Legia Warszawa 3-0 Arka Gdynia

The starting formations.

Adam Wysocki thinks Legia were lucky to win this weekend after a helping hand from Japan…

Legia Warszawa were indebted to a pair of goalkeeping errors and an incorrectly awarded penalty as they beat a Arka Gdynia side who bossed the game.

Arka manager Dariusz Pasieka started the game with a 4-1-2-2-1 take on the 4-5-1 formation. Michał Płotka was deployed as the defensive midfielder-cum-third centre-back, as Pasieka instructed just three of his players to station themselves offensively. That trio did a decent job of pressing high up the pitch in the first half-hour, forcing Legia’s backline into playing hurried long ball football.

However, Arka were often too passive in possession, and only knew how to attack their opponents on the break. Nevertheless, this tactic delivered a golden opportunity in the 20th minute, but Marcin Budziński fluffed his lines.

Legia, meanwhile, lined-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to the one used last week against Wisła Kraków. Miroslav Radović played as the left-sided attacker, Maciej Iwański to his immediate right, and on-loan Flamengo man Bruno Mezenga was left to plough a lone furrow up top.

Pasieka has proven in recent seasons that he’s adept at setting his sides up defensively, so it was no surprise to see the visitors nullify the threat posed by the home side. Warszawa couldn’t get close to Arka’s ‘keeper initially, and soon watched on as the visitors eased into the game and monopolised the goal attempts.

Although Legia were forceful in pushing their defensive line high, they couldn’t cope with the explosive Joseph Desire Mawaye – the Cameroonian epitomising the more aggressive application his side put into both defending and attacking.

Since 2008, Poland and Japan have operated a policy where the Ekstraklasa and J-League exchange referees. So, for this game, the official was Masaaki Toma – the man who took charge of the midweek Poland-Ivory Coast friendly international.

Unfortunately, Mr Toma ruined the game through incessant use of his whistle. The Japanese official called 43 fouls (23 in favour of Legia), and dished out eight yellow cards and one red – for Michał Płotka – overall. By way of comparison, Toma called 33 per cent more fouls than were seen in the recent Newcastle-Fulham Premier League clash, the English top flight’s most foul-friendly game of 2010/11.

Unfortunately, Mr Toma didn’t stop there. With Arka on top, he ruined their hard work by blowing for a very harsh penalty in the 39th minute. Although Marciano Bruma – brother of Chelsea’s Jeffrey – clearly committed a foul, he was forced into it because Radović had hold of his shirt. Showing no mercy, Ivica Vrdoljak just about put the penalty out of Norbert Witkowski’s reach.

After the break, Arka swapped the long-ball and counter-attack tactics for balls down and crosses from the channels. Resultantly, they managed to get 15 crosses into the box during the second half, compared with the mere five they swung in during the first half.

As a result of Arka’s desire to get back into the game, Maciej Skorża had room to play with, and instructed his team to hit their guests on the break (pushing his defence back further and further as time marched on).

After the first goal, they implemented a more counter-attacking style to their game. On top of that, they adopted the predictable time-wasting and opponent draining tactics – melina, and aimless long-diagonals.

If Witkowski couldn’t be blamed for letting the penalty sneak in, the Polish custodian was responsible for the goals that followed. He let tame efforts from Mezenga and Tomasz Kiełbowicz slip through his grasp in the last ten minutes as Legia iced the cake.

Although the ‘keeper will be made a scapegoat for this loss (one which saw his side drop to 14th), Arka’s attackers must apportion some of the blame. Of their 16 attempts at goal, not one came from inside the box, and a creaky Legia defence went unpunished.

The win keeps Legia in fourth spot (level on points with second-placed Wisla Kraków), and continues their great run of form – four wins from their last five matches, and not a single draw all season. They meet Polonia Bytom on Friday, while Arka host Śląsk Wrocław the following day.

You can follow more of Adam and Andrzej Gomołysek’s tactical analyses at taktycznie.blogspot.com.

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