Up to 35 goals were scored in the second set of this week´s UEFA Champions League Group Stage games. The number of average goals scored increased to four goals per game. It was a night full of action representative of what we often see in this continental competition with comfortable victories for Bayern over Lille (6-1), Juventus against Nordsjaelland (4-0) and the splendid Valencia in their game against Bate Borisov (4-2). Chelsea beat Shaktar in a game with many alternatives and Benfica beat Spartak Moscow (2-0). The surprise came from Celtic who beat Barcelona (2-1); and this time we also had some away victories with Galatasaray beating FC Cluj and lastly Manchester United beating Braga. It was an interesting night which we will now partially analyse. On with a couple of games.
Celtic Glasgow, 2-FC Barcelona, 1.
Somehow, the script was quite similar to the one we saw two weeks ago at Nou Camp. Barcelona had much ball possession and played most of the time around Celtic’s box. In the first half they had some clear chances to score, hit the post twice and moved the ball quick for long periods trying to find the right option to penetrate Celtic’s defence. Both fullbacks, especially Jordi Alba, provided depth and width in attack. Celtic, for their part, sat back with two lines of four and tried to stop Alexis and Pedro in the wide areas –always a threat in one v one challenges- with Mulgrew and Commons helping their fullbacks out. Celtic’s only threat in attack arrived from set pieces, with Samaras as their target man. Celtic’s first goal precisely arrived from a corner when Wanyawa headed the ball in the second post to the back of the net.
In the second half Barcelona insisted on the same game plan but they couldn’t break through Celtic’s defence as they were well organised with the mentioned two lines of four in front of their box. Alexis, who played more in the middle, and Messi were a constant threat going inside from the right wing with his typical diagonal runs. Chances to score were less than in the second half and Foster was always brave saving those ones from Pedro, Alexis and Messi. However, it was Watt who scored the second for Celtic finishing a long ball from Foster after a defensive error by Barcelona. In the last minute Messi put the 2-1 on the scoreboard after a great combinative play inside the box, but time was running out and Celtic achieved an important victory. Barcelona had 89% ball possession and made a total of 955 passes, whilst Celtic had 11% possession and made 166 passes. Many factors influence the final result in a football game and that is what makes it such an attractive game.
In conclusion, we saw something that sometimes happens to Barcelona. As they don’t play with a classic centerforward the crosses they deliver from wide areas are not effective if their wingers don’t get to the byline. Also their penetrations through the middle have to be extremely precise to be successful as they always face a crowded defence in central areas which increases the risk of counterattacks when they lose the ball as the team is open.
Bayern, 6-Lille, 1.
Bayern beat Lille in a game where the French were far from the level they normally display in the French League. Bayern displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, with Javi Martinez closer to the centerbacks and Schweinsteiger playing a bit higher with more freedom. Ribery and Robben in wide areas went constantly inside creating space for the fullbacks to go forward. In front Pizarro, and Muller behind him, were always a threat. For their part Lille displayed a 1-4-3-3 that converted into a 1-4-1-4-1 in defence.
Just after 28 minutes Lille were 4-0 down, unable to stop Bayern’s quality and intensity. Two goals arrived from set pieces (one from a great free kick taken by Schweinsteiger) and two from open play, showing the many alternatives Bayern had in attack. Lahm went constantly forward providing width and depth which caused big problems for Lille’s defence. At the end of the first half the French were 5-0 down with their goalkeeper being the best man on the pitch.
In the second half the game lost some intensity. Kalou scored a great goal for Lille and Kroos converted the last for Bayern finishing another assist from Lahm.
Bayern Munchen displayed most of the virtues they showed last season: quality players in front and many different attacking resources to break through rivals’ defences. Also the depth of their squad is vital to be able to keep the strength they are showing both in the Champions League and the Bundesliga.
Overall, Manchester United has secured a place in the knock out stages whilst in the rest of the groups there is much to be decided. In Group E a difference of one point exists for a place between three candidates, these include FC Bayern and Valencia without forgetting Bate Borisov and in Group G Barcelona will need one point to avoid a scare. Perhaps it will be in the following week, what will be the fifth round, that we will see confirmed places for the knock out stages of this UEFA Champions League. We will report it from here too. See you then.
For results and tables of the Champions League, click on the next image: