Malaga 0-0 Dortmund: Dortmund create more chances, but fail to take them

April 4, 2013

The starting line-ups

Dortmund should be out of sight – but after the German champions were unable to score an away goal, Malaga are still in the tie.

Manuel Pellegrini named roughly his expected side – Julio Baptista played the support striker role.

Jurgen Klopp used Kevin Grosskreutz rather than Jakub Blaszczykowski, which meant Mario Gotze was central and Marco Reus on the right. Felipe Santana continued to deputise for Mats Hummels, while Sebastian Kehl was in Sven Bender’s position.

In a clash between similar football sides, Dortmund pressed better and attacked with neater combinations – only finishing let them down.

Pressing

As so often in modern European clashes, the level of pressing was crucial to the feel and balance of the contest – and this was the major area where Dortmund were superior.

These days, Klopp is keen for his players not to press absolutely relentlessly all over the park, and therefore his players tended to stand off Malaga’s centre-backs, and instead closed down when the ball was played into the full-backs or central midfielders. This was a little risky, because Martin Demichelis can bring the ball out of defence and Weligton hit an excellent early ball towards Saviola – with Malaga’s pace in the front four, there were opportunities for direct attacks. However, the approach broadly worked well in the first half, with Malaga rarely venturing into the opposition third.

The home side’s pressing was much more disjointed. Whereas Dortmund, as always, remained compact and moved up the pitch together as a unit, Malaga’s press was more half-hearted – the front four tended to close down, but then Jeremy Toulalan and Manuel Iturra sat deeper in front of the defence.

This isn’t necessarily a disaster – Real Madrid have often used this disjointed press in recent years – but it allowed Dortmund’s central midfield duo to cleverly provide the difference at both ends. Kehl and Ilkay Gundogan could help Malaga pass out of the back 6 v 4, but then with Malaga’s attacking quartet slow to retreat, Gundogan could motor forward, become the link player, and play dangerous passes into Dortmund’s attackers. He was the outstanding player on the night – constantly involved in that pocket of space between Malaga’s two blocks, and completed 69 passes (no other player completed more than 48).

Dortmund attacking four

None of Dortmund’s attacking quartet had outstanding games individually, primarily because they were wasteful in front of goal. However, there were some moments of brilliant attacking combination play, with Robert Lewandowski particularly effective.

The Pole often appears a straightforward, classic number nine – but he has demonstrated great adaptability in Europe this season. In the previous round against Shakhtar he kept dropping deep to open up gaps for Gotze and Reus to charge into, and he did something similar here – he was the game’s most frequent dribbler (in a pocket of space in the hole), and also the most prolific creator of chances.

Dortmund did two things particularly well. First, Gotze provided the third man in midfield (something Baptista failed to do) then stormed past Lewandowski for a couple of one-on-ones with Willy Caballero. Second, Lewandowski drifted right, which worked well with Reus charging inside from the wing.

Malaga offside line

A key reason for Dortmund’s promising attacks was an extremely dodgy Malaga offside line. They appeared to get almost everything wrong (which sounds ridiculous considering they kept a clean sheet) – too high when Gotze sprinted in behind, too deep when Lewandowski dropped away from them.

It was also interesting that Malaga dropped extremely close to their own goal when Marcel Schmelzer took throws from the left – as if they were expecting Rory Delap-style deliveries. It seemed unnecessary, and although nothing came of these situations, it underlined their positional uncertainty.

Malaga attacks

Malaga’s major problem in the first half was their inability to get Isco involved from the left. This was partly because they struggled to get the ball forward into attacking zones, and because Dortmund closed down well when the ball was played into him out on the left.

Sometimes Isco switched with Baptista, which made Malaga look better – Isco was more adept at receiving balls into feet, more mobile in the centre of the pitch and cleverer with his movement. He helped Malaga compete in the centre. However, Malaga’s main route of attack was down the right flank, where Joaquin and Jesus Gamez repeatedly combined well.

Malaga’s most promising opportunities actually came from set-pieces, with a spell of pressure towards the end of the first half forcing Roman Weidenfeller into a couple of decent stops.

Second half

The first half was all-action, the second was much quieter. Malaga sat deeper, with Lewandowski getting more space in front of the defence, and missing a good chance from that zone after Grosskreutz pulled the ball back from the left.

But Malaga got a grip on the match in the second half – Toulalan’s authority was more obvious, as he broke up play nicely and distributed the ball calmly forward. But this was a disappointing contest lacking tempo after the break – both sides appeared to settle for a 0-0.

Substitutions had little impact, although Pellegrini helped Malaga get into the game with two decent changes – Portillo replaced Saviola and helped link play on the right, while Roque Santa Cruz as a Plan B was inevitable, and he provided a decent target for more direct play.

Conclusion

Dortmund should have won this. They pressed better, asserting their dominance on the game from the opening moments. Some of the link-up play from their front four was delicious, with Gundogan playing that energetic, driving role excellently to link play, taking advantage of Malagsa’s disjointed pressing.

But 0-0 isn’t a bad result for Malaga, although they’ll miss Weligton and Iturra in the second leg – both collected a booking here. Dortmund remain strong favourites.


Malaga 0-0 Dortmund: Dortmund create more chances, but fail to take them

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