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04
Oct 2012
16:51
Promising average scoreline, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

Champions League second week has finished with 8 games that were played yesterday afternoon/evening. If we compare with Tuesday’s games with 24 goals in total, an average of three per game, yesterday’s figure was higher at 26 goals in total. That said, and relating to what was written yesterday in this website, there were three home victories, two draws and three away victories. Now let’s look at these games in more detail.

Dynamo Kyiv, 2- GNK Dinamo, 0.

Let’s start with the first game in group A where both ‘Dynamos’ faced each other. On the pitch they displayed the same initial formation, 1-4-2-3-1, although it wasn’t interpreted in the same way. Dynamo Kyiv always found Miklalik to build up play, they positioned their back four high on the pitch with two solid holding midfielders and both wingers played wide to then go inside creating big problems for GNK Dinamo’s defence. With this set up they controlled the game and had more ball possession. After scoring the first goal they played a bit deeper but with their substitutions they were able to keep the pace. If they were to continue playing with the same intensity and keep being as solid in defence as they were last night they will have good a chance of reaching the next stage.

The Croatian side, for their part, were quite predictable during the whole game but it is fair to say that it wasn’t easy at all to play against Dynamo Kyiv last night. In attack they tried to surprise their rivals with both fullbacks going forward as their players between the lines were playing mostly through the middle. Especially Vida, one of their fullbacks, was a constant threat for Dynamo Kyiv’s Taiwo. The good understanding between Kovacic and Sammir constituted their main threat in attack, but maybe the team relied too much on them. GNK Dinamo always tried to play the ball on the ground but they lacked accuracy in front of goal.

Porto, 1-PSG, 0.

Tight win for the Portuguese side in a very attractive and interesting game with talented players on the pitch. Both teams displayed an offensive 1-4-3-3 formation, trying to build up play from behind, keeping ball possession and trying to control the game.

Porto moved the ball quickly and with accuracy whilst PSG also tried to pass the ball quickly but they lost it quite easily as a result of intense pressing by Porto. The local team started the game pressing high with the back four also high on the pitch, leaving spaces behind the defence that PSG tried to exploit with Ibrahimovic’s clever movements and passes from Verrati.

During the whole of the first half Porto players’ mobility was outstanding, especially Varela and James Rodriguez widening the pitch to beat players on the wide areas or going inside. In defence they showed great discipline quickly recovering their initial set up after losing the ball and forming in many occasions a compact line of 5 midfielders. Also their fullbacks went forward with determination creating more problems for PSG who eventually needed to defend with greater numbers than usual.

After half time things didn’t changed that much, and Porto kept on pressing with intensity although a bit deeper trying to launch counterattacks. PSG wanted to have more ball possession at the same time that they wanted to go forward with velocity trying to get to Helton’s goal with just few passes. Verrati, one of the most in form players for PSG couldn’t get too involved in the game probably as a result of the lesser ball possession if compared to their usual standards in their domestic Championship. Sakho, who replaced Alex, was instead very important for his team defending with intensity and concentration. As the game progressed both teams found greater difficulties in keeping their defensive shape and maintaining the pace, especially PSG. It was a shame to see how Lavezzi, who had joined the pitch in place of Menez, had to be substituted for Pastore after getting injured. In the 83 minute James Rodriguez scored the winner for Porto and PSG were unable to change the scoreline.

Schalke 04, 2-Montpellier, 2.

Schalke 04 faced Montpellier with some changes to their eleven starters after their important win against Olympiakos in the previous week. They displayed a 1-4-4-2 formation, with Holtby in midfield and Pukki as second striker. Montpellier for their part were well organised displaying a 1-4-2-3-1 formation, combining long balls to Camara, well defended by Howedes and Papadopoulos, with phases of positional attack trying to create superiority on wide areas, especially on the right with Cabella, was always very active. It was precisely him who assisted Ait-Fana to score one of the best goals of the week with a curled shot that went past Unnerstall to hit the back of the net.

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Schalke 04 soon replied and in the 26th minute Draxler scored the equaliser beating Jourdren after a great assist from Huntelaar. Before that goal Draxler already had few clear chances to score. With a draw on the scoreboard both teams began to worry more about not making errors than scoring a second goal.

