SC Braga have had a season with some ups and a lot of downs. They started the season very well as they qualified for the group stages of the Europa League, but in Liga NOS it did not go as planned. Braga lost three of their five first matches and Sá Pinto’s side did not recover in time which lead to the sacking of Sá Pinto.
However, they did manage to go on an unbeaten run in the Europa League, in which they faced Besiktas, Slovan Bratislava and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rúben Amorim took over on 23 December and he changed the formation of Braga to a 3-4-3. His tactics will be analysed in this match analysis.
CD Tondela have started this season relatively better, as they are sitting in ninth place while they finished fifteenth last year. This season, Tondela already beat Famalicão and Sporting Lisbon.
This tactical analysis will examine which tactics both sides used and how these tactics lead to the 2-1 win of Braga.
Amorim’s side started with almost the same starting line-up as last week when they won 1-7 away at Belenenses. Murilo replaced Nuno Sequeira at left wing-back, as the latter suffered an injury during training. Matheus started in goal while Raúl Silva, Bruno Viana and Vitor Tormena formed a defensive partnership. Ricardo Esgaio and Murilo played as the wing-backs while João Palhinha and Fransérgio formed a double pivot. Francisco Trincão and Ricardo Horta were the inside-forwards and Paulinho was the lone striker.
Tondela played in a 5-4-1 formation with Fahd Moufi and Filipe Ferreira as the wing-backs. Cláudio Ramos was in goal and in front of him formed Bruno Wilson, Yohan Tavares and Ricardo Alves a central defensive trio. Pepelu and Pité were the two central midfielders while Xavier and Murillo covered the wings. Denilson played up top.
Problems in the build-up of Braga and Tondela’s pressure
In the early minutes, it was already clear what Braga tried to do. They wanted to build-up patiently, trying to draw out the full-backs of Tondela to create a 1-on-1 situation for either Ricardo Horta or Trincão. Both Esgaio and Murilo were tasked to stick close to the sideline to try and attract Moufi or Ferreira to close the gap which would create space for Ricardo Horta or Trincão.
As you can see in the image above, Jhon Murillo (RW of Tondela) did well to cut the passing lane to Ricardo Horta (LW of Braga). Xavier (LW of Tondela) executed this very well on the other side as well when Tormena (RCB of Braga) received the ball. Tondela always tried to cover the centre and they tried to make sure that the left centre-back and the right centre-back of Braga could only pass the ball to the wing-backs. When the wing-backs received the ball, Moufi and Ferreira (wing-backs of Tondela) would put early pressure on the wing-backs which forced them to play the ball backwards.
In the pass map down below, you can see that there is a lot of traffic between all centre-backs and between the centre-backs and the wing-backs. A lot of passes were horizontal or backwords. In total, 247 of the 700 passes were played between the goalkeeper, centre-backs and wing-backs.
The centre-backs of Braga tried to switch sides quickly by passing it towards each other fast. It can be said that Amorim’s side tried to tire the front three of Tondela out to create space for passes towards Ricardo Horta or Trincão. This would happen more often later in the first half. However, it can be said that both Raúl Silva and Vitor Tormena were not quick enough in their passing.
For example, in the image down below can be seen that the ball has switched sides and that Murillo is out of position. There is enough space to break the lines and pass it into Ricardo Horta, which would create a 3v3 situation on the left side if they were quick. However, Raúl Silva takes a touch first, and the chance is wasted as Murillo closes the passing lane.
As you can see in the image above, every single player of Tondela had a direct opponent. Every time that a certain player of Braga would receive the ball in the final third or midfield third, a player of Tondela would put pressure on his direct opponent immediately. This could be executed because Tondela played with a medium-high defensive line and they stayed close to their direct opponents. Pepelu played a crucial part in this match, making 6 ball recoveries and 9 interceptions.
Tondela in transition
In transition from attack to defence, the defenders and central midfielders of Tondela were very disciplined. When the midfielders did come forward, they managed to get back quickly and regroup with eight or nine men. More interesting is what Tondela did in transition from defence to attack.
Tondela got on the attack sporadically and all of those attacks came from counters. González’ side relied on the fact that Braga was going to make mistakes. In the image down below can be seen that Pepelu has the ball in transition after he intercepted a pass in the defensive third. He makes a diagonal run forward and has an option to make a diagonal pass towards Xavier (the arrow in the image). This pass is completed and Tondela have a 3vs2 situation. However, Xavier is too slow and does not make a good decision which results in a wasted chance.
Most of the time, the central defenders of Braga did well to anticipate on the passes forward and the central trio made 41 ball recoveries in total. However, Braga were very sloppy in possession which also lead to the 0-1 of Murillo. Bruno Viana did not watch out and got dispossessed. Murillo could run towards the goal freely and chipped it over the goalie.
Changes in the second-half
Rúben Amorim made two changes in the second half. Wenderson Galeno replaced Murilo and played as a left wing-back while André Horta replaced João Palhinha. Normally, Galeno is a left-winger. These changes did not change the formation, but it did change the playing style drastically.
The left centre-back of Braga, Raúl Silva, played a bit higher in possession while Wenderson Galeno played as a left-winger in possession. This resulted in possession for the left wing-back in the final third instead of around the halfway line. As already mentioned before, Galeno normally plays as a left-winger which means that creating a 1-on-1 situation for him could be dangerous.
It can be said as well that Amorim’s side played more opportunistic in the second half. They changed their playing style by focusing on creating 1-on-1 situations for the wing-backs rather than the wingers which resulted in the ball being played down the flanks more often. Both wing-backs had a major impact on Braga turning a 0-1 deficit around in a 2-1 win. They gave a lot of crosses and a very good cross of both Esgaio and Galeno lead to two goals.
Taking a look at their stats, it can be seen that Ricardo Esgaio had an xA (expected assists) of 0.69, completed 6 of 7 crosses, made 5 key passes, had 1 deep completion and gave 6 shot assists. Galeno completed 4 of 8 crosses, had 4 shots and gave 1 assist in 45 minutes. These stats underline the aforementioned statement that changing their playing style by focusing on creating 1-on-1 situations for the wing-backs turned out to be a good change by Amorim.
As already mentioned before, all players of Tondela had their direct opponent. This was a good strategy in this match, as Braga did not have any position changes during the match and especially in the first half they were very predictable. If Braga would have done more position changes, for example changing positions between the RWB/RW and LWB/LW.
This would mean that Esgaio would tuck inside while Trincão would stick close to the sideline which means that the LCB and LWB of Tondela would have had to choose between sticking to marking his direct opponent or keeping in his position. Besides that, Braga were too predictable as they did not have enough players that provided depth (in the first half) for Braga. They played too static and desperately needed more movement and variety in their side.
Braga deserved to win this match, but Amorim should think about his playing style once again. They need more variety and movement in their build-up, they need more position changes and they need more depth. Tondela did well in the first half to keep Braga away from goal but sat too deep in the second half which lead to a lot of crosses of Braga, which lead to two goals.