Vitoria Guimaraes hosted Sporting Braga in game week 11 of the Liga NOS this Sunday evening. The home side was hoping to pick up from their excellent midweek performance against English giants Arsenal, but they faced a very strong Braga side who is top of their group in Europe. The rivalry between these two teams speaks for itself, and the game was intense from start to finish. Braga put out a great performance, deservedly winning 2-0 on a night where the home team didn’t pose any real threat to ‘The Warriors’.
This tactical analysis looks at how Braga’s fast-paced attacking transitions and good defensive organisation were enough to keep a clean sheet at their rival’s ground. The analysis looks at the tactics that worked and didn’t work for either team and why Braga fully deserved the win at the end of the 90 minutes.
Vitoria’s line-up has a few changes from their midweek game against Arsenal. Left-back Rafa Soares was left on the bench, alongside midfield player Pepe. Defensive midfielder Mikel Adu was left out of the squad for managerial reasons. Besides that, Vitoria presented a fairly strong side hoping to get a result against their biggest rivals.
On the other hand, Braga’s line-up for this game only suffered one major change, with experienced Portuguese international Eduardo replaced Matheus in goal. Sa Pinto has been using the same first 11 for a couple games now, with a couple of rotation changes here and there. This is definitely Braga’s strongest line-up so far this season.
Braga in possession
Braga set up a 4-2-3-1 system on paper. However, it would change into a 4-3-3 when attacking due to the wide midfielders pushing up the pitch to create more width and space in the midfield. This change allowed Palhinha to drop into the no.6 role, opening up space in the midfield for Braga to explore (picture below).
Once again, it’s clear to see Palhinha dragging out one of Vitoria’s attacking midfielders to create space in the middle. The image below shows a Braga player in between four Vitoria defenders, with tons of space to receive the ball and rotate the play for an attack.
Braga’s full-backs were rather attacking, which forced Vitoria’s wingers to close them down. As such, Braga’s wingers were always free to receive the ball out wide. Braga exploited this all game long, using width from the full-backs/wingers.
The image above shows Braga’s wing play tactics. The goal of using so much width by the wingers/full-backs was to free up space in midfield in behind Vitoria’s first defensive block. This explains why Braga’s passing links were so congested in midfield since they had so much space around the halfway line.
The image above shows how Braga was able to congest the midfield with all of its attacking players. Palhinha (Number 60) played the number six role to perfection by linking up the attack to Braga’s defence. As such, Braga’s tactics were a bigger threat to Vitoria since the home team couldn’t close them down effectively.
Braga’s defensive masterpiece
Braga’s strongest aspect this game was their defensive organization, setting up in a 4-4-2 compact and narrow shape to Vitoria’s 3-4-3 attacking shape (picture below). This means Braga were never outnumbered either in the midfield or in defence. Their compact defensive blocks also forced Vitoria to play wide all game long, using crosses as their biggest threat. This is shown by Vitoria’s 44 crosses and 11 corners throughout the game.
Braga’s defensive organisation allowed them to regain possession and counter Vitoria’s backline in numbers, shown in the picture below. Braga are in a 4v4 situation which they don’t waste and score the first goal of the match.
Vitoria lined up in a 4-1-4-1 system on paper, which changed to a 4-2-3-1 defensively and to a 3-4-3 going forward, with the no.6 dropping in between the centre-backs, giving Vitoria a number’s advantage in the build-up. (image below)
Due to Braga’s very disciplined defensive organisation, Vitoria were forced to play out wide the entire game. This can be easily identified by Vitoria’s positional attacks (below).
Another indicator of Vitoria’s constant wing-play is the passing links in the team (below). There is a clear triangulation on the left flank, emphasizing Vitoria’s tactics during this game.
It also shows how Vitoria kept creating overloads on the flank in 2v1 or 3v2 situations against Braga’s defence. The image below shows a 2v1 scenario where Vitoria’s wingers moved inwards to the half-space, dragging out the full-back, leaving space in the flank for Vitoria’s full-back to explore.
Here is another situation where Vitoria create an overload on the flank, in this case, a 3v2. This time Vitoria’s winger dragged his marker to the flank, creating space for the midfielder to attack, as shown in the picture below. Since they have the number’s advantage, Vitoria always had a free man to receive the ball.
Regardless, Vitoria never posed any real threats to Braga through crossing. Only 11 out of the 44 crosses were successful. Although Vitoria controlled the game with 58% possession, they only had 0.4 expected goals. As shown in the stats below, that is very unusual for Ivo Vieira’s team. However, the credit goes to Braga’s excellent defensive performance.
Vitoria’s manager did try to increase its areal threat by bringing in a second striker, Bonantini, into the game around the hour mark, as seen below.
Vitoria were able to have a 4v4 matchup to Braga’s defence, giving them a better chance of scoring. However, due to the 2-0 lead, Braga was happy to sit back and drop its wingers to help cope with the extra man in attack. This created a backline of six when defending (image below).
This tactical adaption reassured Braga were never outnumbered in defence. Sa Pinto’s tactics pushed Braga to a comfortable victory.
The game between Vitoria and Braga was very well disputed in midfield, with Vitoria controlling the tempo for the majority of the time. However, Braga was very comfortable playing defensively and on the counter. Due to Vitoria’s lack of areal threat, Braga was able to get a 2-0 win accompanied by a solid performance.
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