Alex Clapham writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Europa League match that ended Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Porto.
Over 65,000 were in attendance for this clash between two giants with extremely diverse footballing cultures. The hosts came into the tie in fine form having won four of their previous five fixtures and Porto arrived to the famous Signal Iduna Park stadium in high spirits after picking up a somewhat surprising 2-1 win in the back garden of their greatest rivals Benfica. The Portuguese club fell just one point short of the last 16 in the Champions League yet they have struggled domestically, sitting in 3rd place in the Primeira Liga.
Dortmund: (4-2-3-1) Burki; Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer; Sahin, Weigl; Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Reus; Aubameyang
Porto: (4-3-3) Casillas; Varela, Martins Indi, Layun, Jose Angel; Oliveira, Neves, Herrera; Marega, Aboubakar, Brahimi
BORUSSIA DORTMUND 2-0 PORTO
Porto invite Dortmund pressure
BVB set the tone right from the get-go and Porto were happy to let them have the ball, choosing to pull wide forwards Marega and Brahimi deep in support of full backs as the midfield three remained compact infront of the back four.
Deep lying midfielders Ruben Nevez and Sergio Oliviera took it in turns to retreat to the edge of their own area to collect from Casillas in an attempt to start play from deep. The Portuguese duo assisted the versatility of Watford loanee Miguel Layun – the Mexican normally operates as a left back but spent the evening accompanying Martins Indi in a central defensive role due to ineligibility of Nigerian Chidozie – The hosts leapt upon this and committed men forward in abundance to disturb any creativity or flow from Jose Peseiro’s men.
Alternating with Oliveira as Layun pulls wide to retrieve from Casillas
The early Borussia pressure resulted in a corner which landed to the feet of Polish full back Lukasz Piszczek all alone 6-yards out. As his initial shot was saved miraculously by the visitor’s Spanish great between the sticks, his headed rebound was neatly tucked into the bottom corner to fire the hosts into an instantaneous lead just 6 minutes in.
Schmelzer hugs the touchline at all times, escaping the attentions Marega as BVB create width that Porto can’t contain.
Kagawa Joins attack as BVB turn up the heat
Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchels smelled blood in the hesitant visitors and screamed instructions for his players to flood forwards. Former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa was pushed into advanced areas with hopes of working off of both the strength and aerial ability of Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The French born 26-year old has grabbed headlines of late, bagging a ludicrous 30 goals in 31 games before this encounter; the predator has physical attributes that play as a side-role to his intelligent movement and tidy footwork.
Chance upon chance arrived to the hosts and as Mkhitaryan moved out wide to the right, left full back Schmelzer remained in high positions on the opposite side; creating a yellow wall across the middle of the field to match the one in the south stand behind the goal. A 3-5-2 formation was adopted when in possession by the hosts.
Mkhitaryan drifts into wide right areas to accommodate spaces for Kagawa and Reus centrally.
Aboubakar’s solo role
24-year old Vincent Aboubakar led the Dragoes line in an individual striker role and was often found wanting when long, hopeful balls were pumped forward in attempts to relieve pressure. With a lack of support from wingers Moussa Marega and the Algerian Brahimi (the wide players were condemned to defensive duties) the sturdy backline of BVB were never phased as one defender would challenge the high ball and his colleagues would clean up any danger from the second ball.
As Porto failed to trouble the home side that currently sit in second place of the Bundesliga table, Peseiro directed Yacine Brahimi to drift centrally in search of service to and from Aboubakar. The 26-year old winger has been of high interest to several Premier League clubs of late and the visitors looked more likely when his quick feet got on the ball in central areas.
Brahimi wanders centrally – leaving acres of space for BVB to attack down the right
However, with the Algerian vacating his left sided position, right back Piszczek was given permission to stream forwards at every given opportunity. As Dortmund ganged up on Porto’s left hand side, joy was being had and Porto left back Jose Angel had his work cut out with Oliveira struggling somewhat to tuck in and stop the 2-against-1 ones down BVB’s right with Marco Reus drifting to dictate the tempo of the tie.
Before long, Brahimi’s ill-defensive discipline was punished as the ball was being switched from left to right by the hosts in hope of finding an open window of opportunity. As Kagawa found a pocket of space on the left, the ball was swept across the 18-yard box and with all attentions seemingly on the decoy run of the attacking midfielder, Porto were outnumbered and begging for mercy. Henrikh Mkhitaryan caused headaches all night long and his perfectly set pass was fizzed home by the onrushing Marco Reus via the aid of a deflection, sending the onlooking ‘Yellow Wall’ into delirium behind the goal. The World Cup winner was the best player on the night and deserved this strike of luck.
Brahimi was replaced by the more defensively inclined Andre.
Borussia begin to enjoy themselves
Looking to put the tie to bed before the trip to northern Portugal the following week, Tuchels’ men converted to a back 3 with Greek Sokratis playing in a sweeping role behind the scorer of the first goal and Hummels. The latter moved out wide left and often looked to carry the ball forwards when gaps opened up, trusting his technical ability and distribution qualities. Schmelzer retained his advanced position down the left-hand side as Julian Weigl offered defensive security besides Nuri Sahin (who was later replaced by Moritz Leitner) throughout the evening, allowing the freedom to Kagawa (also substituted in the dying moments – Christian Pulsic the replacement)
Hummels joins in with the fun – Bringing the ball out from the back
Porto’s Brazilian Evandro entered the frame late on in a second striker role, however, nothing materialized and the game died out with Dortmund more than content in possession.
The hosts never broke sweat in a game that was more routine than they may have imagined, enjoying 67% of possession whilst completing a whoping 370 more passes than their Portuguese counterparts. Without conceding the all-important away goal, the German club are strong favourites to progress in the Estadio do Dragao.
Registering only 2 attempts on goal all night tells the story for Porto. Their fans turned up to western Germany in numbers and left disappointed in their side’s efforts. Always a daunting task to come to Signal Iduna Park, nevertheless, Jose Peseiro arrived with damage limitation in mind, hoping to keep the tie alive for the second leg with his 4-5-1 shape for the percentage of the evening. An uphill task awaits Porto now as they must look to cause problems for the Germans from the start if they are to stand any chance of advancing in Portugal.
Written by Alex Clapham.
As a season ticket holder at the Camp Nou stadium, Alex gets a close up view of the goings on at FC Barcelona; from the youth teams, right up to Messi, Iniesta, Neymar and co.
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