Bayern 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea win it on penalties

May 20, 2012

The starting line-ups

Chelsea lifted the European Cup after a tight match was decided on penalties.

Jupp Heynckes named his expected line-up: Diego Contento came into the side at left-back, Antoliy Tymoshchuk played at centre-back, with Toni Kroos deep in midfield, allowing Thomas Muller a start in the attacking role.

Roberto Di Matteo’s line-up featured one surprise name – Ryan Bertrand was given his Champions League debut on the left side of midfield, meaning Florent Malouda was only on the bench.

The tactical battle didn’t really go Chelsea’s way – but the penalty shoot-out did.

Possession

As expected, Bayern saw more of the ball, although their first half domination was very slightly less than the 60-65% predicted in the preview. In a strange way, Chelsea’s attacks might have been more dangerous had that figure increased – Bayern weren’t committing huge numbers forward into the final third or piling on the pressure, and therefore Chelsea didn’t have many spaces to break into. Credit should go to Bayern for this, though – the full-backs were reserved and Didier Drogba wasn’t a huge force upon the game until late on.

Midfield battle

Often, games where one side sits deep and allows the opposition onto them don’t really have a ‘midfield battle’ – one side is letting the other dictate the play, and focus upon getting men behind the ball.

This was slightly different, however. Di Matteo’s decision to go with a 4-2-3-1, rather than the 4-3-3 he used against Barcelona (although really, this was 4-4-1-1 and 4-5-1 respectively, considering that Chelsea spent the majority of the time without the ball) was crucial. Instead of having three defensive-minded midfielders, the absence of Raul Meireles meant he only had two: Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel. Juan Mata was higher up, in a natural number ten position, and only half-heartedly helped out defensively.

There were two reasons that Mata didn’t concentrate on getting goalside of Bayern’s midfielders. First, the fluidity of Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger caused him problems – when Mata dropped onto one, that man would stay in position and allow the other forward – Mata often found himself unable to occupy the right player at the right time. Second, Di Matteo probably told Mata to stay in space, in positions where he could receive the ball and prompt breaks, a little like Shinji Kagawa did against Bayern last weekend in the German Cup final. Mata found this difficult, however, and with Bayern’s full-backs staying quite deep and Chelsea’s wingers not able to break past, Chelsea’s transitions weren’t very effective.

Muller

Muller was the game’s key player. As mentioned in the preview, when played as the number ten Muller tends to drift right. This was probably partly the reason Di Matteo chose to field a defensive-minded player on the left wing, in order to give Ashley Cole more protection if Muller tried to overload him.

But although Muller was right-of-centre, he didn’t have to move out to the right wing because he found a little pocket of space to work in. With Frank Lampard playing slightly higher up than Jon Obi Mikel, the biggest area of space between Chelsea’s lines was perfect for Muller, and he continually picked up the ball in behind Lampard.

Chelsea were particularly vulnerable when their two problems [(a) one of the deep midfielders bursting forward unchecked and (b) Muller getting space] combined. Once in the first half, for example, Mikel was dragged across towards Muller, which then left his zone bare, so Schweinsteiger stormed into it and had an attempt from a left-centre position.

Bertrand’s other task, to help Cole defend against Robben, broadly worked. The Dutchman may have had 15 (!) attempts on goal in the 120 minutes, more than Chelsea, but the majority came when he was off-balance, and when he had been shepherded into a pack of Chelsea players. Chelsea’s ability to block shots was unbelievable – they blocked over half of Bayern’s 43 attempts, partly as they defended so narrow.

Transitions

Nothing really went right for Chelsea in an attacking sense, though – Mata struggled to prompt counters, Drogba found himself outnumered and when he peeled away onto Philipp Lahm to try and use his aerial advantage, the delivery from the right was poor. Chelsea also failed to win a corner until the final moments, so set-pieces wasn’t a productive source of chances, while long balls from Petr Cech generally found Tymoshchuk nipping in front of Drogba and Jerome Boateng covering behind him.

The game didn’t really progress in tactical terms – the only substitution before Bayern’s goal was Malouda replacing Bertrand, which seemed partly due to fitness reasons. Chelsea’s shape didn’t alter.

Goals

But Muller increasingly became pivotal. In addition to getting space between the lines, he kept popping up at the far post, against Cole. In a 20-minute spell that culminated in his goal, Muller had five attempts from a similar position, and also got John Obi Mikel booked for a rash tackle towards Chelsea’s left-back zone. He was the game’s key player in tactical terms, and would have been a fitting matchwinner.

Both coaches changed things after Bayern went 1-0 up. Di Matteo went for broke – Torres on for Kalou, and Chelsea went with a shapeless, desperate but completely understandable two-striker approach for the final minutes. They seemed as likely to concede a goal as score one, but from their only corner of the entire match, Drogba pounced with a superb header.

Heynckes had responded to Chelsea’s change by introducing an extra defender – Daniel van Buyten came on to provide more aerial presence at the back, with Muller departing. Like Chelsea’s change, it was simply another man to help in the required zone for five minutes.

Extra time

But it wasn’t just five minutes – because Drogba’s equaliser forced extra-time from Chelsea’s only corner of the game.

Therefore, both managers now had to shuffle their players into a workable system. This was easier for Heynckes: Tymoshchuk could move forward into Kroos’ role, Kroos could move forward into Muller’s role, and Bayern were in a fairly natural formation they could have started the match with. However, without Muller’s clever positioning, they were less of a threat going forward.

Di Matteo was in a more difficult situation – he wanted to keep the same formation, but had two strikers on the pitch. Rather than assigning either Drogba or Torres to the right-sided position on a full-time basis (or bringing on Michael Essien to play there) he asked Drogba and Torres to switch positions and take it in turns to defend that side of the pitch. Chelsea didn’t look comfortable there, however, and Drogba’s clumsy tackle on Ribery resulted in a penalty, missed by Robben.

Chelsea very nearly paid for Di Matteo’s refusal to introduce a more defensive-minded player – but while Heynckes made a defensive change after Bayern’s goal, when Chelsea equalised Di Matteo kept two strikers on the pitch. He must have been tempted to replace Drogba – but the Ivorian ended up scoring the winning penalty.

Conclusion

Despite losing the tie, Bayern won the tactical battle. The fluidity of their two deep midfielders meant they kept on creating good chances, while Muller’s positioning was a continual problem and something Chelsea never responded to. Roberto Di Matteo’s side defended much better against Barcelona (even if Pep Guardiola’s side also created chances), which was probably because they played with an extra holding midfielder in that match, rather than because of the selection problems in defence tonight.

Indeed, Chelsea’s last-ditch defending was superb – David Luiz and Gary Cahill played remarkably well considering both were injury doubts, while Ashley Cole’s ability to spot danger and react to it quickly was once again highly impressive. Petr Cech also starred in goal, and while Mikel couldn’t cover the entire space in front of the defence, he did his job manfully.

Just as in the Europa League final, the FA Cup final and the German Cup final, the more reactive side emerged victorious.


Bayern 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea win it on penalties

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