Rosenborg BK played host to Sporting CP in the Europa League at Lekendal Stadion on Thursday night.
Table-toppers Sporting came away as 2-0 winners from a tight game, during which different tactics were employed by both sides to varying levels of success.
Despite the statistics showing Rosenborg had more possession and shots, Sporting grabbed two first-half goals through Sebastian Coates and Bruno Fernandes and were able to hold on for the victory.
As a result, Rosenborg stay bottom with no points from their opening four matches, while a win in Sporting’s next round will see them qualify for the knockout stages.
The following tactical analysis looks at the tactics utilised by both managers during the match and offers an analysis of why Sporting were able to come away with the victory.
Both sides went with strong starting lineups with qualification for the knockout stage a possibility for each club prior to kick off.
Rosenborg chose a 4-3-3 formation, which they have used regularly this season and fielded most of the players that drew 3-3 with Stromgordset in the most recent Eliteserien fixture.
Sporting set up with a 3-5-2 formation, having opted for a four at the back system in recent weeks, utilising Luciano Vietto and Yannick Bolasie as their two forwards.
Fernandes was granted a free role behind the strikers, with Coates at the centre of the back three.
Rosenborg’s style of play
Rosenborg have stuck strictly to a 4-3-3 system in the Europa League under coach Eirik Horneland this season, despite suffering four consecutive defeats.
As has been the case for much of the season Marius Lundemo was situated as the holding central midfield player, with Mike Jensen and Anders Tronsden either side.
The Rosenborg midfield tended to favour the left-hand side of the pitch, with Rosenborg left-back Birger Meling and left-sided centre back Even Hovland having 84 and 85 touches of the ball respectively, the highest of any player.
Of Rosenborg’s 16 shots only one came from the right side, with left forward Samuel Adegbenro taking three shots, the most of any Rosenborg player.
This trend could be explained by Rosenborg attempting to isolate Sporting wing back Valentin Rosier, who has previously played in midfield and is a player that likes to attack from his full-back position.
On both sides of the field, Rosenborg fielded their full-backs and midfield very high up the pitch, with their centre-backs also holding a high defensive line.
This allowed them to pin Sporting back in their half and have a slight edge in terms of possession, total passes and pass success rate.
However, Rosenborg were frequently unable to penetrate the Sporting backline, with their midfield well marked.
Rosenborg were allowed to hold possession in their own half, but couldn’t move around the pressure of Sporting as they developed attacks in order to create chances.
When Rosenborg did find their way into dangerous positions, they too often lacked the quality to find the killer pass.
Sporting were also able to quickly double up on Rosenborg players, who were unable to deliver under pressure from Sporting defenders.
Sporting’s style of play
With wing-backs, two skillful forwards and a number 10 able to connect midfield and attack, Sporting were able to sit deeper than Rosenborg and maintain a solid rearguard.
Emanuel Ferro’s side were able to form a solid block from the halfway line back to their goal, which Rosenborg struggled to break down barring long shots and set pieces.
This plan was perfectly suited to a game away from home in which they went 0-1 up in 20 minutes, with Rosenborg needing a win in order to qualify.
Sporting actually dominated early on before going ahead, using their wing-backs to isolate the Rosenborg back four.
Sporting’s goal came on 16 minutes from a corner and once they were ahead, their back three sat just beyond the edge of their box.
Sporting also had two protective midfielders ahead of their back three and they helped prevent Rosenborg from having dangerous possession in central areas.
Ahead of the holding midfield pair, Fernandes was granted a free role and he appeared all over the pitch looking for the ball and hoping to connect with his teammates.
Frequently, he would drop deep to receive the ball from the back three, before switching play quickly to start an attack.
He proved a consistent threat, taking three shots and having 55 touches.
For his goal, Fernandes sprints forward on the right-hand side as part of a Sporting breakaway and is able to beat his defender in a one-on-one, before finishing emphatically.
Bolasie and Vietto were also free to roam, although Vietto was far more able to get into the game than Bolasie.
Another way Sporting were able to negate the high press of Rosenborg was through quick passing out from the back.
With the two wide central defenders splitting quickly, Coates dropping deep and Idrissa Doumbia or Eduardo Henrique offering a central option, Sporting gave themselves numerous passing lanes when playing from deep.
While Rosenborg certainly played a role and played with a clear tactical plan, once Sporting took an early lead they were difficult to break down.
Sporting used a well-drilled three-man defence and shielding double pivot to limit Rosenborg central spaces, while their wing-backs were still able to bomb forward and cause Rosenborg issues on the break.
Rosenborg had highlighted Sporting’s right side as a potential area of weakness, however, as a result of a lack of quality and tight Sporting defence, they were unable to capitalise.
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