s midfield. However, both sides’ persistence on negating the opposition’s full-backs was pivotal.

The two sides possess attacking full-backs that provide width, but it was evident that both sets of wingers were instructed to prevent the opposing full-backs from pushing forward. With that being said, this meant that central areas were congested, thus explaining why both sides struggled to create chances when they sustained possession.

Roma on the break

Garcia’s team selection indicated Roma’s approach – the away side was aiming to play on the counter with three runners in their attack. Garcia’s tactics were logical, as Gervinho – arguably the best player in the match – consistently posed a threat on the break.

In the opening 20 minutes, Gervinho had already dragged a shot wide of the net, and ignited a break in which Taddei’s heavy touched ruined a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity. Afterwards, the Ivorian’s pace troubled Benitez’s men. Gervinho ran at Cristian Maggio and played a key pass to Florenzi – who should’ve shot – but the Italian winger conceded possession with a poor pass. Minutes later, Gervinho ran behind the Napoli defence and held up the ball, before teeing up Bastos – but Pepe Reina pushed away his long-distance effort.

Roma’s pace in attack constantly exposed Benitez’s back line but their decision-making in Napoli’s third was putrid, and a final ball eluded the away side.

Midfield battle

Seeing as both sides were unable to utilize their full-backs, the battle in central areas was significant. Strootman was forced to leave the match in the 12th minute due to injury, thus forcing Garcia to introduce Taddei alongside Nainggolan. Although Nainggolan struggled to impose his authority, Taddei and Pjanic outshone Dzemaili and Inler in midfield.

In the opening half, Taddei drifted into pockets of space to receive the ball, while playing key passes in midfield, and linking play in wide areas. Ultimately, the substitute was Roma’s most proactive player in midfield, thus signifying Napoli’s poor first half display.

Despite not being at his best, Pjanic influenced Roma’s attack in the second half. The Bosnian midfielder dropped into deeper positions, and provided the guile Roma lacked in the first half. It was Pjanic that played an exceptional ball into Gervinho that should’ve given the away side the lead, and although he was unable to replicate a pass of that quality, the Bosnian was Garcia’s spark in midfield.

Pjanic nearly crafted Roma’s opener when he slid a delicate ball into Bastos, but Florenzi couldn’t convert the Brazilian’s cutback pass. The Bosnian drifted into nifty positions to receive the ball, and was Roma’s link between midfield and attack – Pjanic did all he could.

Napoli, on the other hand, struggled to dictate the midfield. Despite Napoli looking dangerous when Hamsik received the ball in pockets of space in Roma’s third, the Slovakian midfielder was ineffective. Roma dominated central areas and created the better chances on the counter, but Napoli coped with their threat in midfield.

Second half

Prior to Callejon’s winner, both managers turned to their bench in search of a spark. Henrique and Lorenzo Insigne were introduced in the second half, and while the former’s inclusion didn’t affect the match, the latter offered Napoli mobility and pace behind Higuain.

One can argue that Napoli’s attacking three is superior without Hamsik, and Insigne’s arrival created more space for the likes of Callejon and Mertens to dominate. Callejon had already missed two great opportunities to hand Napoli the lead, while Mertens gift-wrapped a chance for Higuain, but the Argentine skied his shot over the bar.

Garcia, on the other hand, called upon Adem Ljajic for the unimpressive Florenzi. Ljajic’s persistence to locate pockets of space, and play quick intricate passes around the final third, while posing a goal-scoring threat led to the decision. Florenzi epitomized Roma’s wastefulness in front of goal, as his tame effort from an excellent Maicon pass, along with his inability to play a final ball around the edge of the box summed up his night.

Napoli’s winner came in the final 15 minutes of the second half as the shackled Faouzi Ghoulam finally busted into an advanced position – after receiving a pass from Mertens – and delivered a fantastic cross towards the back post towards Callejon, and the Spaniard nodded the ball past Morgan De Sanctis.

The second half was split with both sides creating legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, but Napoli’s attacking three improved in the latter stages, and Benitez’s side pounced when their full backs advanced further up the pitch.

Conclusion

Despite producing the better football for larger portions of the match, Roma failed to solve Pepe Reina, as they drop maximum points for the second time this season. Garcia’s approach was logical, but his men lacked conviction in the final third, and a top-class striker that can score goals when Totti is unavailable.

