Tuesday, 22 October 2013

9 points on Adelaide 2-2 Victory

The latest instalment of the league's most volatile fixture ended with the Victory clawing back to level terms to depart Hindmarsh with a share of the spoils. All in all, this contest was not decided by clever tactical flourishes, but through fitness and momentum. 

Line-ups after Bowles substituted on 20' minutes. 
Gombau, a Barcelona devotee, named an initially cautious line-up. Nominall left back Zullo was pushed up to left wing, Elrich was switched from right to left fullback to cover, with defender Bowles at right back. Seemingly a minor switch regarding defensive responsibilities, it had implications for how Adelaide attacked. With Ferreira on the right, the Reds had two wide players performing traditional winger roles; using their pace to take on their opposing fullback and whip in crosses. Nowadays, more often than not, players who are described as 'wingers' are not actually in this mould; the ideal being physically slight, tricky dribblers and clever passers like David Silva or Marcos Reus, or they are deployed as wide forwards attacking goal like Pedro Rodriguez or Cristiano Ronaldo. (Exceptions of course being Antonio Valencia and Jesus Navas, but they are almost always balanced out by the other wide player stationed narrowly). The slightly retro method of play was not ineffective; Zullo slung in two or three telling crosses, and Lustica made some promising late charges into the box to latch onto them. 

However twenty minutes in, injury forced Gombau's hand. Bowles came off, and to Gombau's credit, he opted for an aggressive substitution; Elrich switched from left to right fullback, Zullo dropped back from left wing, and right footed attacking midfielder Mabil was fielded inverted on the left. Mabil naturally enough, looked to cut inside and dribble at Geria, but this also allowed Zullo to scamped upfield into the space he vacated, lending greater balance. 

Postecoglou made a few changes, all like for like. His forward line however remained intact, and retained fluidity in contrast to a rather blocky defence and midfield. Nichols and Troisi, neither outright strikers, were deployed up top, with Thompson stretching the play and providing a goal threat on the right, and Pain cutting inside from the left. 

The key to the first half was the level of pressing. Adelaide were intent on pushing and pressurising Melbourne's defensive half. And that entailed playing a high line, keeping the distance between their forwards and defenders compact, but leaving space behind them that Melbourne could attack with balls over the top. By the end of the first half, Victory players had been caught offside half a dozen times, while Adelaide had none. 

The Reds were able to score twice in quick succession. The first, a wrongfully given penalty, was tactically significant only in that it displayed Adelaide's success in building play through their left flank. The "assist" preceding the penalty was played with no less than four Adelaide players in close proximity on the left; Mabil darting inside, Zullo rampaging up wide, Jerinimo dashing between the opposing centre back and fullback and Cirio finding space between the lines. 

The second goal followed a period of sustained possession on the right, before Elrich, now stationed at right back, cleverly switched the play to Cirio, who fed Mabil, again cutting inside from the left. Although not immediately exposed, their entire side had shifted toward Elrich's flank before he switched play. Mabil was now able to take on Geria one-on-one, before unleashing a vociferous shot, which rebounded but was then put away by Jeronimo. The common factors shared by the two goals were the close proximity of Mabil and Cirio as well as Zullo stretching the play on the left. 
By the end of the first period, Adelaide found themselves with a two goal margin, despite not comprehensively outplaying their rivals. It came however at a cost; their level of pressing was unsustainable, and the Reds took the pitch after the break looking significantly lethargic. They were no longer able to push up high and harass the Navy Blues, so they sought to drop increasingly deep and protect their lead. That ultimately meant that the initiative belonged to Postecoglou, and the second half was the story of Postecoglou attacking and Gombau responding. During his maiden Championship win at Brisbane, Postecoglou similarly found himself staring down the barrels of a two goal defeat, and in both cases; he removed a defensive player and switched to an all-out attacking 4-2-4 system. 

On 56' minutes, he exchanged Pain for speedy striker Barbarouses. Nichols became more of a permanent Number 10, and Thompson increasingly abandoned his wide position to stalk the penalty area. On 67' minutes, Gombau introduced an extra centre back in Elsey for defensive midfielder Watson, pushing Malik forward as extra security. On 71' minutes, Postecoglou removed centre back Ansell, dropping Milligan into centre back, Nichols into centre midfield and introducing Brazilian attacking midfielder Finkler. On 80' minutes, after conceding to a Finkler drive, Gombau removed his right winger, switching Mabil and pushing Cirio to the left, introducing Barker for extra security in central midfield. To recap, Postecoglou removed a centre back and winger for a striker and attacking midfielder, switching to 4-2-4, while Gombau introduced another centre back and central midfielder for more bodies in midfield. 
Line-ups by the end. Perhaps optimistic, Adelaide were almost confined to their penalty box by the end.
In the end, momentum won out. Victory's extra-time goal effectively illustrated the value of counter-attacking. His goal arrived after about twenty minutes of sustained pressure; the Navy Blues were practically camped out in Adelaide half, with only striker Jeronimo approaching the half way line. Finally, Adelaide were able to clear the ball with a Reds player seeming to have latched onto it. A few Adelaide players had already started charging upfield, hoping to land a knockout blow. Milligan regained possession for Melbourne however, and when he finally launched a long pass into Adelaide's defensive half, there were no less than fives Reds players on the wrong side of the half way line, including Malik, assigned to shield the space in front of the back four. When the shot was unleashed, the two Adelaide players occupying the centre back slots were left back Zullo and temporary midfielder Malik. Twenty minutes of siege football was insufficient to get past Galekovic, but an optimistic long ball was enough to displace literally half the Adelaide team, and Victory finally put the ball in the back of the net. 

1 comment:

davec said...

great to have you back