Re-blogged: Even good team allow bad goals

This was something I posted on the previous incarnation of this blog when it was running on Blogger. I found a better video that shows the points I make below more clearly. It has all the highlights from the game (Champions League game from last year between Liverpool and Lyon at Anfield) but the relevant bits start at 3:18.

Here’s the original post, after the video, with some updates in italics:

Liverpool were playing Lyon today at home in a Champions league game. With the game tied 1-1, heading into injury time, they gave up a terrible goal. At first it just looks like great play by Lyon but it was an entirely preventable goal given away through a combination of laziness, poor technical defending and ball watching.

The problems, for Liverpool, start once the Lyon keeper, Lloris, punts the ball towards his left midfielder who then plays an awkward ball inside to a central midfielder (although the video does not cover this).

Lucas, a Liverpool central midfielder, presses the Lyon holding mid when the dodgy square ball is played inside. It’s the right decision because if he forces a turnover there Liverpool are 3v2 in the attacking third. It’s the last correct decision Lucas makes before the goal is conceded.

The critical play in the goal is the determination of the Lyon holding mid to not give possession away on the edge of his defensive third. He dives in and pushes the ball to his outside back who quickly moves the ball to the wide mid Govou. This is where the video picks up the play. Freeze it here for a second.

At this point Lucas should have recovered and got goal side of his mark. He doesn’t. Instead he drifts over to where Insua (Liverpool’s left back) had pushed up high to force Govou to shield the ball and play with his back to goal. Insua then makes two brutal errors compounded by the poor positioning of the two Liverpool centre backs who both play tight on one striker leaving Insua to deal with Govou without support. Once Lucas get lazy it gets worse for them.

He lets Govou take a touch away from him and get his body turned so he can play the ball into the acre of space created by pushing up so high on Govou. Who does Govou play the ball to? The midfielder that Lucas should have been tracking but gave up on because it looked easier to wander over and make it look like he was closing down Govou from the side. If a centre back had been better positioned they could have held up play here.

So it’s bad enough that this mid is now charging towards the box having been played through by Govou. What makes it totally unacceptable is that Govou, who played the whole game, explodes past Insua first (who only came into the game 15 minutes earlier and couldn’t have been too tired) and then Lucas and actually gets around the player he passed to and gets the ball back on the overlap before playing a beautiful ball across the face of the goal for Delgado to send into the net. Govou’s run goes from 3:21 to 3:26 on the video.

The last culprit on the play in Jamie Carragher. Perhaps the most experienced defender on the field for Liverpool. If you watch him as Govou bursts into the box, you’ll see that he never shoulder checks to see if anyone is screaming in to seal the far post which of course Delgado does. He ghosts in behind the ball-watching Carragher and slots the winner from a couple yards out.

There’s a more traditional view of the goal starting at 2:58 on the video.

Absolutely shocking defending that I wouldn’t accept from my U16 girls team. Here’s the mistakes summarized.

1. Lucas doesn’t track his mark’s run
2. Insua does half the job closing down Govou but lets him turn and play a threatening ball in behind and then can’t be bothered to track him as he takes off. Both Lucas and Insua aren’t even in the box yet when the ball goes in while Govou has overlapped and played the decisive ball across the goal from about eight yards out.
3. Carragher is totally unaware of the danger at the far post and allows Delgado to score unmarked.

What lessons can you draw from this for youth soccer players? Some very simple ones.

1. See the importance of Lyon’s holding midfielder being tough enough to not surrender possession in a dangerous part of the field despite being given a difficult ball and being under pressure. His ability to keep the ball allows Lyon to start an attack rather than having to defend a 3v2 in their defensive third. Possession is not just nine tenths of the law, it’s nine tenths of soccer as well and this willingness to not allow Lucas to snipe in and dispossess him is a huge swing.

2. Show midfielders the importance of tracking runners so that when a ball is played to their mark they are at least in a position to delay and prevent critical passes being played or shots being taken. Lucas tried to make it look like he was doing something positive but he knew he was ducking responsibility and allowing his mark to get further away because he couldn’t be bothered doing the work late in the game. This was a crucial Champions League game and the loss put Liverpool out. If I was Rafa he wouldn’t have seen the field for a very long time after that.

3. Outside backs have to know that if they jump up that high to close down a midfielder they are likely leaving a big gap in behind themselves and it is a logical place to play the ball into. If they are going to go they have to get there in time to stop the opponent from playing the ball into that space and leaving them for dead. Further allowing their mark to blow by them and join the attack is criminal.

4. Defenders cannot ball watch. They have to check across their line every few seconds to see if someone is jumping up into the play from midfield, if someone is make a blind side run from behind them or simply pulling away from them in the hopes of getting a ball delivered over their head.

5. Centre backs cannot afford to both mark one striker and leave a 30 yard gap between themselves and their outside back when play goes wide like that. One centreback should have come over and the right back, who was marking no one, should have come inside to help the remaining centre back in anticipation of a cross.

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