“We decided to wait for Napoli and go on the counter with Gervinho, Florenzi and Bastos. We had many scoring opportunities and only missed that little bit of luck to convert them,” Garcia said.

“Mattia came back from international duty with a slight injury and couldn’t play 90 minutes, but the truth is I didn’t want to leave too much space to the opposition full-backs, as Maggio and Ghoulam could do damage. That’s why I chose some energy on the flanks.”

The victory sees Napoli close within touching distance of Roma for second place – while maintaining an imperious record at the Sao Paolo – but it also ends the title race in Italy, as Juventus now hold a 14 point lead at the top.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Arsenal 2-0 Napoli

ImageArsenal produced a scintillating performance against Napoli at the Emirates Stadium.

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Arsene Wenger made two changes to the side that defeated Swansea at the Liberty Stadium last weekend. Tomas Rosicky joined Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey in Arsenal’s attacking three, behind Olivier Giroud, while Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini played in the double-pivot.

Rafa Benitez made one change to his starting eleven that comfortably defeated Genoa, by introducing Marek Hamsik alongside Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon. Goran Pandev led the line for the injured Gonzalo Higuain, while Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler formed a midfield duo.

Arsenal’s movement, quick passing, and constant interchanging in the final third proved to be too much for Benitez’s men, as the Gunner’s flexed their muscle against an inexperienced Napoli side.

Formation battle

The 4-2-3-1 has become a favoured formation to instill in modern day football over the past few years. And despite both sides preferring to use this system, their approaches provided different variations. Arsenal’s double-pivot prefers to sit deeper and play forward passes, while Napoli’s duo like to get forward and provide an offensive presence.

The main difference was in the attacking three – Wenger fielded two central players out wide in Ramsey and Ozil, while Benitez’s wide options were direct attackers, who thrive on quick counters. But the key battle would involve the no.10’s and how both were utilized. Ozil glided across the final third, receiving the ball in dangerous positions, while Hamsik failed to have a significant impact on the match due to a lack of service.

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Hamsik attempted to drop deep into midfield to receive the ball and push his men forward, but Arsenal’s superiority in possession was vital, along with Napoli’s inability to retain it.

Arsenal down the right

There was significant feat in Arsenal’s play in the first half, which virtually led to both goals scored – as they persistently attacked Napoli down the right side. With Napoli’s winger’s sitting fairly narrow, Arsenal had space to attack down the right flank. It must also be said that while Insigne could’ve done a better job in protecting Juan Zuniga, the Colombian’s work-rate was shambolic.

Bacary Sagna played a forward pass to Giroud, who did well to hold up the ball for Ramsey who surged into a heap of space, while Zuniga casually jogged back. With Napoli’s defence caught out of position, Ramsey cut the ball back to an open Ozil, who produced a breathtaking finish to beat Pepe Reina.

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A few minutes later, Napoli failed to clear their zone from a simple throw-in. Flamini dispossessed Miguel Britos’ pass towards Hamsik, playing in Ozil – as Zuniga watched – and the German maestro flicked the ball into the path of a near-post run from Giroud, who thumped the ball into the net.

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Benitez tinkered with his wingers swapping Callejon and Insigne – which was logical based on the Spaniard’s discipline – and the change saw a drop in Arsenal’s impact on the right. Nevertheless, the Gunners targeted Zuniga and enjoyed their best spell of the match down the right side, which arguably earned them three points.

Arsenal’s movement

A recurring theme in Arsenal’s great run of form has been Wenger’s will to overload central areas. Ozil’s lateral movement in the final third has opened gaps for Arsenal players to penetrate, and has also provided more options going forward. Wenger’s decision to fill his attacking positions with players that prefer to play centrally was interesting, and it was pivotal to their dominance in the first half.

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Ozil, Ramsey and Rosicky interchanged positions constantly throughout the match, which caused Napoli’s midfield several problems. Ramsey moved centrally at times to prevent Arsenal from being overrun in midfield, but he also attempted to penetrate the left flank.

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Arsenal’s passing tempo was quick – their movement was fluid and their ability to interchange dragged Benitez’s men out of position, thus leading to the Gunners’ dominance. Its been sometime since we’ve seen an Arsenal side play with such guile and fluidity – this can be attributed to the arrival of Ozil – furthermore highlighting the significance of his deadline day signing.

