Games of 2010: 20-11

December 30, 2010

Diego Milito, scorer of both the goals in Inter's Champions League final win

The penultimate part of the review of the year.

20. Juventus 1-2 Roma

This game feels like an age ago, but it was crucial in both Ciro Ferrara’s demise, and Roma launching themselves towards a Scudetto challenge. The first half was a terrible match, but it opened out in the second period. Ferrara wanted the win at 1-1 and made an attacking change on his right-hand side, moving Hasan Salihamidzic to right-back, but it ended up costing Juve defensively, when John Arne Riise stormed forward unchecked to nod in a superb David Pizarro ball.

Full report

19. Inter 2-0 Bayern

A relatively low-key final. Bayern dominated possession of the ball as Inter sat back with what often looked like a 4-4-1-1, but the German side were unable to take the half-chances they created, most notably with three missed opportunities from Thomas Muller. At the other end, Wesley Sneijder played very high up the pitch, almost as a forward, and drifted between the lines in a position Bayern had problems with. Diego Milito grabbed both goals following direct Inter attacks down the centre of the pitch.

Full report

18. Holland 2-1 Brazil

The first half of this game was all Brazil, to the point where it was difficult to imagine how Holland could get back into it. The Dutch had created little, found themselves unable to win the ball, and were having particular problems with the space afforded to Robinho, partly a consequence of how high up the pitch Arjen Robben was playing. In the second half, Holland focused their attacking play down their right-hand side – and both goals  came following corners from that flank. Wesley Sneijder was credited with both, though the first was really an own goal from Felipe Melo, and Melo’s nightmare continued when he was sent off for a stamp. Ultimately, Brazil failed because they had no plan B – their system was based around sitting back and counter-attacking, but when you need a goal, that approach is not particularly helpful.

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17. Porto 5-0 Benfica

Jorge Jesus was well aware of the threat Hulk offered – indeed, the Brazilian right-sided forward was the reason Jesus changed his usual line-up, playing centre-back David Luiz at left-back and left-back Fabio Coentrao on the left of midfield, to give more protection down that side. Luiz was unable to cope with the pace and power of Hulk in wide areas, however, and close support from Fernando Belluschi outfought Benfica down the right. All five goals came from that wing, in one of the best team performances of the year.

Full report

16. Spain 1-0 Holland (AET)

The most notable aspect of the World Cup Final its sheer physicality, particularly from the Dutch – but after the game settled down it was a good tactical battle. Indeed, watch the game without the first 45 minutes and it’s a decent spectacle – it was tight, cagey and nervous, of course, but both managers made attacking substitutions as the match went on – Rafael van der Vaart on for Nigel de Jong, Cesc Fabregas on for Xabi Alonso – which opened things out. Spain were the more positive side but Holland probably had the best chances at 0-0 through Arjen Robben. In the end, Spain only made the breakthrough after Holland went down to ten men – it’s a shame when such a big match is settled like that, but by turning up with such an aggressive approach, the Dutch could hardly complain when one of their players was eventually dismissed.

Full report | More analysis in five parts

15. Bayern 5-5 Manchester United (agg)

Bayern had done exactly the same to Fiorentina in the previous round – a late 2-1 win at home, before being outplayed in the away leg, and Arjen Robben coming up with a superb ‘winner’ to make it 5-5 and send Bayern through on away goals. The first leg was notable for a rare tactical mistake from Sir Alex Ferguson – playing 4-5-1 and concerned about Martin Demichelis’ runs forward from centre-back, he brought on Dimitar Berbatov for Michael Carrick to try and subdue the Argentine. This basically worked, but had the knock-on effect of opening out the midfield and therefore Bayern dominated the final 15 minutes, when they grabbed their two goals. The first was fortunate and the second was from an individual error, but Bayern’s pressure after the switch should not be ignored. United were far superior in the second leg – Ferguson dropped Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs for the younger legs of Rafael, Darron Gibson and Nani, and the home side pressed relentlessly. Rafael picked up two bookings, however, and Robben’s superb volley from a corner actually went in next to the near post that Rafael had been marking.

Full report of first leg | Full report of second leg

14. Lazio 1-2 Roma

Considering that Roma’s good run of form had been based around a clearly-defined, lopsided 4-2-3-1 formation, Claudio Ranieri’s decision to switch to an old-fashioned 4-3-3 (or 4-3-1-2 when Francesco Totti dropped deeper) formation was strange. It was downright stupid when considering that Lazio were playing with a back three that was vulnerable when playing against width – Roma offered no width in the first half, and Lazio were entirely comfortable. A change was inevitable, but it took some guts for Ranieri to remove Roma’s two golden boys, Totti and Daniele de Rossi, and bring on Rodrigo Taddei and Jeremy Menez instead. The two substitutions paid off brilliantly, though – Taddei won a penalty, Menez won a free-kick, and both were smashed into the net by Mirko Vucinic.

Full report

13. Real 0-2 Barcelona

The less memorable of the two Clasicos, but a very interesting game nevertheless. Pep Guardiola started with a surprise line-up, with Dani Alves in a right-wing position and Carles Puyol at right-back, playing Pedro on the left and Lionel Messi as a false nine. Real used a flat diamond in midfield which provided some attacking threat, but left them vulnerable defensively, and completely failed to take care of Xavi. He pulled the strings and dominated the game to a ridiculous extent – he set up both goals for Messi and Pedro, and could have had two more assists but for Iker Casillas getting the better of Messi in one-on-ones.

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12. Inter 2-0 Milan

Inter started with a 4-3-1-2 and went 1-0 up, but Wesley Sneijder was dismissed on 30 minutes for dissent, forcing them back. Jose Mourinho’s response was to keep essentially the same shape versus Milan’s 4-2-1-3 – he had 4 v 3 at the back, 3 v 3 in midfield, and dealt with the opposition full-backs by telling Goran Pandev and Diego Milito to stay in wide positions when they didn’t have the ball, pinning Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonini back. Inter didn’t just protect their lead, they extended it.

Full report

11. Barcelona 3-1 Villarreal

Simply a superb game of football from two positive, technically brilliant teams. The pressing from both sides made for a high-tempo, exciting battle – Villarreal’s 4-2-2-2 gave Barcelona a challenge they weren’t used to, especially when Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar moved wide and meant Barca’s full-backs struggled to scamper forward. Villarreal’s numerical disadvantage did mean they struggled to pick up Sergio Busquets, though, and Barcelona were the better side overall. Lionel Messi’s strike was an excellent goal to cap possibly the most attractive game of football of the year.

Full report