Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Brief analysis of Atletico Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Falcao and Diego took their chances brilliantly to win the Atletico Madrid's second Europa League in three years.

Atletico Madrid started with a 4-2-3-1 that dropped deep into a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 shape defensively. Falcao led the line, Turan started on the left, Adrian on the right and Mario Suarez and Gabi played in midfield with Diego dropping in deep to help them.

Athletic started in their usual 4-3-3. Munain started on the left, Susaeta on the right and Llorente up front with De Marcos and Herrera supporting from midfield.

It was always going to be an entertaining game to watch with plenty of attacking talent on display from both teams, although with two different strategies. At. Madrid pressed high and compact initially but then moved back to the edge of the box with Diego dropping into the left central midfield position to make it difficult for Athletic to create space. The early goal from Falcao, after he moved into the channels and exploited the lack of mobility of Amorebieta before a great curling strike, allowed At.Madrid to be able to drop off and protect their lead and then use the space left on the counter attack.

Athletic on the other hand started slowly and were unable to penetrate through the middle because their opponents kept a reasonably small distance between each other and between the lines. Munain wasn't getting much space there and they found it difficult to play passes into Llorente. In the wide areas, the full backs marked tightly when vertical passes were played into that area and Athletic were unable to turn and get to the byline. Llorente had a couple of opportunities in the area and Munain threatened with a long range strike but they couldn't find an equaliser

Meanwhile, Falcao was threatening on the counter attack and was clearly targeting Amorebieta. 34 minutes in, the centre back was too slow on the ball just outside his area and At.Madrid won it and got quickly to the byline before pulling it back for Falcao who was composed and again showed a great change of direction against the Athletic centre backs before making it 2-0.

Bielsa's men were struggling to penetrate and Munain started to drop deep to try and receive the ball and influence the play. However they couldn't create any good chances and it ended 2-0 at half time.

Athletic made two changes at the break, bringing on Inigo Perez and Ibai Gomez for Iturraspe and Aurtenetxe. This meant Munain moved into a central position while Ibai Gomez moved to the left. Indeed they started the second half on the attack, playing with a good tempo with Munain getting behind the defenders between the centre and full back.

At.Madrid however had kept the same strategy as the first half dropping deep to make it compact, working hard to close the gaps down the centre and making it difficult for Athletic to penetrate. The threat on the counter attack with Falcao, Diego and the two wide players was always there, with Athletic pushing players forward, they were vulnerable to quick transitions.

They were also playing the ball too quickly down the middle which made it easier for Simeone's players and they weren't getting to the byline out wide either.

As the game went on, tiredness started to play a part for At.Madrid and more space started to open up between the lines and between defenders for Athletic to create chances, first for Ibai Gomez, then Susaeta but they failed to take them with Courtois looking very strong in goal.

Falcao up front was still giving the centre backs a torrid time and had a chance to get his hat trick, cutting inside onto his right foot and just hitting the post. However a few minutes later, Diego found space to run at the Athletic defence and, after he tricked Amorebieta with a stepover, he placed a lovely finish into the bottom right hand corner to seal the trophy for Atletico Madrid.

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