Pressing

For what it’s worth, it’s unsure as to whether Napoli would’ve settled into the match had Zuniga produced a stronger performance. Benitez’s men dropped into two banks of four without the ball with Hamsik and Pandev closing down Arteta and Flamini. Arsenal struggled to push forward in attack until Rosicky, Ramsey and Ozil dropped deeper to help push the Gunners forward. Napoli was defensively organized, but a lapse in concentration from the Colombian fullback prevented Napoli’s press from nullifying Arsenal’s threat in central areas, as they were forced to chase the match.

However, Arsenal’s attempt to press Napoli when they played from the back had more of an impact on the match – seeing as it’s a rare feat amongst teams playing in Serie A. Benitez’s men struggled to sustain possession in the midfield area, so they aimed to push forward from the back. Wenger’s men squeezed Napoli in their own third and Napoli was unable to string passes together – thus leading to Arsenal threatening on the break.

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Napoli’s press was logical considering they didn’t want Arsenal’s holding midfielders to dictate the tempo of the match, but the North London side’s movement in the final third was exceptional. As for Napoli, their inability to sustain possession was an issue, as they lacked cohesion going forward, and Pandev was an isolated figure upfront.

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Second half

The second half lacked the flair showcased in the opening 45 minutes, as Arsenal sat off, allowing Napoli to take control of possession. Arsenal dropped into a 4-5-1 without the ball and was unable to move forward as a unit – resulting in several audacious shots from outside the box.

Insigne looked like Napoli’s main threat when running at defenders, but his decision making in the final third was poor. Benitez tinkered with his squad, pushing Callejon upfront and Dries Mertens to the left. Later on Duvan Zapata entered the match as the lone striker, but he had no influence in Napoli’s attack.

Napoli improved in the second half, but that was down to Arsenal’s cautious approach.

Conclusion

Arsenal’s dominance on the right flank, along with their movement in the final third, allowed the Gunners to blitz Benitez’s men.

“I just believe Arsenal started with the right intensity, without any mistakes. We made a mistake early on and conceded a goal,” Benitez said. 

Benitez’s men were poor on the night, and although lack of experience could be a factor, it was shocking to see the Napoli manager do nothing about it. His changes were strictly player swaps, which weren’t adventurous. In fairness, he might’ve assumed the match was gone and attempted to prevent a blow out, but his initial game plan is difficult to critique, as Napoli didn’t cope with Arsenal’s early pressure.

“I think [Mesut Özil] had an outstanding first half. Everything you want from a fantastic player – teamwork, skill, passing, shooting – so just sit there and enjoy it. I loved him in Madrid as well, I must say. We were just lucky to have got him,” Wenger said.

Earning maximum points in your home fixtures are pivotal in any Champions League group, and this was an impressive Arsenal performance, led by the magnificent Mesut Ozil. His movement and tactical intelligence has been beneficial to Arsenal – the Gunners produced quick, fluid football, as they’re displaying signs of sheer confidence and a level of unpredictability that they’ve lacked over the past few years.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Hazard 1-0 Ball Boy

Swansea are off to the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley where they’ll take on League Two side Bradford.

The Welsh side protected their 2-0 1st leg victory  at Stamford Bridge with a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium. With what is arguably the best CB duo in the league in Ashley Williams and Chico Flores, Swansea were able to nullify the Blues in the final third where they’re most dangerous.

Williams and Flores were immense as Swansea stayed compact and organized. They broke on the counter when they received the opportunity and managed to weather the storm.

Sadly, hours after Swansea’s triumphant victory over two legs, the world is soaking up another major talking point in the match.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was sent off in the 80th minute for apparently kicking ball boy Charlie Morgan. If you missed the incident you can see it here.

Click GIF

Click GIF

Now for those unaware of what a ball boy is:

Ball boy – an attendant, usually a boy or young man, employed to retrieve balls and supply players with them.

Now this wouldn’t be an issue if Mr. Morgan simply gave Hazard the ball, considering that’s his job.

Thanks to our social media friend twitter, we’ve learned that not only is Morgan a Swans fan, he also had other motives tonight.

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Now that we know his intent does it change things?

Possibly not. We do know that this “kid” was wrong. Well he’s a kid to the English media, but any 17-year-old  teenager that tweets their intent of time wasting is in the wrong.

Was Eden Hazard wrong?

Yes.

He should’ve never attempted to use bodily force towards a “kid.”

Especially in a league that tends to give severe punishments to foreign players.

A red card was harsh, but a fine from the FA would suffice.

If a ball boy refuses to do his job to benefit the team he supports is that not ‘cheating.’ Not to say that Chelsea would make a comeback with 11 men, but it does put a dent in their Premier League campaign with an already thin squad.

Do I blame Hazard?

No.

Hazard tried to get the ball and Morgan refused. Morgan embellished not only the push, but when Hazard kicked the ball.

Yes, Hazard kicked the ball, attempting to get it away from Morgan who chose to lie on top of it.

Hazard had this to say post-match:

“The ball boy came into changing room, we had a quick chat. I apologised & the boy apologised. It is over.”

“Boy put his whole body onto the ball & I was just trying to kick the ball & I think I kicked the ball & not the boy. I apologize.”

Furthermore, a situation that would’ve easily been avoided will cost Hazard a minimum three match ban, courtesy of a 17-year-old boy.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in EPL

 

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Chelsea 0-1 QPR

Match in a sentence

A dull London derby at Stamford Bridge saw bottom of the table QPR defeat Chelsea and potentially knock them out of the Premier League title race.

Analysis

  • Rafa Benitez decided to give Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Ramires and Ashley Cole a rest after playing a key role in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory against Everton on Sunday. Benitez replaced them with Ryan Bertrand, Oscar, Victor Moses and Marko Marin made his first Premier League start since joining the club in the summer. Also Ross Turnbull was in goal for the injured Petr Cech.
  • Harry Redknapp preferred to set up in a 4-3-3 that saw Adel Taarabt lead the line with Junior Hoilett and Jamie Mackie on the flanks. Redknapp selected Shaun Derry, Esteban Granero and Stephane Mbia to form his midfield three.
  • The Blues were always going to dictate the game in terms of possession, and they did, but they struggled to create goal scoring chances for large portions of the first half.
  • QPR became a compact 4-5-1 without the ball and the wide men (Hoilett, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Mackie) did a great job in the first half making sure Cesar Azpilicueta and Bertrand were unable to go forward. Marin and Moses also failed to make any significant impact in the first half.
  • Redknapp’s men were composed and unlucky not to be playing against a 10 man Chelsea when Marko Marin made a reckless challenge on Mbia. QPR had multiple opportunities to hit Chelsea on the counter but lacked quality going forward, they failed to deliver a final ball and didn’t test Turnbull.
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Marin Tackle on Mbia GIF. Click on it

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  • Chelsea started to create chances in the second half and it was down to Bertrand being able to get past Mackie, which allowed him to overload Nedum Onuoha with Marin. Chelsea was moving the ball quicker in the second half, which allowed spaces to be opened up and QPR legs tired.
  • Chelsea nearly took the lead as Frank Lampard smashed a low shot past Julio Cesar, but the linesman rightfully called him offside.
  • Benitez introduced Hazard, Mata and Ramires into the game and despite providing an influential spark the Blues were wasteful in front of goal.
  • Chelsea was punished in the 77th minute and they were unable to respond. Chelsea failed to clear their lines on a QPR corner kick, and it fell to Taarabt who provided Wright-Phillips with a lovely layoff ball and the former Chelsea player made no mistake smashing his shot past Turnbull.

 

  • Alan Pardew announced in his pre-game interview that Demba Ba will be a Chelsea player, and it may come to some relief for most Chelsea fans. Fernando Torres had another dire performance and with Romelu Lukaku coming back in the summer and Ba on his way, the Spaniard’s days are certainly numbered.
  • Many will blame Rafa Benitez for his team selection, but ultimately his players weren’t good enough on the day. They lacked creativity, hunger and they never looked like they were going to score. It also shows that Chelsea lack depth, which is the reason why it’s almost certain that they will be fighting for a European spot rather than the Premier League title.

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  • On the other hand, Harry Redknapp and his men picked up an unlikely three points that could prove to be significant in their relegation battle. It was QPR’s second win of the season in another London derby and it leaves Redknapp’s men five points away from safety. Although this win might not turn their season around, it does give them belief that they can stay in the Premier League. With so many poor sides in the Premier League anything is possible.

