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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.

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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.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library

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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Lazio 1-1 Juventus

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Courtesy of Flickr/ mbah_pascal

Lazio held Juventus to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico despite Gianluigi Buffon’s first half dismissal.

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Edy Reja made several changes to his starting XI. Miroslav Klose led the line with Hernanes and Antonio Candreva playing behind the German international. Luis Cavanda and Abdoulay Konko played as wingbacks, while Cristian Ledesma and Lucas Biglia formed a midfield duo.

Antonio Conte recalled Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente upfront, while Paul Pogba, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah took up their traditional positions in midfield.

Both sides created little from open play – Juventus pounced when opportunities were presented, while Reja’s cautious approach prevented Lazio from increasing their lead. A draw was a fair result.

Juventus play out of the back

Juventus found it relatively easy to move forward as a unit due to Lazio’s lack of press. Conte’s back three were free to push forward and play passes amongst one another because they were often in 3v1 situations against Klose. Occasionally, Hernanes joined Klose and pressed Conte’s defenders, but there was always a spare man, while Marchisio dropped into a deeper position to receive the ball.

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For the most part, Reja’s men dropped into their half and focused on maintaining a compact shape in midfield. Conte’s backline were free to play forward passes into midfield, thus leading to Juventus’ superiority in possession.

Lazio without the ball

Despite sustaining a mere 38% of possession in the first half – with a man advantage – Lazio went into half-time with a one goal lead, containing Juventus’ main threats. Reja’s men dropped into a 4-5-1 without the ball, and encouraged their wingbacks to quickly close down Lichtsteiner and Asamoah.

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Lazio’s narrow shape limited space in central areas, meaning Pogba and Vidal struggled to influence the match from midfield. The main issue Juventus encountered was service to their strikers – Llorente was a peripheral figure in the first half, despite being involved in Juventus’ only legitimate goal-scoring opportunity, and Tevez found it difficult to receive the ball. Biglia and Ledesma protected the back four, while Lorik Cana and Giuseppe Biava also closed down the Argentine when he received the ball.

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Reja’s reactive approach was beneficial in the first half as Lazio nullified Juve’s attack. Shockingly, Lazio was in the lead at half-time courtesy of Candreva’s spot kick that was initially created through Konko’s magnificent through ball to Klose – which led to Buffon’s sending off.

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Buffon’s sending off forced Juventus to reshuffle, and Conte sacrificed Asamoah, thus leaving him without a left-sided player. Juve became a 4-4-1, with Tevez drifting to the left and Ogbonna playing as a left back.

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The onus was on Juve to attack, but with Lazio maintaining a man-advantage, one would expect the home-side to dominate possession. Conte’s men tried to play through the middle, and with Tevez slowly growing into the match, Juventus’ buildup play improved. With Ogbonna playing as a make-shift left back, Marchisio drifted infield so Lichtsteiner could push forward to provide width.

There was no significant change in either sides approach for the remainder of the first half – Juve dominated possession but struggled to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, whereas Lazio sat narrow, defended deep, and opted to launch quick counters.

Tevez/Hernanes

The games most proactive players subsequent to Buffon’s sending off were Tevez and Hernanes. Both players flourished in different roles – Tevez worked off Llorente as an energetic second striker, whereas Hernanes sprung quick counter-attacks when Juventus conceded possession.

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Tevez’s influence on the match increased when Juve went down to 10 men. The Argentinian striker was positioned on the left, but when Juve won possession he moved into spaces on the field that Lazio’s defensive six wouldn’t drift into.

Now, Tevez linked play with the midfield, allowing them to move into key areas, but the Juventus striker also posed a goal threat around the 18-yard box. His main contribution was the buildup to Llorente’s goal – Tevez received Marchisio’s pass in space and distributed the ball wide to Lichtsteiner, and his back heel played in the Swiss wingback, thus leading to the cross that Llorente nodded into the far corner.