In the second half the match scenario changed when Montpellier’s Bocaly was sent off –he also got injured in that play- after committing a penalty on Draxler. Huntelaar took the penalty and scored the second for Schalke 04. With 2-1- down, Montpellier introduced some changes: Congre entered the pitch as a right fullback, Camara dropped his position to the left wing and Tinhan was left in front. With one more man on the pitch Schalke 04 started to control the game and changed into a 1-4-2-3-1, with Farfan and Affelay on the wings and Holtby behind the striker. In the last minutes of the game the German side had some clear chances to score but missed them, and it was Camara, in one of the few counterattacks Montpellier had in the second half, who beat Unnerstall to get the equaliser on the scoreboard and a valuable point from the Veltins Arena.

Arsenal, 3-Olympiacos, 1.

Olympiacos visited the Emirates with the hope of getting their first point in the group stages. Wenger played Gervinho in front with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and Podolski on the left. In midfield Arteta and Coquelin connected with Cazorla to drive the Gunner’s attack. Olympiacos changed their formation with regard to the previous week game and displayed a 1-4-1-4-1, with Siovas between the lines trying to especially stop Cazorla. During the first half and hour of the match Arsenal were in complete control of the game with ball possession close to 70%, playing most of the time in the opposite pitch and creating superiority in wide areas thanks to the runs of both fullbacks, Jenkinson and Gibbs. Olympiacos sat back in their own pitch waiting for the Gunners to come and then launch quick counterattacks with Mitroglou and their second line players. But Arsenal slightly decreased the intensity of their pressing and the Greeks started to find more spaces and tried to go a bit forward, creating the first clear chance of the game when Machado missed the target after a good assist from Maniatis. At the end of the first half both teams scored. First it was Gervinho for the Gunners with a shot from outside the box that surprised the goalkeeper. In added time Mitroglou scored the equaliser heading to the back of the net a ball delivered from the left by Greco.
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The second half started with a more offensive Olympiacos. They tried to press the Gunners in their own pitch recovering quickly their defensive shape to avoid Arsenal’s dangerous counterattacks. For their part Arsenal were finding it hard to create chances, but with players of such quality as Cazorla, Gervinho or Podolski it just was a matter of time before they scored the second, and it was Podolski who did so after an assist from Cazorla. As the game progressed Olympiacos lost intensity and Arsenal had more spaces. Walcott replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain and also Giroud and Ramsey entered the pitch. Jardim also made some changes in an attempt to have more solutions in attack and Abdoun, Ibagaza and Pantelic came in, but eventually it was Ramsey who scored the third beating Megyeri with quality to put the definitive 3-1 on the scoreboard.

Zenit 2, -AC Milan, 3.

Zenit (1-4-3-3) started the game making some errors in defence that cost them two goals in just 16 minutes. Although they had quality players on the pitch and showed great attitude they couldn’t control the game especially at the beginning. For their part AC Milan displayed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation. They started controlling the match and soon made the most of it when Emanuelson scored from a set piece. El Shaarawy and also Emanuelson were a constant threat in wide areas at this stage of the game.

Zenit reacted in the second half and Shirokov scored in the 49th minute converting a corner kick taken by Hulk to the back post. They levelled ball possession rate (50%), showed more control of the game and their second line players were much more dynamic, especially Shirokov. Hulk’s individual plays and the runs of both fullbacks contributed to the improvement of the team in this second half.

AC Milan sat back with a crowded defence waiting to regain the ball to launch quick and effective counterattacks, and in one of them Hubocan scored an own goal when deflecting a cross. In the last minutes of the game Zenit tried to play long balls but Allegri introduced Yepes on the pitch in the 80th minute playing with a defence of five which helped to effectively control Zenit’s direct play.

In the end, both teams showed quality but it was AC Milan who were more clinical in attack and more balanced in defence.

Anderlecht, 0-Malaga, 3.

Massive victory for Malaga who continue making history as first time participants in the Champions League. The start of the game was quite even, with Anderlecht (1-4-2-3-1) well organised, trying to build up play (especially with Biglia), with quality players like Kanu between the lines and with dangerous wingers. But gradually they started to become more vulnerable as Malaga demonstrated to be a better team overall.

