Jagiellonia Białystok 1-0 Polonia Warszawa

Andrzej Gomołysek believes the Polish league leaders need to start showing their quality more often if they are to go on and win the championship…

Want to know how the minnows from Białystok are doing so well in the Ekstraklasa this season? The answer is simple – they play really good football, really well. And after beating sixth-placed Polonia in round 11, they stay two points clear at the top of the table.

Both teams started this game with just the one striker, and an overriding focus on controlling the midfield. Polonia went with a 4-4-1-1 formagtion, young Polish international Artur Sobiech floating behind the more experienced Ebi Smolarek.

Jagiellonia went with a ‘flat’ 4-5-1, using Kamil Grosicki as a main striker, and former Polonia man Jarosław Lato surprisingly placed nearest to him by 38-year-old tactician Michał Probierz.

But their tactically disciplined opponents rendered the Jagiellonia system futile – doubling and tripling up on them in key areas. Combined with a generally lacklustre performance by the home side, Polonia had it easy. Continue reading

Energie Cottbus 2-1 VfL Bochum

The starting formations.

Energie Cottbus came from behind to inflict a third away defeat of the season on mid-table Bochum, move into the top five in the process.

After a frantic opening few minutes, Cottbus got the ball down and settled into a pattern of starting short and inviting pressure.

Bochum kept their North Korean striker Jong Tae-Se sprinting after whichever defender had the ball, but stationed the rest of the team behind halfway.

With Cottbus insisting on slowly bringing the ball out and assessing which of the eight players in the opponent’s half was the best option, they left themselves open at the back.

Initially, Bochum looked to take advantage here by scooping over the top for Jong to chase, but the former Kawasaki Frontale frontman was isolated, and flopping too readily.

As this gave the visitors no territorial advantage, the home side’s grip on the game strengthened, and the chances were all their’s.

Cottbus formed a melina square involving the central defenders and midfielders, and in response to this, Bochum narrowed accordingly. Continue reading

Leeds United 0-4 Cardiff City

The formations. Pressing was on the agenda for both sides, but Cardiff's quality eventually told.

Clinical Cardiff destroyed lacklustre Leeds as Dave Jones’s side moved level on points with fellow Championship high-flyers QPR. Three quickfire goals in the second half killed the game as a contest, but the home side could so easily have made more of a spell in the first half when they were on top.

Leeds came into the game six points clear of the relegation zone, and knowing a win would lift them to within a point of the play-off spots. Their guests, save for one exceptional performance at Coventry last week, haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season, but such is the calibre of player available to Dave Jones, he’s managed to keep the Bluebirds happily inhaling the exhaust fumes of Neil Warnock’s Park Rangers.

Cocksure Cardiff immediately got comfy on the ball as their hosts sat off and pressed – furiously – from the halfway line. When Leeds did get the ball, they were unfussy and direct – the game’s first real chance coming when George McCartney dispossessed Chris Burke; the left-back finding Luciano Becchio to hold it up and lay on Bradley Johnson’s cross for the goal-hanging presence of David Somma.

The non-stop pressing unnerved Cardiff, and Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra grew more irate with each robbing tackle: Leeds swarming back and doubling-up on the ball-holder. Gradually, Leeds edged their way into the game, and by pushing the defence as near to the deep-lying forwards as possible, Cardiff’s passing corridors were closed down. Although Chris Burke dropped back looking to collect and carry, the playmaking Peter Whittingham was less pass-spraying quarterback and more defensive screen. Continue reading

Gus Poyet

Brighton's new stadium, Falmer, East Sussex.

Brighton & Hove Albion will be the highest ranked side in the competition when the FA Cup first round draw takes place tomorrow afternoon. Topping a tight League One table by three points, things are looking good for the Seagulls right now.

Although the club is yet to grace the Premier League (they last appeared in the top flight 27 years ago), a more hankered after milestone occurs next July when the 22,500 all-seater site at Falmer opens.