Hernanes offered a different threat – his quick nimble feet allowed the Brazilian to evade challenges and drive forward, and he was  the main outlet on the counter-attack. On two separate occasions Hernanes ran at the heart of the Juventus defence before playing balls out wide, but Candreva wasted both attempts.

The Brazilian summed up Lazio’s approach – he was disciplined without the ball, but crafty and direct on the break. Both men provided the invention that the match lacked, but their teammates were unable to make the difference.

Second half

Juventus continued to dominate possession for large portions of the second half, but their approach was slightly different. Conte instructed his men to utilize Llorente and play long balls into the Spaniard. There best chance stemmed from Bonucci’s direct ball into the striker, who held it up for Vidal, and the Chilean played in an onrushing Tevez, but his near-post shot was pushed away for a corner.

Majority, of Juventus’ attacks were now based on the counter, but their transitions were slow, and their passing around the final third was poor. Nonetheless, for a side that played with a man advantage for the entire second half, Lazio disappointed. When they managed to sustain possession in Juventus’ third, they failed to get behind or penetrate Conte’s organized side.

Apart from Hernanes’ involvement on the break, the home side was presented with two opportunities to win the match. In the span of four minutes, Klose got on the end of two Ledesma free-kicks: the first header led to a sensational save from Marco Storari, while the second attempt was offside, yet Storari caught the German’s tame effort.

Reja made two substitutions in the half, introducing Alvaro Gonzalez for Cavanda and Keita Balde for Candreva. Keita provided a pacy direct threat in the final moments of the match – here, he constantly ran at Lichtsteiner, and Klose played the Spanish-born Senegalese striker in on the break, but his curling effort hit the post.

Both sides were sloppy in possession, and they adopted direct approaches that nearly paid off. However, the match lacked guile, and creativity in the final third, but neither side was willing to gamble, thus leading to an uneventful second half.

Conclusion

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Juventus’ poor run of form at the Stadio Olimpico continues in a match that possessed two distinct features. Lazio’s reactive approach contained Juventus for large portions of the match, but their transitions were disappointing. Meanwhile, Conte’s decision to play through Llorente in the second half nearly secured maximum points.

“We knew Juve came forward with one striker who’d flick it on for the other, so we worked on closing down those vertical lines. There’s also Arturo Vidal who moves down the right and Andre Dias was ear-marked to close down whoever went down that line,” Reja said.

“Perhaps we should’ve done better on the counter-attack. Marco Storari also performed some extraordinary saves.”

Buffon’s sending off changed the course of the game, but the likelihood of this match being a spectacle was very low, based on Reja’s approach. The draw leaves Roma six points behind the league leaders, and they’ll ironically meet Conte’s men at the Stadio Olimpico on the final day of the season, where Juventus can avenge last week’s shortcomings.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Juventus 3-0 Napoli

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Juventus sit one point behind league leaders Roma after a convincing victory over Napoli.

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Antonio Conte made two changes to the side that drew Real Madrid in midweek. Angelo Ogbonna joined Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli at centre back, while Mauricio Isla made an appearance as a right wingback.

Rafa Benitez assembled his side in a 4-2-3-1 with Gonzalo Higuain leading the line ahead of Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne. Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami formed the double pivot.

Two moments of individual brilliance may have put the match out of reach, but Juventus were terrific in and out of possession.

Juventus’ great start

Conte’s men started the match in a positive manner, which has been a recurring theme throughout the early part of this campaign.

Shockingly, it only took two minutes for the Bianconeri to take the lead. From an initial short corner, Pirlo squared a pass to Isla, and the Chilean’s deflected shot fell to Llorente – who was marginally offside – and the Spaniard tapped the ball into the net. Three minutes later, Pirlo received his cleared corner kick at the edge of the box, and the Italian received time and space to deliver a cross at the far post to Paul Pogba, who nodded the ball across goal to Bonucci, but Pepe Reina made an excellent save to deny the Italian.

It was an ideal start for Conte’s men – they created two legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, took the lead, and pegged Napoli into their own half, during the opening 10 minutes.

