Goal Analysis: Saul Niguez & Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund 6/11/2018

Goal Analysis: Saul Niguez & Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund 6/11/2018

Atletico Madrid’s opening goal is an excellent example of how they have the quality to turn giving the ball away into chances.

Atleti first goal
Atletico hit a long ball forward which is won by Manuel Akanji.

This is easy for Dortmund to defend. Atletico didn’t get near the pass and, even if they had, they would be surrounded and outnumbered by Dortmund players.

This aerial ball is difficult for Dortmund to control however. Akanji could just head it out of play, but that gives the ball back to Atletico and allows them to move up the pitch. He could try to keep the ball in play, bringing it down or heading to someone else, but Atletico are in a good position to press: they have three players around the ball in positions to close down a short pass, while Juanfran and Thomas Partey are in positions to press Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho, Saul Niguez can press Axel Witsel or Lukasz Piszczek and Rodri can press Christian Pulisic if Akanji goes long. Whatever Akanji chooses to do, Atleti are in a good position to have gained the ball higher up the pitch just by lumping the ball forward.

Atleti first goal
Akanji goes short, heading it down to the left, but Achraf Hakimi struggles to control it and his poor touch falls to Angel Correa

Atleti have won the ball in the final third just from a hoof and clearly set up to do so, yet Dortmund remain in a good position to defend here: they have six players against three here and Akanji nearly wins the ball back straight away, deflecting Correa’s attempt to sneak the ball away to Nikola Kalinic.

Atleti first goal
Kalinic struggles to control Correa’s deflected pass
Atleti first goal
He holds off Witsel and moves the ball on to the supporting Saul
Atleti first goal
Saul evades Witsel’s challenge – this forces Piszczek to come out of the backline to close him down, leaving space behind him

Now while the start of this move is a slim chance offered by fairly minor mistakes by the Dortmund defence, this slim chance is kept alive by the excellent work of Atletico’s attackers. Kalinic does well to hold up a ball that’s been deflected away from him and Saul does well to immediately offer support and then drive past Witsel.

Few Dortmund players can be blamed here either. Witsel looks culpable for letting Saul burst past him, yet he’s done well to stay on his feet having been sent the opposite way by Kalinic and his challenge is actually quite forceful considering, although Saul is strong enough to brush it off. Piszczek has also done the right thing by stepping up, ensuring Saul doesn’t have space to shoot having beaten Witsel.

Atleti first goal
Filipe Luis bursts forward to attack the space behind Piszczek and Saul passes out to him
Atleti first goal
Piszczek scrambles to get back across, opening up space ahead of Saul
Atleti first goal
He returns the ball to Saul to finsih in space, with both Antoine Griezmann and Correa dropping into this space too

If Saul does well to support Kalinic, then Filipe Luis puts on a gold medal-winning display. He’s not even in the frame four seconds before but is now at the other end of the pitch to drag away Piszczek for Saul to finish.

While previously Dortmund’s defenders were mostly blameless, they start to make more obvious mistakes at the end of the move. Witsel stops running when Saul makes the pass wide before then starting back up again – he immediately recognises this mistake and attempts to correct it, but this brief stop means he’s not in a position to stop Saul shooting and it costs Dortmund.

Witsel’s not the only one meant to be defending this space though: where is Thomas Delaney? Busy plugging gaps in the defence. The midfielder first moves back when Akanji steps up to tackle Correa at the start of the move and it becomes necessary to stay when Omer Toprak unnecessarily moves across to cover behind Piszczek (it’s possible that he only does this because he’s aware Delaney is covering behind him though, so it’s not really fair to classify it as a mistake) and when Hakimi stops tracking back.

If Akanji gets back into the centre of defence quicker, Hakimi continues to track back and Toprak stays goalside of Correa then all of Atleti’s attackers are accounted for and Delaney could probably have moved back into midfield. These are all minor typically inconsequential mistakes but Atleti can ruthlessly punish them.

Atleti second goal
Dortmund overload the left side but Witsel passes it to the right, to Delaney surrounded by three Atletico players

This goal has some more obvious defensive errors but they are again pretty minor, ruthlessly exploited by Atletico.

Witsel passing to Delaney when the left side is packed with players is probably the biggest mistake, and that’s more of a creative one than a defensive one. The left being packed with players means they outnumbered Atletico in this area and would have been more likely to create a good chance, while losing the ball here would have been less dangerous with lots of players in the area to immediately pressure the ball. Witsel’s pass is arguably forced right by Partey’s pressing coming from the left but he could have passed back to the defenders behind him to restart the attack.

Atletico second goal
Atletico surround him and win the ball back
Atleti second goal
Atleti counter down Dortmund’s underloaded right side

Instead the ball is sent to Delaney, who has no support and is surrounded by Atletico defenders, quickly losing the ball. With few Dortmund players nearby when Delaney loses the ball, Atletico can easily send it wide to Gelson Martins.

Dortmund are in a good position to defend here though. Toprak stops Martins from being free to run down the line, Wisel cuts off the ball inside and Akanji can keep track of Griezmann while Hakimi tracks back on the left.

Atleti second goal
Partey’s run drags Witsel away from the middle

Partey’s run alters this though. This was probably intended to be a dummy run to drag Witsel away and play the ball inside to Griezmann, but Partey ends up posing a threat himself. Toprak’s square body shape invites the ball behind him while Partey’s pace sees him get ahead of Witsel, forcing Akanji across to cover.

Atleti second goal
Partey outpacing Witsel forces Akanji across
Atleti second goal
Griezmann is free to score

Akanji and Witsel do a pretty good job of defending against Partey, leaving only a small gap, but the Ghanaian manages to flick it through for Griezmann to finish under little pressure. The bigger issue here is Hakimi: the Moroccan is tracking back but doesn’t begin to bust a gut to get back into position until Partey slips his pass through to Griezmann when it’s already too late. He should really have got back to limit Griezmann as soon as it became clear that Akanji had to move across to cover Witsel, but he didn’t and Atleti punished him.

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