The first instalment of the fourth week of the UEFA Champions League Group Stages brings a common denominator: equality. Five of the eight games ended with a draw, three of them with two goals each and none of the teams being able to win at home. Convincing victories by PSG against Dinamo Zagreb and by Olympiakos who beat Montpellier 3-1 and on a lesser note Anderlecht, 1-0 against an unrecognisable Zenit. Then there was a goaless draw between Dynamo Kiev and Porto, a 1-1 draw for AC Milan-Malaga and 2-2 draws in the Real Madrid-Borussia Dortmund game, Manchester City-Ajax and Schalke 04-Arsenal. In total there have been 23 goals with a good average of three goals per game. Let´s now analyse some of the games and reach a few conclusions that can be published on this permanent football forum that is our website.
Real Madrid, 2–Borussia Dortmund, 2.
Both teams displayed a similar 1-4-2-3-1 formation but Götze, who played in attack behind Lewandowski, was positioned alongside the Polish striker in the defensive phase. Although the formations were similar the way both teams approached the game was different. Real Madrid tried to build play with Xabi Alonso and Modric in midfield but they couldn’t find Ozil between the lines due to the Dortmund’s disciplined defensive work with both holding midfielders working hard and their players in front also committed in defence.
With this game scenario and the lack of depth of both fullbacks, Real Madrid based their attacking options constantly switching play trying to exploit the diagonal runs of their wingers. The clearest chances in the first half were for Dortmund, launching quick counterattacks every time they regained the ball making the most of Lewandowski, Götze and Reus´ speed along with their fullbacks going forward. Dortmund were also a threat when they played long balls to Lewandowski. Their goals in the first half, scored by Reus and Götze, arrived precisely in this way (which takes us again to the debate about the convenience of playing direct or with a passing style). In the meantime Pepe scored the first for Real Madrid with a header after a corner.
In the second half the game completely changed as Real Madrid played with more intensity. Essien and Callejon entered the pitch and Real Madrid started to gain control and threaten Dortmund’s goal thanks to Callejon, Di Maria and Özil´s mobility. Later on Kaka came in increasing Real’s attacking options and they had some chances to level the game but the equaliser didn’t arrive until the last minutes of the game when Özil converted a free kick.
AC Milan, 2-Malaga CF, 2.
A draw in San Siro in a game in which both teams had their chances and left Malaga in a privileged position to get to the knock out stages. The Spanish team had more ball possession from the beginning and look like they could be serious contenders in the competition.
For their part, AC Milan found it hard as they conceded first and then had to replace Abate for De Sciglio. Both teams displayed a similar formation (1-4-2-3-1), although Malaga were more offensive with Eliseu and Joaquin playing high alongside Saviola also with Isco very participative and commanding the attack playing close to the holding midfielders, Iturra and Camacho. The latter did an extraordinary job protecting their centerbacks, giving balance to the team and allowing their offensive players to go forward. With these ingredients, Malaga appeared a team with order, high work rate and quality. The Italians positioned their holding midfielders at different levels, and Bojan played alongside Pato but coming to the half pitch to receive the ball.
After half time AC Milan changed into a 1-4-4-2 in an attempt to press higher and with more intensity, which obliged Malaga to sit back and intensify their defensive work. The Italians tried to move the ball quicker but it was difficult for them to penetrate through the middle. Instead, they were more dangerous through the left wing, and from a cross delivered by Constant from that side Pato scored the equaliser. In the end a draw wasn’t a surprise.
Overall the first instalment this week leaves Malaga continuing to make history, virtually classified for the knock out stages along with Porto, and perhaps PSG who share the group with the Portuguese team. The others depend on the remaining last two games and this is just the beginning. Today, Wednesday, we have the second instalment of the week with a good bunch of interesting games which will be commented on here if you would like to join us.
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