The last matchday of the Superliga season was between Estudiantes de La Plata hosting Racing Club de Avellaneda, played on the 10th March. Racing won the match 2-1, finishing fourth in the league, while Estudiantes ended the campaign at the 13th place.
In this tactical analysis, we will try to understand how Racing was able to lead the match and capitalise the opportunities that were created.
As we can see from the image above, the two teams started the match with a similar disposition on the pitch.
Estudiantes‘ coach, Leandro Desabato, set his players in a 4-4-2 formation, with Javier Mascherano leading the midfield activities, with front two strikers, Federico González and Mateo Retegui in front of him.
On the opposite side, coach Sebastian Beccacece, set a starting 4-1-4-1 with Jonathan Cristaldo as sole forward.
The match showed that Racing’ tactics overcome Estudiantes in both of the halves, with the home team being able to score only at the 89′ thanks to a powerful shot by Nahuel Estévez.
Estudiantes’ build-up pattern and their struggles to play out of pressure
The home team used to start the action from the back. The goalkeeper Mariano Andújar (both the goalkeepers were not so involved in the circulation phase, they just start the build-up) used to pass the ball either to his teammate Nazareno Colombo (central defender) or, more frequently, directly to Javier Mascherano. The former Barcelona and Liverpool player is one of the most important players for Estudiantes, in particular, he is entitled to be the spotlight for either the build-up phase and the defensive phase.
In the situation represented below – a typical build-up phase by Estudiantes -, Mascherano receives the ball in Estudiantes’ midfield, and thanks to the freedom left by Racing‘s strikers, he can control it and move forward. In this match, Racing’s coach designed a compact mid-low block, to reduce the space for Estudiantes’ ball circulation in their midfield.
On the other side, during the match, Estudiantes did not have the majority of ball control, mainly because of Racing players’ technicalities and how they were organised on the pitch. In order to not concede too much space, they opted to defend with a mid-block and stayed compact and then execute a high-intensity press in the middle third.
As we can see from the image above, Estudiantes gave the Racing players some freedom to enter their midfield with the ball. Getting closer to Estudiantes’ area, from a zonal marking system they turned to more man-to-man marking, trying to prevent passing opportunities.
During the first half, Estudiantes was not able to create any consistent opportunity, because of Racing’s well defensive organisation. In the second half, a lack of a reference in the build-up phase emerged, mainly because of Mascherano’s lack of freedom and fatigue. In addition, some of the Estudiantes’ players committed several important individual mistakes and the possession was often lost unnecessarily and led to dangerous opportunities for the opposing team.
Although their tactical disposition did not change, positional misalignments between defensive and midfield lines – and a bit of general fatigue – left Racing space on the flanks.
In this situation, we can see how the right-back Facundo Mura, seeing his teammates being marked, tries to reach the striker with a long ball. This is intercepted by Racing midfielder Leonel Miranda and immediately passed to the opposite winger, on the left.
Another difficult situation for Estudiantes, as given by the ball lost that led Racing to score the second goal. Again, in an attempt to reach his teammate on the right, Estévez misses and the ball gets recovered by Miranda who assists the striker Cristaldo, who can run to score.
It is only at the 89th minute that Estudiantes finds the net, with a precise shot by Estévez. Iván Erquiaga crossed the ball into the penalty area but the cross was intercepted and cleared by Nery Dominguez. However, the ball fell just outside the box and Estévez managed to volley it home into the net. The space between the defensive and medial line of Racing was quite wide and it was fundamental for Estévez as it allows him a lot of space and freedom to score.
Racing’s attacks from flanks as key moments
Since the beginning, Racing led the match, with an average ball possession of 60%. In the first half, it was around 66% while in the second it slightly dropped to 55%.
Like Estudiantes, Racing used to start the action from the back. The goalkeeper Gabriel Arias passes the ball to the central defender Dominguez, who is in charge to head the possession.
In the frame captured below, we can see how Racing’s coach disposed of his team in the possession phase: from an initial 4-1-4-1 it turns into a backline of three, the two centre backs and the right-back; the left-back, Alexis Soto, rises to the midfield line.
The progressive play by Racing Club found its outcome along the right flank: this was the part of the pitch where the team could take advantage of the spaces left by Estudiantes and created dangerous situations – and scored one of the two goals. This is confirmed by Wyscout, claiming that Racing was able to create 10 opportunities down the right flank.
Here below are showed different situations generated by Racing from the right. They represent, at the same time, the strength and the cooperation between Racing’s offensive teammates and a lack of order and misunderstandings between Estudiantes’ players.
The first frame is captured at the 30th minute after a corner kick when a couple of close passages between Miranda and Benjamín Garré – a very interesting youngster born in 2000 that caught Manchester City‘s attention – allows the latter to enter Estudiantes’ area and cross the ball. In this situation we have a concentration of Racing players (three) in a tiny space of the pitch; at the same time Estudiantes’ defensive line – plus Mascherano – is too worried to occupy their area in a zonal defensive idea that they do not pay so much attention to the free space left on the left flank.
The second frame represents the goal scored by Héctor Fértoli. This time the action is started by Soto from the left, but he soon recognises the space left by Estudiantes’ defensive line on the opposite side of the pitch. The four defenders are all looking to the ball and its direction, hence Fértoli runs – following the yellow line – and receives the long pass from Soto, enters the area and scores with his left foot.
Lastly, the third frame represents, once again, another potential threat for Estudiantes, raised on the right flank. The left-back Soto kicks the ball to the striker Cristaldo that controls it and immediately he passes to the upcoming Rojas. The midfielder, with a wide view of the game, can see the huge space between the two Estudiantes’ central defenders and provides an interesting assist to the right-winger Garré – named in the lower part of the frame.
To conclude, this tactical analysis tried to highlight the key moments that allowed Racing to capitalise their opportunities and win the match.
Despite an equal start, Estudiantes was not able to control the game and to create any consistent threat until the second half. They only found the net with a great shot at the 89′. At the same time, misalignments and mistakes emerged in the defensive and midfield lines. A key player as Mascherano can not cope with both offensive and defensive tasks alone, he needs cooperation.
In contrast, possessive play, attacking situations from the flanks, cooperation and the ability to fill in the free spaces can be identified as main points upon which Racing built up their victory.