Napoli shape

To an extent, Napoli’s shape without the ball was the cause for Juventus’ first half dominance. In Napoli’s away matches against top-sides this season, Benitez’s men have been cautious, and focused on attacking teams on the counter. Here, they dropped too deep, and failed to limit Juve’s activity in the final third.

Higuain and Hamsik dropped off near Pirlo, allowing Bonucci, Barzagli and Ogbonna time on the ball. Benitez’s men allowed Juve’s centrebacks to push forward, and their wingbacks to advance higher up the pitch. Occasionally, Higuain and Napoli’s wide men would press Juve’s defenders, but that left Pirlo as a free outlet to receive the ball.

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Another odd feat was Napoli’s defensive approach towards the Italian maestro when he had the ball in Napoli’s half. No pressure was applied on Pirlo as he was allowed to spread passes to the advancing wingbacks.

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Coincidentally, Kwadwo Asamoah and Isla was Pirlo’s preferred outlet going forward. Napoli’s two banks of four were organized, but their shape lacked structure.  There was space between the lines for Juve to exploit and their press was non-existent, which allowed Conte’s men freedom to express themselves.

Juventus shape

Unlike Napoli, Juventus’ shape without the ball was simple, yet effective. Similar to Napoli’s approach, Tevez and Llorente preferred not to press Napoli’s centrebacks, as they stuck close to Behrami and Inler – preventing the midfield duo from receiving the ball. This left the Napoli fullbacks as the free outlets out wide, but Vidal and Pogba closed them down admirably, while Asamoah and Isla tracked Insigne and Callejon’s runs.

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Napoli failed to get the ball into Higuain, who was left isolated against Juventus’ three centrebacks, whereas Hamsik was unable to find space between the lines. Conte’s men nullified Napoli’s attacking threat by winning individual battles across the pitch, and limiting Hamsik’s space in the final third.

Another interesting feat was the dissimilarity in cohesion between both attacks. Juventus was fluid, their passing tempo was quick, and their utilization of wide areas was pivotal. Napoli struggled in wide areas against Arsenal at the Emirates a few weeks ago, and Conte’s men created their best chances from this source of attack, as they focused on isolating their fullbacks – while they may be great going forward, their defensive abilities are mediocre.

  1. 25th minute: Tevez received a pass from Pirlo between the lines and flicked a ball behind Christian Maggio to an unmarked Asamoah, but the Ghanaian’s shot hit the side netting.
  2. 38th minute: Vidal received a cross-field ball from Asamoah, and he played a defence splitting pass to the oncoming Isla. The Chilean delivered a sensational cross to Llorente, but Reina denied him at the near post.
  3. 65th minute: Pirlo spreads a pass to Isla on the right flank, and the Chilean squared the ball to Tevez on the edge of the box. Vidal’s movement led to Raul Albiol’s slip, and Tevez slipped the ball into the Chilean midfielder, but he scuffed his shot at the near post and it hit the side netting.

Juventus received several opportunities to increase their lead from wide areas, but great goalkeeping from Reina, and poor finishing kept Napoli in the match.

Napoli improve

There was a gradual lift in Napoli’s performance during the second half. Opposed to the first half, their work ethic improved when they lost the ball, as they instantly swarmed the Juventus defenders. Napoli pushed higher up the pitch, attempting to squeeze Conte’s men in their own half, and this led to their superiority in possession.

Nonetheless, Benitez’s men encountered the same issues in the second half, as they were unable to get behind the Juventus backline. But with Juventus sitting deeper, Hamsik’s movement enabled him to find gaps to exploit. Similar to the first half, Hamsik was forced to drop near the halfway line to receive the ball, and help Napoli push forward.

Hamsik passing vs Juventus

The Slovak international was neutralized in the first half, as he’s unable to influence the match from a deeper position. With Juventus 10-yards deeper, Hamsik found pockets of space to receive the ball and he attempted to overload wide areas, and penetrate in the final third.

