Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gold Coast 1-1 Wellington: Match Analysis

This was a match between two clubs with broadly similar systems; 4-2-3-1's, but vastly different interpretations. Gold Coast and Wellington had spells of dominance, with the biggest influence on ascension being the performance of the respective fullbacks; it's no coincidence Gold Coast's best spells during the game coincided with Traore overlapping and attacking Paston, while Wellington's advantageous passages of play coincided with Muscat advancing into midfield.

Herbert has endured well publicised struggles in the off-season; the financial troubles of the Phoenix seem to be solved, but Herbert was only able to reach the minimum complement of players days before the season proper. He set out the Nix in a 4-2-3-1; Sigmund and Durante resumed their partnership in defence, Lockhead and Muscat were at left and right fullback (or lateral), Lia and Brown were paired together in the double pivot. Herbert was able to call upon a delicious looking attacking trident, with Bertos on the left, Ifill on the right and debutant Dani Sanchez as a trequartista, behind Englishman Chris Greenacre as the target man. It was a fairly conventional strategy by the Kiwis; balls from midfield generally were played to Sanchez, who looked to release Bertos and Ifill on the flanks, to cross for the lone striker.

Sanchez was quite effective as the main conduit of attack; his passing was well weighted and perceptive. It was quite unfortunate he was injured; if he continues to improve, I'd expect him to be subjected to quite a few more professional fouls a la Broich. Greenacre was just dominant in the air; he won the vast majority of his aerial duels, and used his physical presence to hold the ball up well, releasing Ifill and Bertos. Muscat was probably the most influential Wellington player on the pitch, and it was his good work that created the Nix's solitary goal. Paston was immense between the sticks, his superb saves bailing Wellington out of trouble with Traore and Brown through on goal. I'm still surprised he wasn't snapped up by a J or K-League club after his World Cup heroics.

Greenacre's goal:
A long ball from Moss to a very advanced Traore was intercepted by Muscat. Muscat advanced into the vacant space; with Sanchez and Greenacre in front, it was 3v3 against the rest of Coast's back-four. Muscat laid off to Sanchez and continued his run up the right. Sanchez dribbled, delivered a through-ball back to Muscat, who drilled a cross to the far-post for Greenacre to latch onto. Thwaite was probably culpable in letting Muscat free.

Gold Coast:
Bleiburg set the Gold Coast out in a 4-2-3-1. Thwaite and debutant Rozic were paired in defence. Traore was at left fullback (lateral) with loanee McGowan opposite at right. Beekmans, Robson and Jungschlager formed a fluid midfield trio; all three rotated and spent time at the tip or the base of the triangle during the game. Brown, Halloran and Macallister were the attacking trio. Halloran and Brown, as central attackers played narrow, with Traore and McGowan meant to provide the width. It's no mistake that Gold Coast's poorer spells coincided with timidity from Traore and McGowan to advance.

The overall strategy was vastly different; Coast played very central, looking to string together passing combinations before Wellington's box, before putting a runner through on goal. It worked broadly speaking; Traore, Robson and Brown were put through on goal several times. Coast would have scored more if not for the stellar work of Paston.

Brown's goal:
This goal came after a sustained period of Coast possession, but it was largely the work of Brown capitalising on poor Nix defending. Traore advanced into midfield, laid off to Brown who was shifted to right-back (lateral). Brown wrong-footed and jinked past his opposition name-sake. Durante was at fault for not closing down quickly enough, allowing the younger Coast Brown time and space to measure his shot. Credit to Brown though, as the song goes "Ohhhh, what a finish!".

Poor Wellington. Injuries now to Pantelis and Pavlovic have ended their season, while having Paston, Sanchez and Ifill on the treatment table is nothing short of disastrous. Gold Coast performed well at times, when their fullbacks got forward; essential when playing with narrow forwards on the wings.

Note on the kits: C'mon Wellington, enough with the plain white away. Heart have got the stylish River Plate sash, Victory have got the garish fluro, even Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane have got sexy black. Pick up your game.

Player Rankings:
Gold Coast | Wellington
10) Thwaite | Lockhead
9) McGowan | Durante
8) Rozic | Brown
7) Jungschlager | Lia
6) Beekmans | Sigmund
5) Halloran | Ifill
4) Macallister, Porter | Bertos
3) Robson | Greenacre
2) Traore | Muscat
1) Brown | Sanchez, Paston

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