Stats

  • It was QPR’s first win at Chelsea in a league match in nearly 30 years, since a 2-0 win in the old Division Two in April 1983.
  • It was Wright-Phillips’ 1st Premier League goal in 54 matches in the division, since netting for Manchester City at West Ham in May 2010: 1-1.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips scores against his former team. He made 82 Premier League appearances (4 goals) for Chelsea from 2005 to 2009.
  • Frank Lampard played in his 534th Premier League match against QPR and he is 1 short of entering the top 3 of all-time Premier League appearances.

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow me @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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2 Guys and a MIKE – December 15th/16th European wrapup

Paolo, Mike and Tyrrell breakdown the major games around Europe this past weekend. Chelsea crash and burn against Corinthians, Klose lifts Lazio past Inter Milan, and Barcelona increased their lead in La Liga.

Credit to “3 AM” for our theme song.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Podcasts

 

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Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

Match in a sentence

After poor performances midweek in Europe, Chelsea and Manchester City failed to live up to expectations, as they provided us with a DULL game.

Analysis

  • Roberto Mancini started the game with four at the back in his traditional 4-2-3-1, with Sergio Aguero playing in behind Edin Dzeko. Captain Vincent Kompany was fit enough to start after picking up a knock midweek, and James Milner made his return to Mancini’s XI.
  • In Rafa Benitez’s first match as interim manager, he opted to stick with the 4-2-3-1, but unlike Di Matteo in midweek, he introduced Fernando Torres in the XI. Also David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic started at centre back with Cesar Azpilicueta at right back.
  • With Roman Abramovich in attendance, fans around the stadium chanted, “There’s one Di Matteo” several times. There were multiple boo’s/malicious chants directed at Rafa, as well as chants for Ashley Cole to stay. At the 16th minute mark, fans stood to their feet and began clapping and chanting “There’s only one Di Matteo’ again in honour of the former Chelsea manager who wore the #16 jersey during his playing days at Chelsea.
  • Although Benitez selected practically the same players as Di Matteo would, there were a few changes that should be pointed out. Chelsea was much more compact, with Ramires sitting deeper helping Mikel protect the back four. Ramires tends to take the ball and drive forward, but he was disciplined against City. It was also clear that David Luiz was less adventurous, and whenever he did go forward with the ball both Mikel and Ramires covered for him.
  • The trident of Oscar, Hazard and Mata was much better defensively. Mata and Hazard dropped deeper to help out the full backs, whereas Oscar, and at times Torres, dropped deep to nullify Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure.
  • Chelsea often looked like a 4-5-1 and at times a 4-4-2 when defending, and it stifled City as they struggled to create chances. The downside to Rafa’s compact set-up was that Chelsea didn’t really offer anything going forward as they recorded one shot on target.
  • City struggled to create any real goal scoring opportunities and like Chelsea lacked quality going forward. Both sides gave away possession at ease, but unlike Chelsea, City was looking to dictate the game.
  • James Milner swapped flanks numerous times in the game looking to overload Chelsea’s fullbacks, but was unable to create danger. Milner did do a good job in helping his fullbacks Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov against Chelsea’s creative players.
  • City had a few chances in the first half to take the lead as Zabaleta was able to break forward with Silva playing so narrow, but unfortunately nothing came from those chances.
  • Chelsea were a bit better in the second half stringing together passes and forcing City to make mistakes, but apart from Torres’ half chance and Cole’s long distance drive Chelsea didn’t offer much going forward.

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  • Apart from the Chelsea fans chants earlier on in the match, the clash between the English and European champions was pretty poor. With the amount of top players on the pitch, the game lacked quality. Despite controlling possession and creating more scoring opportunities, City weren’t good enough. They should have won the game, but they might be content with a draw at Stamford Bridge.
  • Chelsea picked up their first clean sheet since October 2nd, and it seems evident that Benitez has already had an effect on the team. Yes, they weren’t great forward, but Chelsea looked organized and disciplined defensively which is a plus. The Blues sacrificed their offensive threat, but in return were solid at the back. Seeing as Rafa hasn’t been with the club for more than a week, he’ll be more than happy with the result.

Three Stars

1. Vincent Kompany

2. James Milner

3. Branislav Ivanovic

Tyrrell Meertins

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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Match Recaps

 

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