Saturday, 22 October 2011

Brisbane 3-0 Gold Coast: Match Analysis

This was a frenetic contest between the two bitter Queensland rivals. Miron Bleiburg did his homework, learning the lessons from Central Coast's and Sydney's previous defeats to the Roar. Despite the unflattering scoreline, Gold Coast had quite threatening periods of play, especially in the first half, and are justified in feeling unlucky to concede three against their neighbours. The first goal was a case of weak defending at a set-piece, while the third goal was a result of carelessness in possession. The second goal was a fantastic effort by the Oranje; a superb through ball by Murdocca coupled with a determined run and clinical finish by Berisha. It was Rigters however, who was culpable in his defending.

Brisbane's System:
Postecoglou deployed the Roar in their customary 4-3-3/3-4-3, with Henrique in place of an admittedly unimpressive Meyer at right-wing. Smith and Jurman resumed their partnership in central defence, Theoklitos was between the sticks, with Franjic and Stefanutto advanced at right and left fullback. Broich and Nichols were paired in attacking midfield, with Berisha leading the line, and Issey at left wing.

Gold Coast's System:
Bleiburg deployed Gold Coast in an alterred 4-2-3-1 formation. Moss was custodian, Rozic was injured, so McGowan was shifted across from fullback to partner Thwaite in central defence, while Traore remained at leftback. Beekmans and Jungschlager formed a double pivot in central midfield. Halloran remained inverted at left wing, Brown was shifted central to attacking midfield, Macallister again led the line, with debutant Rigters narrow at right wing.

Alternating Press:
PM suggested, in the aftermath of Brisbane's proven ability to cope with Central Coast's conservative counter-attacking and Sydney's aggressive pressing, that perhaps the most advisable course in snatching a win against the Roar would be to alternate between the two, given the reigning champion's superior fitness.

In a way Bleiburg adopted this approach. He alternated the ferocity of Coast's pressing from a 'broken press' with the attacking four looking to simply deny the Brisbane back-three time on the ball, with the other six outfield players standing relatively off to an 'intense press' with the entire team pressing high, almost man-marking their opponents. It very nearly paid dividends, with Rigters and Macallister forcing saves from Theoklitos and rattling the wood work.

The pattern of the 1st half can be broadly divided thus; for the first 5 minutes, Gold Coast pressed intensely. From 5-20 minutes, Gold Coast used the broken press, with the four forward players looking to deny Brisbane's back-three time on the ball, with the Roar able to comfortably pass around them. For 20-40 minutes, Gold Coast pressed intensely again, and this was their best period of the game. In addition to the attacking four, Beekmans and Jungschlager pressed Nichols and Broich restricting their ability to come short and offer a free option. The Coast back-four maintained a higher line, compressing the field of play. During the intense press, Berisha and Issey should have worked harder off the ball. Brisbane, committed to playing out from the back, were very nearly caught out by errors in possession. Brisbane were put under intense scrutiny. During Gold Coast's intense press, Theoklitos was forced to clear the ball into touch, with Franjic, Stefanutto, and Broich and Nichols forced ever deeper to receive possession, further away from Coast's goal.

Direct play is not an antidote to the press:
Slater often remarked, during this match and the game between Central Coast and Gold Coast, that Brisbane and Central Coast would have done well to cease their attempts to build from the back, punt the ball long and play direct in order to circumvent the high press employed by Gold Coast in both instances.

Conceding to a press is probably the worst response; it is effectively allowing the opposition to dictate the terms of the game. The correct course is to use the opponent's press against them; compel them to chase your passes, keep it simple. Eventually, your opponents will tire and you will be able to capitalise. A comparison can be made between Brisbane and Heart; the latter team have conceded to opposition pressing, and found themselves unthreatening in open play, while the former have persisted in playing out from the back and are currently 31-games undefeated.

Brisbane's Fitness:
During the build-up to the season, all the media's focus was on the departures, new signings, and even PM specualted on new tactics such as a possible false nine. In fact, it appears that the most significant determinant of Brisbane retaining the title will be their physical fitness. Quite simply, the Roar look like the side in the best physical shape; they have been able to outlast their opponents attempts to press while maintaining their own. This is a huge failing by the other A-League clubs. This off-season was the longest in A-League history; there is simply no excuse for lacking physical capability.

Brisbane's Press:
The media's coverage has tended to focus on Brisbane's rival's attempts to press, but no one is yet to really highlight how much more effective Brisbane have become at winning the ball high up the pitch. The remarkable thing is how coordinated and committed the Oranje are; they harass the ball possessor in numbers, yet are never really caught out on the break.

Paartalu's Goal 13":
Early in the first half, Gold Coast demonstrated a willingness to commit professional fouls relatively higher up the pitch in order to disrupt Brisbane's passing rhythm. In quick succession, Beekmans fouled Henrique and then Broich who were making runs into dangerous positions. Beekman's second foul resulted in a yellow card. Broich delivered a lobbed free kick to the right post, ignoring the wall. Gold Coast's defending was terrible. Paartalu and Smith were left free to make runs, with McGowan and Thwaite caught out. Paartalu was given a free header, which he sent across Moss. Poor defending by McGowan, and Thwaite should have provided stronger organisation.

Berisha's Goal 60':
This was an outstanding effort by Brisbane, and a prime example of how effective possession football can drag defences out of shape. Prior to Berisha's finish, the Roar had kept possession for 26 passes, teasing and probing both the right and the left flanks. Immediately before this passage of play, Rigters had made a lung busting run out of his defence to start an attack, which might have explained why he was caught out.

Jurman received the ball from Paartalu, laid off to Broich who made a run into the inside left channel. Murdocca was free in space left of midfield, and received the ball from Broich. Murdocca spotted a gap between Rees and Thwaite and unleashed a pinpoint through ball to the left post. Berisha made a determined run outside of Thwaite, latched onto the ball and finished.

While Murdocca and Berisha performed incredibly well, Rigters being caught out of position was a major factor in the concession of this goal. He was a willing runner in the first half, but this was his first game in quite a while; naturally he was a little short on fitness. Rigters had drifted central to press Brisbane during their passing, but neglected the right flank, and remained in close proximity to Brown. Prior to this goal, Rigters was also guilty of twice neglecting the right flank, which allowed Murdocca, Broich and Stefanutto to exploit the empty space on the counter. The lack of pressure on the Roar's left flank was a crucial flaw in Gold Coast's defence that was exploted, and Rigters was directly responsible for that.

Nichol's Goal 77':
By this time, Gold Coast looked visibly tired, though not nearly as exhausted as the Sky Blues. So it was strange that it was Robson, who had fresh legs having been substituted on minutes earlier, who committed a cheap error. Robson was making a long lateral run in his own defensive third. When Nichols advanced to close him down, Robson made a careless back pass toward Thwaite. Paartalu was lurking nearby, and intercepted. At this point it was 2v1, Paartalu and Nichols v Thwaite. Paartalu slipped the ball to Nichols making a run to the right. Nichols, on the run, unleashed a superb shot which beat Moss at his near post. Poor decision making by Robson, ruthless play by Brisbane.  

McGowan was a victim of his own errors, replaced immediately after by Rees. The Hearts loanee found it hard going being assigned to mark Paartalu, who is a sigfnificant set piece threat.

Postecoglou sent on Murdocca and Danning before the 60' mark. Danning, a speedy runner, seemed unwilling to press and distinctly lazy off the ball. Murdocca on the other hand was a dynamo, moving ceaselessly to offer a passing option. At this point of time, with the Coast players beginning to run low on energy, Murdocca's willingness to run was a huge advantage.

This was an exciting match between the two Queensland clubs. The scoreline ultimately doesn't reflect that Gold Coast had periods of incisive play during the match, particularly during the first half, with Macallister and Rigters hitting the wood work and drawing saves from Theoklitos.

Bleiburg was quite clever in his tactics, and his alternating between an intense and broken press. Brisbane capitalised twice on poor Coast defending, but their second goal by Berisha and created by Murdocca was a beauty, with Rigters guilty in neglecting his right flank. Ultimately however, alternating the press is an admission of inferiority.

Player Rankings:
Brisbane | Gold Coast
10) Issey | Brillante
9) Henrique | McGowan, Robson
8) Stefanutto | Beekmans
7) Jurman, Danning | Thwaite
6) Smith | Jungschalger, Porter
5) Franjic | Traore, Rees
4) Berisha, Theoklitos | Halloran
3) Paartalu | Brown
2) Nichols, Murdocca | Macallister
1) Broich | Rigters

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