  1. 63rd minute: Ogbonna failed to clear Pablo Armero’s cross and it fell to Hamsik – who snuck behind Pogba – but the Slovak’s shot towards the near post hit the side netting.
  2. 77th minute: Hamsik found space on the left flank, and played a splendid ball to Insigne – who made an intelligent run behind Barzagli – but Buffon saved Insigne’s shot at the near post.

Also, it’s key to point out Insigne’s attacking threat throughout the match. Whilst Napoli lacked invention and creativity in the final third, the Italian winger looked like the only player capable of snagging an equalizer. In the first half, he had two shots outside of the box that flashed inches of wide of the post and cross bar. Early on in the second half, he nearly beat Buffon with a promising curling free kick, but once again Buffon made a vital save. Insigne’s movement allowed him to get into great positions to threaten Juventus – the Italian was Napoli’s main attacking threat throughout the match but he was unable to beat Buffon when the opportunity was presented.

Benitez’s men improved in the second half with Hamsik and Insigne leading the charge, but Napoli’s standout performers lacked that extra bit of quality around the 18-yard box.

Tevez

Although he didn’t add to his six goals in 11 matches, Tevez continued to shine for the Bianconeri. He was arguably the man of the match as he produced another fantastic display behind Llorente. Tevez found space between the lines to receive the ball and link play with his teammates, he made intelligent runs into space to open up holes in the backline, and he swiftly dribbled past Napoli defenders with ease.

The Argentine has settled well in his role as the second striker as his movement in the final third to allow runners to attack behind him, and his ability to play intricate passes in tight spaces has seen Tevez develop into a significant cog in Juventus’ attack. Tevez became a nuisance towards Napoli’s backline, and Inler’s foul on him – which led to Pirlo’s fantastic free kick goal – displayed the threat the Argentine poses in the final third.

Pirlo and Pogba added two goals in seven minutes to put the match out of reach, but Tevez continued to display why he’s currently the best striker in Italy.

Conclusion

Juventus move within one point of league leaders Roma, but more importantly they displayed that they’re still favourites to lift their third consecutive Scudetto. They nullified Hamsik’s threat in the final third and their overall shape without the ball was impressive for large portions of the match. On the other hand Napoli’s poor shape, and work ethic without the ball allowed Juve’s wingbacks, Tevez and Pirlo space to thrive in. 

“We needed more possession and to be more dangerous, but above all to show the character and quality we knew we had,” Benitez said. 

“We know Pirlo has quality, but we can’t play an entire game just for one player. We knew it could be difficult, but we know that in future we can play as we did in the second half,” he added. 

Napoli improved in the second half, and although they’re undergoing a transitional period, their performances in big matches and Hamsik’s minimal influence shouldn’t be overlooked. Napoli’s role in the title race is unknown as the season is long, but this match highlighted the contrast in quality between the two title rivals.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Tottenham 3-1 Manchester City

Spurs keep their Champions League hopes alive as they score three goals in seven minutes to come from behind to defeat Manchester City.

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Andre Villas-Boas made three changes to his side that crashed out of the Europa League against Basel. Hugo Lloris replaced Brad Friedel in goal, Benoit Assou-Ekotto started at left-back over Kyle Naughton, and Gareth Bale returned from injury to push Lewis Holtby to the bench.

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Roberto Mancini made five changes to his lineup that defeated Wigan mid-week, introducing Edin Dzeko, Gael Clichy, Matija Nastasic, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner. Like Spurs, City played in a 4-2-3-1 that saw Carlos Tevez, Milner and Samir Nasri play behind Milner, while Yaya Toure partnered Gareth Barry in the midfield. David Silva was still sidelined due to injury, while Sergio Aguero was fit enough to play on the bench.

AVB’s tactical change with 30 minutes to play was the difference maker, as Spurs keep pace with Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Champions League football. City was the better side in the first half, but they strolled through the second, and were punished.

Tevez

Carlos Tevez was City’s most influential player in the first half, playing behind Dzeko. Tevez’ performance was identical to his first half performance against United; he found space in behind Dembele and Parker and he exploited it. The Argentine was the mastermind behind the first goal, which virtually came out of nothing. He played a pass to Milner between Scott Parker and Jan Vertonghen, and the English winger picked out Nasri, who tapped the ball into the open net.

