Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

November 22, 2013
Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo produced an extraordinary performance to win this play-off almost single-handedly.

Erik Hamren named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, which finished in a 1-0 Portugal victory.

Paolo Bento’s side had one change – Hugo Almeida had made the difference in the first leg as a substitute, so replaced Helder Postiga upfront

It’s difficult to remember a contest that had been promoted  so much beforehand as, essentially, an individual battle between two players. Football isn’t an individual sport, of course, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to the pre-match hype, and completely dominated their sides. Read more »

Ukraine 2-0 France: France lack creativity with the ball, and lack structure without it

November 18, 2013
Ukraine 2-0 France: France lack creativity with the ball, and lack structure without it

Ukraine are halfway to the World Cup, after a surprise 2-0 victory over France.

Mykhaylo Fomenko’s XI was fairly typical of his recent line-ups, although Roman Zozulya hasn’t always played upfront, and Edmar was fielded in an advanced role.

Didier Deschamps left out Mathieu Valbuena and played Samir Nasri instead, with Olivier Giroud favoured over Karim Benzema upfront.

This match was played at a high intensity and was dramatic throughout – France dominated possession but lacked organisation. Read more »

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: United start positively then defend extremely narrow

November 13, 2013
Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: United start positively then defend extremely narrow

David Moyes recorded the first major victory of his tenure at Old Trafford.

Moyes selected Phil Jones in the centre of midfield alongside Michael Carrick, and continued with Shinji Kagawa on the left.

Arsene Wenger was without Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky due to flu, so Thomas Vermaelen came into the side and Aaron Ramsey moved right.

This was a very narrow United victory, in a match where neither side played at their best. Read more »

Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Dortmund on top for an hour, but Arsenal excellent after scoring

November 7, 2013
Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Dortmund on top for an hour, but Arsenal excellent after scoring

Dortmund had significantly more shots, but Arsenal snatched a winner and saw out the game efficiently.

Jurgen Klopp was without Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, so named an unchanged side.

Arsene Wenger didn’t have anyone back from injury, so kept the same side that defeated Liverpool.

This game was simultaneously high-tempo and slow-burning – an uneventful first half was followed by a very exciting second. Read more »

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

November 4, 2013
Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

Arsenal triumphed in a fast-paced and tactically interesting contest.

With Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini out, Arsene Wenger had no real selection dilemmas.

Brendan Rodgers continued with his 3-5-2 system, although was without both first-choice wing-backs, with Glen Johnson a late withdrawal – Jon Flanagan played instead.

Arsenal were the better side – just about keeping Liverpool’s front two quiet, and dominating both centrally and down the flanks in possession.

Read more »

Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

October 28, 2013
Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

This was first against second in Portugal – champions Porto won, extending the gap to five points.

Paulo Fonseca selected Silvestre Varela on the left, with Lica on the bench – otherwise, his side was as expected.

Sporting coach Leonardo Jardim played Ivan Piris in an unfamiliar left-back role, in the absence of Jefferson Nascimento.

Porto were the dominant force for the majority of this match, and deserved the victory. Read more »