Sunday, 26 September 2010

Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona - Midfielder Goals

Last night's away fixture vs Bilbao saw Barcelona face a resolute team who looked to defend deep and narrow with two banks of 4 (sometimes 5+3 or 4+3). This tactic generally works well against Barcelona as it denies the attackers space to receive the ball and run at the defence, and it invites them to cross into the box, where tall centre backs will win aerial balls with ease against Barcelona's diminutive front line.

Rather than play into Bilbao's hands, Barcelona fullbacks circulated the ball back into the middle where, due to Bilbao's very deep midfield line, Barcelona's own midfielders had time and space on the ball. Fielding a 4 man midfield with Keita, Iniesta and Xavi in a close triangle ahead of Busquets, Barcelona were able to build attacks from the middle and use the momentum of their midfielders to open up space for shooting opportunities.

Keita opened the scoring after playing the ball wide to Iniesta and making a surge into the box, where he received the ball back after a neat one-touch pass from Villa. Xavi doubled the lead after a masterclass in patient passing from Barcelona, Maxwell drawing several defenders deep before circulating the ball back into the middle for Xavi, who'd gained several yards of space to fire off a (deflected) shot into the back of the net.

In stoppage time, with Bilbao chasing the game, Busquets received a loose ball in his own half and with one touch, brought it down for Keita, then proceeded to follow up the attack with a 60 yard run into Bilbao's box, where he was on hand to convert Pedro's cutback.