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Tevez was drifting from flank to flank creating overloads with the wingers, running at defenders from deep positions and linking play with advancing runners. Tevez played in Nasri, and the Frenchman nearly doubled City’s lead but he slipped his shot wide of the net. Tevez was a man on a mission on the first half, and if he had kept playing at this level, City might have picked up three points.

City’s Shape vs. Spurs attack

Both sides pressed cautiously and allowed their opponent’s centre backs to push forward. Spurs occasionally pressed the City defenders, but it was mainly Emmanuel Adebayor and Bale who were looking to close them down.

AVB’s men enjoyed lengthy spells of possession throughout the match, and City was content with dropping into two banks of four and forcing Spurs to break them down. Nasri and Milner pressed Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker when they had the ball, as well as tracked their runs when they decided to push forward. Milner was another bright spot for City going forward, as he troubled Assou-Ekotto early on in the match, constantly skipping past him.

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Spurs struggled to create chances because both sides played quite narrow, leaving the centre of the pitch congested. When City won the ball they aimed to play through Dzeko, but the Bosnian striker was unable to cope with Vertonghen and Michael Dawson.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey drifting centrally, Assou-Ekotto and Walker were left to provide the width. Milner, known for his defensive work, did a great job on his flank, as did Nasri for the first 30 minutes, tracking superbly. Towards the end of the half, Walker was relishing 1v1 situations with Nasri and he provided a great ball that nearly led to the equalizer. Players such as Bale and Dembele were unable to find space to penetrate, and they struggled to create goal-scoring chances in the first half.

4-3-3

City made one change at half time, introducing Aleksandar Kolarov for James Milner, who picked up a knock. Late in the first half, Bale moved to the right flank, while Dempsey played behind Adebayor. The pattern of the first half continued at the start of the second, as Spurs held possession, with City sitting back. Mancini’s men were complacent on the ball and looked willing to contain their one goal advantage.

AVB introduced Holtby and Tom Huddlestone as Spurs switched to a 4-3-3. Huddlestone sat deeper, providing a passing outlet, while Dempsey and Holtby took turns dropping into the midfield. Space opened up in the midfield for Dembele to dribble into, and it left more space for Bale to attack higher up the pitch. Defoe’s movement off the ball also created space for the midfield three, Dempsey and Bale to exploit. Defoe’s introduction was logical, as the Englishman provided pace, and intelligent runs in behind defenders, something Adebayor failed to do.

Huddlestone and Dawson were now able to spray diagonal balls without pressure from deep positions, Holtby could thread passes into tight spaces, and Dembele’s dribbling led to more chances for Spurs. Huddlestone also did a better job in tracking Tevez’ runs, as the Argentine had no significant impact in the second half Dempsey’s goal was down to a great ball from Bale, but Dawson’s cross-field diagonal led to it. The final two goals stemmed from Spurs winning the ball and finding that decisive pass, due to the space available. Kompany should have gotten closer to Defoe on his goal, as the Englishman fired a superb strike past Hart.

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Mancini introduced Scott Sinclair for Dzeko and Joleon Lescott for Clichy in the final minutes, but his side was unable to fight back into the match. Mancini faced the same problems with Dzeko as AVB did with Adebayor, but he chose not to react, nor do we know if Aguero was fit to play.

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Dzeko and Adebayor ineffective

Conclusion

AVB’s tactical switch and substitutions paid off, facilitating Spurs’ comeback. City was in control of the match, but their intensity levels dropped, and Mancini was unable to react when Spurs went to a 4-3-3. Defoe provided movement and pace upfront,  Holtby and Huddlestone provided positive passes going forward and the tactical change suited Spurs, whereas Mancini’s men were unable to cope.