Malaga were always balanced in defence, well organised and with both holding midfielders, Iturra and Camacho, working very hard. At the same time they kept the right distance between the lines, pressed effectively on the opposite pitch and won most second balls, like in the goal scored by Eliseu after a corner kick. Monreal, the left fullback, had gone forward with determination and was always a constant threat for Anderlecht. Isco and Eliseu between the lines, starting wide to get inside, plus Joaquin as second striker and Saviola in front showed great mobility and attacking potential.

The general feeling after the game was that Malaga, playing like they did, can be between the best in Europe, whilst Anderlecht wasn’t able to show the same intensity as against AC Milan in the previous match.

Manchester City, 1-Borussia Dortmund, 1.

Everyone expected an exciting game between the English and German champions and they didn’t disappoint. Manchester City started the game with a 1-4-4-2 formation, with both fullbacks (Clichy and Zabaleta) very high and wide in an attempt to create numerical superiority in attack with the presence of Nasri and Silva between the lines when they were in possession of the ball. Dortmund waited in their own half but not too deep, letting City’s players to keep the ball. Their system (1-4-2-3-1) was quite balanced, with Bender working hard in the midfield and many offensive players in their second attacking line who, plus Gundogan, surrounded Lewandowski. In defence they recovered quickly their position after losing the ball.
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City didn’t move the ball quickly enough to surprise the German midfielders as they were effectively cutting penetrating passes to Nasri and Silva, forcing City to play long balls behind a German defence that kept playing quite high so the English forwards were often caught offside. In the first half we have to mention Javi Garcia’s injury, who had to be replaced by Rodwell although it didn’t affect the way City approached the game. For its part, Dortmund was well organised regaining the ball and launching dangerous counterattacks. They had clear chances every time they got into the spaces left by City’s fullbacks, always very high, and also when they could play with Lewandowski who was very active creating necessary spaces for the second line players, Reus, Blaszczykowski and Götze. It was Hart’s accurate saves and the crossbar that stopped them from scoring more goals.

As for Manchester City, they were able to create some chances when Silva and Aguero got the ball near Dortmund’s penalty area beating the strong German centerbacks with their quick movements. The first half could have easily finished with a couple of goals for each team but it didn’t.

In the second half things got worse for the home team. Dortmund grew in confidence and combined counterattack with positional play creating dangerous chances. Their fullbacks often went forward widening the pitch, letting their inside players combine with each other and also playing to wide areas in order to get to the penalty box and create numerous chances making Hart the best player of the game. Curiously, they didn’t score in any of those clear chances and it was Reus who scored the first for the German side after cutting Rodwell’s pass to Nastasic and beating Hart. The goal arrived minutes after Mancini decided to change to a defence of three. Kolarov replaced Nasri and they played Nastasic, Kompany and Clichy in defence. However, it can’t be said that decision had something to do with the way they conceded the goal.

City then changed again into a defence of four as Dortmund were superior and in control of the game. But in the last minutes, when it seemed that the Germans were going to get the 3 points, Balotelli, who had replaced Clichy just minutes before, converted a penalty kick made by Subotic.

Whether the penalty was fair or not will be of great debate in many forums, but at the moment there aren’t many doubts about how impressive Dortmund were last night at the Etihad Stadium and how alongside Madrid they are favourites to qualify for the next round.

Ajax, 1-Real Madrid, 4.

Straight forward victory by Real Madrid in Holland. Ajax weren’t able to stop Real Madrid, who were always comfortable on the pitch and Ajax didn’t press their midfield letting Xabi Alonso play and Kaka always finding spaces behind their midfielders.

Ajax displayed a 1-4-3-3 formation, with Vermeer as their best player yesterday on the pitch. They never seemed to be a threat for Real Madrid, and it was just after conceding the second goal that they tried to react. For their part Real Madrid displayed a versatile 1-4-2-3-1, pressing high and controlling the game completely, with quick transitions that ended up with a hat trick by Ronaldo, his first hat trick in the Champions League.

Now we will take a break and give way to, amongst other things, the international games and in a few weeks time we will return and comment more on this exciting competition that is the Champions League.

For results and tables of the Champions League, click on the next image:
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