FC Porto has won the first leg of his battle against Bayern Munich, 3-1 with an impressive performance.
Obviously the unexpected win is impressive on its own, but the performance which leads to that win is even more stunning.
If you read to the end, you will find an overviewing video at the end of the article!
According to me systems are definitely not a key feature in football but it’s still important to take a minute to look on starting teams :
Bayern were barely forced to use a diamond midfield since his unstoppable wingers were missing.
The build-up was set on a 1-3-3-1-2 with Xabi Alonso who dropped between centre-backs and fullbacks who pushed forward.
Porto had to deal with Tello’s injury but they could rely on Jackson Martinez who was surprisingly fit to start the match.
As it was expected, Bayern took control of the ball since the very beginning. However even if we could expected that Porto may respond by a high pressing, no one imagined that their pressing was going to blow up Bayern Munich.
Indeed after only 8 minutes the home side already led the match by 2 goals both resulted from a high pressing and a ball steel in Bayern’s first line feet. Two major mistakes from Xabi Alonso and Dante which are nevertheless quite reliable players.
Was it just a night off for Bayern? Or these mistakes were they provoked by a smart pressing?
A perfectly prepared plan
If you didn’t look the game and just had a look on the highlights, I’m pretty sure that you were horrified by errors committed by Bayern’s first line. Obviously these kind of deadly possession losses must not exist if you want to bring home the trophy.
But it’s unfair to give first line the full responsibility of the defeat, and even more unfair to not notice the amazing work made by Porto.
Indeed from the very beginning of the game the plan set-up by Lopetegui was obvious. It can be summarize with these individual tasks for each player :
- Jackson Martinez : Man-marking on Xabi Alonso. Don’t let him run the game.
- Oliver Torres : Almost man-marking on Lahm. If he drops you first make sure central compactness and them push quickly on him. Don’t let him run the game.
- Hector Herrera : Almost man-marking on Thiago. If he drops you first make sure central compactness and them push quickly on him. Don’t let him run the game. Can press Dante if trigger is spot on.
- Wingers : Block the half-space when ball is central. Block your fullback if he has the ball. If you are on far side, man mark the midfielder next to you (Example: Quaresma on Thiago if Rafinha has the ball). You can press the nearest centre-back if trigger is spot on.
- Casemiro : Don’t let Gotze free if he is in your zone. If he isn’t, block central forward passes.
- Defensive line : Do not get disorganized. Don’t follow forwards when they drop in midfield.
That sounds simplistic isn’t it? Nevertheless it represents almost wholly what was done by FC Porto. Indeed there’re a couple of pressing triggers added to these individual tasks.
I’ve mentioned two triggers in the list, because they were the two main variations noticed during the match. But there are certainly other variations set-up by Lopetegui.
The first one allows Hector Herrera to press Dante if the team is enough compact behind him. This run is probably triggered by Casemiro order. The fact « enough compact » is checked if the whole team is on the same half of the field (excepted left winger and full-back).
The second variations is about wingers press on Bayern centre-backs. When a midfield play a square pass to the opposite centre-backs, a winger can close down this centre-back.
Don’t worry there will be a video in the end, I’m aware that it’s hard to imagine that with juste a text explanation.
What did Bayern Munich to counter that plan?
Obviously every plan can be counter, and the Porto’s one don’t break the rule. But Guardiola lack of options on the bench to make huge changes, because of numerous injuries. After 15 minutes he asked to Lewandowski to drag Casemiro out, in order to free Gotze. This worked quite well but remain useless since the Bayern first line had lost all its confidence. Then they hardly be able to use numerical superiorities created behind the Porto midfielders.
An other way to solve the problem was to simply play like they always do. The positional play aims to create some numerical superiorities on the field by moving the opponent thanks to ball moves. Even in this atrocious game they succeeded to create some superiorities behind the pressure line but they still lack confidence to exploit these.
They could also use the Dante’s freedom to go through Porto’s lignes with the ball. Yes I’m sure that you guess the following! Dante lacks confidence to exploit his freedom.
You aren’t able to imagine actions? Thanks god, there’s a video!
As usual I like to end the analysis with a film. You’ll find in it some examples of each point I’ve mentioned in the article.
As you can see I’ve add some examples to show that the Porto plan wasn’t sustainable for 90 minutes. Indeed therefore Herrera and Torres struggled to follow Lahm and Thiago movements, Porto was in danger with a medium/high block (1st half). In the 2nd half they smartly accept to « park the bus » instead of staying quite high on the pitch with gaps in the block because of exhaustion.
Thanks to their midfielders domination they didn’t concede many opportunities.
We love football for that!
Because football can be surprising! And even more than surprising, you can win in football if you work well. Indeed even if Porto have been undoubtedly « lucky » by scoring 2 goals so quickly, they weren’t just lucky. They granted their realism because they prepared a plan and then executed it perfectly.
The 2nd leg is very promising. Bayern might have some new options (width with Ribéry and/or Robben, mobility with Schweinsteiger instead of Xabi Alonso) and they will play to win.
On the other side Porto will come in Germany full of confidence, and perhaps with a new blueprint?
Anyway I will definitely not miss this match! Will you?