The win sees Spurs stay in the hunt for European football, as a loss would have dented their chances. They again struggled to break down teams that sit deep and minimize space in central areas. AVB’s tactical switch changed the game, and has now made their encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge massive. Spurs can only win their games and hope their opponents drop points, if they intend on playing Champions League football next season.

City’s loss ensures that a Manchester United victory against Aston Villa will clinch the Premier League title. During Mancini’s tenure, City has struggled to get results away from home, and have lost many matches in this manner. Questions will arise about Aguero’s inclusion on the team sheet as he wasn’t fit enough to get into the game. City failed to maintain their intensity for 90 minutes, and AVB tactically outcoached Mancini, in what may be the nail in the coffin on his time in England.

Three Stars

1.    Jan Vertonghen

2.    Gareth Bale

3.    Clint Dempsey

Tyrrell Meertins

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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea

Manchester City will return to Wembley for the second time in three years, as they defeated the reigning FA Cup champions Chelsea.

City vs Chelsea

Roberto Mancini made two changes to the side that defeated Manchester United earlier in the week. Costel Pantilimon returned to his FA Cup duties, as Joe Hart started on the bench. David Silva was unavailable as he picked up a knock in the derby game, which meant Sergio Aguero started upfront. Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri and James Milner played behind the Argentinian striker, while Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry played in midfield.

Chelsea - City

Rafa Benitez made seven changes to the side that lost to Rubin Kazan midweek in the Europa League. Demba Ba led the line, while Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard played behind him. John Obi Mikel joined Ramires in the midfield, while Ryan Bertrand and Branislav Ivanovic joined the back four.

It was a game of two halves, in which City capitalized on Chelsea’s defensive errors, but their complacency allowed Chelsea back into the match.

Pressing

City was the better side in the first half, and the way they pressed was pivotal to their dominance. City opted to press the midfield, and allow Ivanovic and Luiz time on the ball. This was a bit odd, because Luiz is one of the better distributors in the Chelsea squad, but nonetheless they were forced to spray long balls across the pitch. Most of the balls played from the back were unsuccessful, and when they attempted to play balls into the midfield, Barry and Toure were quick to close down Mikel and Ramires.

Chelsea approached the match in a similar manner to their league encounter at the Ethiad Stadium. It could’ve been based on the fact that it was quite effective, or that they were fatigued from their trip to Moscow midweek. Chelsea allowed Nemanja Nastasic and Vincent Kompany time on the ball, while Mata stepped closer to the City midfielder who dropped deeper to receive the ball. Barry and Toure took turns in doing this, and Mata’s half-hearted pressing was ineffective.

It’s still a mystery as to whether Mata is instructed to press the deep lying midfielders, or stay up the pitch to help launch possible counters. For all the positives Mata provides going forward, the Spanish midfielder rarely performs his defensive duties. To no surprise, Mata’s inability to close down Toure allowed the Ivorian to push forward and supply Nasri the pass that led to the first goal. Mata failed to track Toure’s powerful run, and no other player got close to the City midfielder.

Like the Chelsea centre backs, Kompany and Nastasic found it difficult to connect with Aguero. Aguero had one chance where he peeled off Luiz and collected Kompany’s pass, but Ivanovic’s last-ditch challenge, blocked the Argentinian’s shot.

Chelsea’s cautious approach

Chelsea sat in two narrow banks of four prior to conceding their second goal, which allowed City to dominate. Benitez played Oscar on the left to help Bertrand contain Milner and the advancing Pablo Zabaleta, while Hazard’s presence pegged Gael Clichy back, as the Belgian looked to exploit space behind Nasri.

Chelsea faced two problems going forward; the first problem was that they failed to get enough men forward on the counter, and when they did it was at a slow tempo. They allowed City’s midfielders to get in front of the ball and back into their shape, and Benitez’ men struggled to create chances.

Secondly, Ba was isolated, and Kompany and Nastasic dealt with the Senegalese striker easily. Chelsea sat deep in the midfield, and when Chelsea won the ball back, they failed to connect with Ba. Ba caused City’s defence a few scares, as balls were played over the top in which he got into dangerous areas, but the Senegalese striker was starved of service.