On the pitch, Albion have lost just 14 of the 49 games played under Gus Poyet – no mean feat considering the former Chelsea midfielder has changed the club’s footballing philosophy in the process.

I met with the South American on a nippy morning earlier this week. Well, I thought it was nippy anyway… Poyet was in his shorts. “My mind is always on the football,” he says.

Poyet is one of just two managers from the Americas currently working in the Football League* (Try and guess the other before you finish reading. I’ve put the other manager’s name at the bottom). Continue reading

Hércules CF 2-2 Villarreal

The second half systems.

After a busy evening, I settled down to watch the second half of Hércules CF-Villarreal – the concluding fixture for matchday seven of the La Liga season.

Hércules CF took a narrow lead into the second half, goals from David Trezeguet and Nelson Valdez blunted by Spain international Joan Capdevila’s brief levelling of the tie.

But a second yellow card for Trezeguet just moments after regaining the lead for last season’s Segunda División champions saw Hércules reduced to ten men for the rest of the game.

Therefore, coach Esteban Vigo set his side out in a 4-4-1 formation for the next batch of 45 minutes, and made a change in midfield by bringing on Francisco Rufete for Tote.

Villarreal instantly monopolised possession in the second half, and their fluid use of midfielders and attackers meant they had five ball-players-cum-bobbers floating in the home side’s half, plus overlapping full-backs. Continue reading

Cologne 1-2 Dortmund

Lukas Podolski's pre-match rant made for a raucous atmosphere.

A scrappy injury time winner from Nuri Şahin saw Dortmund temporarily go top of the Bundesliga table!

The visitors were good value for the three points after making the most chances in a fast-paced and occasionally fiery Friday night thriller.

An hour’s drive separates Dortmund from Cologne, and as a number of Dortmund players were on international duty this week, a short journey to face the team in 16th was definitely what the doctor ordered.

Save for handing Croatian rookie Miro Varvodić his Bundesliga bow, Cologne’s line-up was identical to the one that held Hoffenheim before the international break.

The first half began at a brutal pace, setting the tone for the rest of the game. No one was given the luxury of time on the ball, and it was all a bit slapdash.

This cut-thrust nature didn’t stop either side from having plenty of chances though: Podolski and Lucas Barrios having the best of the bunch, both rattling the woodwork.  Continue reading

Sibir Novosibirsk 2-2 Rubin Kazan

The formations that began the game. When Sibir took the lead, Noboa began playing in a more advanced position. Ansaldi didn't offer much of an overlapping threat because Eduardo and Kasaev were doubling-up down that flank.

Russian Premier League strugglers Sibir Novosibirsk injected life into their survival battle by winning at Rostov last weekend. But with relegation rivals Krylya Sovetov Samara winning yesterday, Sibir knew they had to take three points against last season’s champions here to maintain any hopes they had of surviving.

Rubin came into the game in second place, wearied from playing Barcelona in the Champions League in the week, and knowing they also needed three points for their own domestic cause – keeping on the trail of runaway leaders, Zenit.

The sides’ league positions showed immediately – Rubin were superior to Sibir from the off. Without possession, they pressed high and in numbers, while with it, they were decisive and clever, and kept Aleksei Medvedev – back at his old club for the first time – well fed.

Sibir neglected to press, and found congesting the centre wasn’t preventing Rubin’s one-two moves that were easily keeping the ball in the final-third.

The visitors had a range of options in attack: Carlos Eduardo and Alan Kasaev dovetailed superbly – the Brazilian taking the back seat by making diagonal dummy runs that let the energetic Russian cut inside.

With the equally classy Christian Noboa nearby, the trio worked several sumptuous triangles to great effect.

Over on the right, Oleg Kuzmin and Andrei Gorbanets performed complementarily. Unfortunately, Gorbanets’ weak delivery too often wasted Rubin’s breakaways. Continue reading