Shakhtar 2-0 Braga: Braga beaten by Rat attacks
Shakhtar progress as group leaders after a deserved victory.
Mircea Lucescu used his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, in a Shakhtar side unchanged from their previous Champions League game, a 0-3 win in Belgrade.
Domingos Paciencia also chose a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Luis Aguiar high up the pitch, in the centre of a fluid front four that received support from Leandro Salino.
The first thing to consider here was the mentality of the two sides. In an incredibly tight group, both sides’ strategy would depend upon the progress of the Arsenal v Partizan game.
Therefore, both spent the first half playing very conservative football, settling for 0-0 at half-time and making sure they were still in the game in the second half. The only chance of the first half came after a Braga defender slipped, and Willian blasted over the bar.
Srna moves forward
Still, there was some level of tactical interest, mainly from the home side. Possessing one of the most attack-minded right-backs in the competition in Darijo Srna, they altered their shape when in possession to make sure he was free to go forward, despite the presence of Paulo Cesar on that flank.
The change in shape was quite clever. First, Douglas Costa would drift in from the right to create space for Srna on the overlap – nothing strange about that. What gave Srna license to get forward, however, was the fact that Oleksiy Gai would come across to the right side of the pitch, laving Taras Stepanenko as the sole holding player. Srna then acted as a right-winger and changed the formation to 4-1-4-1 when in possession. If Shakhtar lost the ball, Gai would simply become the right-back, so his side still had a back four with one holding player ahead.
Braga were also fluid, although in a more standard way for a 4-2-3-1 – with the front four players very flexible. In particular, Matheus came out to the flank and either Cesar or Alan would move inside to become the frontman. They also shifted to become a 4-1-4-1 with the ball, as Salino pushed forward and Vandinho remained disciplined, taking care of Jadson.
Things opened out in the second half – Salino became even more attack-minded as Braga searched for a goal. Pacienca eventually went 4-4-2 (or 4-1-3-2) with the introduction of Lima to play upfront and Hugo Viana as a central playmaker. Lucescu simply wanted a different attacking threat, and so swapped Costa for Alex Teixeira, with Willian moving to the right.
Part of Braga’s problem in trying to get back into the game was their tendency to concede fouls, which broke up the play and made things bitty.
This worked rather well in the game against Arsenal when they sat back and defended for 80 minutes, but in a situation where they needed a goal (or four), they needed to keep their discipline.
In fact, Braga conceded more free-kicks in the group stage than any other side in this competition, 148. (Incidentally, Shakhtar were fouled more than any other side, 144.)
The breakthrough eventually came when Shakhtar got their left-back forward. Razvan Rat had attacked less than Srna throughout the game, but was key in both goals. First, he drilled a shot into the far corner from 25 yards, and then provided a pinpoint cross for Luiz Adriano to make it two soon after.
To a large extent, Shakhtar were better once Braga changed shape – they then had a numerical disadvantage in midfield but more importantly as Braga attacked, Shakhtar had space to break into.
Shakhtar were impressive here – they possess good technical players throughout the side and are tactically intelligent, making the best use of their most talented individuals, particularly Srna.
The outcome of this game was heavily influenced by circumstances – as an opening day fixture Braga wouldn’t have attacked and a 0-0 would have been likely, but Shakhtar showed more attacking quality and took Braga by surprise by working the left flank for the goals, rather than the right they had otherwise focused their passing down.
Chalkboard courtesy of TotalFootball iPhone appShakhtar 2-0 Braga: Braga beaten by Rat attacks