Aguero-Tevez

Manchester City possess the best striker duo in the league, but we’ve been unable to see them play together this season due to Aguero’s reoccurring injuries, and Mancini’s concern about defending set pieces. Nevertheless, the leagues best striker paired up with Tevez today, and they caused the Chelsea defenders nightmares.

The Argentinian duo was lively in the first half, as they constantly found space in between the lines to pick up the ball. The distance between the backline and Ramires and Mikel, was far too large, and the City strikers took turns dropping deeper to receive the ball. When Chelsea eventually grew into the game, the duo found more space, and received balls behind Chelsea’s midfield to break on the counter.

Aguero made runs into the left channel and often linked up with Tevez. Although, Tevez didn’t have his best game, his movement off the ball opened up space for Aguero to run into. Aguero loves to make darting runs behind defenders, and Ivanovic and Luiz struggled to cope with the Argentine striker. Aguero made these runs several times throughout the match, and it led to City’s second goal. Barry’s cross found the City striker in the second half, as Aguero peeled behind Ivanovic and Cech could only watch the Argentine’s header fly into the net.

City complacent – Pantilimon

Mancini’s men took their foot off the gas, when Aguero increased their lead, and it allowed Chelsea back into the match. Their pressing dropped, which allowed Mikel and Ramires to pick up the ball from deep areas and start plays. This pegged City back, and although they looked threatening on the break, they lacked quality in the final third.

City dropped deeper and deeper, and they relied on Pantilimon’s great save to deny Ba from six yards out. The Romanian goalkeeper also made a vital interception, to prevent Mata from rounding him, and equalizing the game. City defended until the final whistle, because they looked to preserve their lead, opposed to pushing forward to increase it.

Substitutions

Benitez decided to bring on Torres for Mikel when Chelsea grew into the game, and the Chelsea manager’s change paid off. Seconds after being introduced, Torres’ run caused the City defenders to allow the ball to drop and Ba acrobatically put the ball into the net. Nastasic and Kompany dealt with long balls easily as it was often 2v1, but Torres’ run dragged Kompany and he mistimed his header, allowing Ba to take his chance.

Torres played on the left, while Hazard stuck on the right, but found himself drifting to the left and Torres moving forward, towards the end of the match. Oscar played alongside Ramires in an attacking minded duo, and this left space for Azpilicueta to advance in, but the Spaniards deliveries were quite poor. Hazard and Mata dropped deeper into central areas to pick up the ball freely, and this provided Mata with space to have an impact on the game . Torres was also involved in a penalty shout, which was denied, when replays showed that Kompany was tugging on Torres’ shirt and it prevented him from being clear on goal.

Mancini introduced Javi Garcia for Tevez for more defensive cover in the midfield, and Toure pushed forward behind Aguero. Toure and Aguero received chances on the break, as Chelsea pushed number forwards, but the City players lacked the final ball. Lescott replaced Nasri to add more defensive cover, and City was able to hold on until the final whistle.

Conclusion

Manchester City was worthy winners on the day, and will take on Wigan in the final 27 days from now. Mancini will be upset that his side allowed Chelsea back into the match, but they capitalized on Chelsea’s mistakes and now have a legitimate chance of claiming silverware this season. Victories against Chelsea and United in the span of 6 days will look good on Mancini, and although City conceded their first goal of the competition, they remain undefeated in the FA Cup when Tevez is in the lineup.

Once again Chelsea’s cautious approach is unsuccessful against City, as the Blues fail to retain their coveted FA Cup crown. Although they were denied a penalty, and Aguero should have been sent off, their performance in the opening 50 minutes was poor. Benitez fails to add the FA Cup to his CV, but he still has the Europa League to focus on, along with getting his side into a Champions League position.

City was the better side for majority of the match, as Chelsea struggled to create chances, and only improved when City took their foot off the gas and Benitez introduced Torres.

Three Stars

1.    Sergio Aguero

2.    Yaya Toure

3.    Oscar

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow me @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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