Andrzej Gomołysek watched Poland’s last representatives in European competition suffer a disappointing exit.
Lech blew a 1-0 lead from the first leg of this last-32 Europa League tie to limp out of the competition and miss out on a money-spinning tie against Liverpool.
Spanish coach José María Bakero set his side out in a 4-2-3-1, albeit with a striker playing on the left wing and a full-back on the right. Thus, the 48-year-old tried retaining the system which brought them that crucial first leg win last week, but didn’t have the performers to make it work a second time.
Cautious Lech’s tactics didn’t venture beyond long punts to lone Bosnian frontman Semir Štilić. As if the lack of creativity shown by the Polish side wasn’t bad enough, the inability to use any of these balls was – the striker received next to no support. In fairness to Braga, they pressed in numbers and sharply, minimising the amount of time the opposition had to pick out a pass.
The Portuguese silver medallists started this match with a (high) 4-3-2-1, in which the three midfielders did an excellent job of protecting their defence, and rendering Lech’s own midfield duo of Dimitrije Injac and Ivan Đurđević redundant when it came to use of the ball. However, the visiting side’s midfield did a better job in bolting their own door through the centre, and resultantly, Braga used the wings to attack, where Lech looked particularly vulnerable.
Consequently, the Lech defensive line was being pulled out to the left to secure the weaker of the two sides, but this left right-sided midfielder Marcin Kikut alone when Braga switched play in the final-third. This defensive uncertainty, coupled with individual errors, ensured Braga scored two early goals through Alan and Lima to seal their progression.
Alas, when Bakero did get round to altering his system and tactics, it was too late and ineffective. Artjoms Rudņevs went up front, Stilić went into centre-midfield, and Jakub Wilk came on as a left-sided midfielder. But Braga stood high, pressed high, and did a good job of destroying any sparks of creativity hurled at them by their guests.
As things got desperate, Lech opted for a 4-4-2, with Stilić placed further up the pitch again as a striker. Braga reacted by dropping, and hitting their guests on the break: managing to expose the slowness of Lech’s full-backs and create some dangerous action in the final-third, although they couldn’t put the tie to bed.
But despite a late rally, Lech weren’t able to get the single goal that would that have would taken them through, and were left to rue starting the game so negatively.