- 1. Xabi Alonso marked out of the match
|Xabi Alonso's frustration |
was on display throughout the match.
Photo credit: www.todayonline.com
As it later became evident, Jackson Martínez had clear instructions to sit close to Bayern's maestro Xabi Alonso and thus frustrate the team's passing rhythm (the Spaniard came in behind the likes of Thiago Alcântara, Mario Götze, Juan Bernat, Sebastian Rode and even Jérôme Boateng as far as passes in the attacking third are concerned). FC Porto coach Julen Lopetegui couldn't have dreamed that that very strategy would yield the match's initial goal as Xabi Alonso was caught out in possession by the same man that would come to deny his extraordinary passing skills. If Bayern could never get into their passing groove, much credit should go the month-long absentee Jackson Martínez.
- 2. Moments and areas for pressing: the key
|FC Porto players gave it their all|
in the attempt to close down Bayern's passing options.
Photo credit: www.bavarianfootballworks.com
Rather than pressing their opponents all over the place, FC Porto accepted Bayern's superiority in terms of ball possession, but rather than sitting deep, forced the Germans to play under the Portuguese's own terms. And that is perhaps the biggest lesson of them all for players, coaches and supporters alike - perhaps more than whether to press or not to press, the most important thing is to know what to do when it's time to do it. That way, FC Porto were able (most of the time) to condition Bayern's play towards the areas they felt most comfortable in.
- 3. Holding the ball up: crucial to breathe
|Quaresma might have |
provided his trademark finish,
but his work rate impressed the most.
Photo credit: www.theguardian.com
If things didn't pan out as badly as they could have, it was in large part due to the ability displayed by Jackson, Yacine Brahimi and Ricardo Quaresma to hold the ball up and either wait for the foul to come or solve the situation by themselves - thus giving the team some much-needed time to breathe. Without that skill set, FC Porto would probably have succumbed to Bayern's pressing, even if the Germans never looked quite their best at the Dragão.
Quaresma and Jackson's goals will stay in the club supporters' mental highlight reel for a long time, but it was their work rate, willingness to track back and numerous good, yet less visible decisions that allowed FC Porto to thrive.
- 4. Ball possession: blessing or curse?
|Bayern had to wait |
until the 28th minute to unleash their celebrations.
Photo credit: www.101greatgoals.com
The main theory sustained by those who prefer a thriftier approach when it comes to sharing the ball around claims that when one's team has the ball, the other team cannot score. The main hole in that theory is that no team in the world - not even Pep Guardiola's Barcelona or World Champions Spain in their prime - was ever able to keep their opponents from having the ball for several minutes, however few they were. The other pressing countenance is that a quick break or getting caught in possession only takes a few seconds to yield at least a scoring chance.
This is in no way a hark back to more cynical times where Serie A teams excelled, but more of a starting point for a discussion about how it's much more important to know what to do when a team effectively has the ball, rather than whether they have it for a short or long time. Ball possession in and by itself offers nothing as an end product, but may well be the best way to keep your opponents from hurting you. The only problem with that is that you need huge amounts of confidence to make it work - and definitely better centre-backs on the ball.
- 5. Knowing one's strengths and weakness
|Dante and Boateng were hardly ever given a moment's peace.|
Photo credit: www.zimbio.com
On the other hand, the Basque coach admitted that his centre-backs could not run the risk of being dispossessed near their own penalty box and that was why both Maicon and Bruno Martins Indi had no qualms hoofing it up towards Jackson Martínez (whenever possible), rather than exposing themselves to being caught in possession against the likes of Götze or Müller.
Guardiola, in turn, saw Boateng and Dante (and even Manuel Neuer) put in some gasp-inducing passes and moves, and not only ended up chasing the score but was never sure enough anything similar wouldn't happen again either. For a team that is so dedicated to ball possession, it seems baffling that, with so much money spent all over the pitch, Boateng and Dante are still the go-to centre-back pairing.
In purely defensive terms, both centre-backs showed once again that they are from comfortable when dealing with physically imposing strikers (or forwards, for that matter) and high balls, which was why Jackson managed to give FC Porto some wiggle room up the pitch and how the third goal came about.