Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Pep Guardiola’s wider view gave Bayern Munich fresh supply against Porto

After a flat performance in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, Guardiola’s side capitalised on Porto’s narrow formation to punish them out wide
• Second leg match report: Bayern 6-1 Porto
Thomas Müller scores Bayern Munich’s fourth goal as the shot deflects off the defender boot to get past the goalkeeper.
 Photograph: Craig Mercer/ActionPlus/Corbis
Bayern Munich’s preparations for the two-leg Champions League quarter-final had been severely compromised by the absence of the wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry through injury. In the first leg, the Porto coach, Julen Lopetegui, responded by ordering his side to be narrow and compact in defence, conceding space down the flanks. Pep Guardiola used a narrow system, with Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Mario Götze close together in a 4-3-1-2 system.
Bayern were incredibly flat and deservedly lost 3-1.

Here, Porto played even narrower. With the excellent Brazilian full-backs Danilo and Alex Sandro suspended, Lopetegui was forced to field a quartet of natural centre-backs. So Guardiola dramatically changed his formation. Bayern lined up in something close to a 4-4-2: Philipp Lahm was a standard right-winger, motoring along the touchline and combining with the right-back Rafinha, while Götze drifted inside from the left to allow Juan Bernat to overlap. The midfield duo of Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcântara sprayed passes out wide, while Lewandowski and Müller waited in the centre for crosses. Sure enough, plenty of crosses arrived.

It was an incredibly simple strategy but also highly effective. The opener came when Bernat crossed for Thiago’s near-post header, then Jérôme Boateng nodded home from a corner to put Bayern in command.
Bayern Munich’s Mario Götze and Philipp Lahm started in wide positions, while Juan Bernat and Rafinha regularly overlapped. Photograph: Graphic
But while this crushing 6-1 victory owed much to width and crossing, it was nevertheless unmistakably the performance of a Guardiola side. The third goal, yet another header, epitomised the two aspects of Bayern’s display: the traditional passing dominance, and the unusual emphasis on crossing.

It was a outstanding goal which featured 26 passes – the most of any goal in this season’s Champions League – flowing through all 10 outfield players. Bayern retained the ball for 75 seconds, teasing Porto with patient buildup, before four first-time touches ripped apart Porto: Thiago’s chipped, curling crossfield ball allowed Lahm to volley in a cross that Müller astutely helped on to Lewandowski, who headed home. So much for keeping the ball on the deck: this was a Champions League version of a playground headers-and-volleys goal.

Lopetegui recognised how his players were suffering out wide – his three substitutions involved removing right-back Diego Reyes, then wingers Ricardo Quaresma and Yacine Brahimi, who had impressed with their first-leg pressing, but here found themselves unable to get out of their own half, pushed back aggressively by Rafinha and Bernat. It’s worth remembering that, at this point last season, Guardiola instructed his full-backs to push into the centre of midfield as Bayern overcame Manchester United – here, they were hugging the touchline all evening.

A score of 6-1 was entirely fair. This was 21-3 on shots, 10-1 if you consider only shots on target. The scoreline was less important than the fact Bayern learned their lessons from the first leg, adapted their approach and were absolutely rampant. The rest of Europe should be terrified.
The Guardian

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