In the zone: analysis of the performance of Man City 2-1 Dortmund | UEFA Champions League
Manchester City’s comeback win over Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 2 was ultimately the result of Erling Haaland’s magnificent goal against his former club.
Yet in this analysis piece presented by FedEx, UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel highlights an eye-catching aspect of their team play – clever rotations to open up space, including from the perspective of the Haaland’s winning goal in Wednesday’s Group C. competition.
0-1: Jude Bellingham (56)
After a Giovanni Reyna corner kick headed into the far corner of the penalty area, Marco Reus lifted the ball towards the penalty area from five yards out and the England teenager timed his run to meet him perfectly and nodded past Ederson for his second goal of the group stage.
1-1: John Stones (80)
Replacing injured Kyle Walker, Stones brought City level with his first UEFA Champions League goal in nearly five years. City changed play from left to right and, before Dortmund could completely close the space, Kevin De Bruyne slipped a pass into the field to Stones who had time to take a touch and prepare the ball well for that he triggers a shot from the outside. box that flew over Alexander Meyer at the near post.
2-1: Erling Haaland (84)
The Champions League Goal of the Week was Haaland’s 13th in his ninth City appearance and his best to date – an exceptional aerial strike that drew comparisons to a famous Johan Cruyff volley for Barcelona in the 1970s. João Cancelo’s cross from the outside of the ball was fabulous. The sequel is sensational. Finding the space between two defenders, Haaland rose from the ground like Bruce Lee in football boots and somehow hooked the ball home with the outside of his near foot.
Player of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne
The City captain was named Player of the Match by UEFA Match Observer, who said: “Even when City struggled to get through Dortmund’s excellent defence, he still tried a few passes at his teammates and he never stopped working hard. He showed a great approach and also got an assist for the first goal.”
City of Man
The home side played a 4-3-3 formation and their back line included centre-back Manuel Akanji (25), making his second City appearance against the club he left in the summer. With Nathan Aké (6) paired with Akanji, Stones (5) played at right-back with Cancelo (7) at left-back; the two full-backs supported attacking play not by running up the wings but inside the pitch.
In midfield, Rodri (16) in the pivot role was always ready to receive the ball and pass it. İlkay Gündoğan (8), another Dortmund alum, provided the link between midfield and attack while De Bruyne (17) had the freedom to create and cross the ball. As for the front three, wingers Riyad Mahrez (26) and Jack Grealish (10) played close to the touchline while Haaland (9) operated between Dortmund’s centre-backs.
City’s performance improved after a 58th-minute triple substitution which brought more mobility to their attacking work. Phil Foden (47), Bernardo Silva (20) and Julián Álvarez (19) took the places of Grealish, Gündoğan and Mahrez, and City began to dominate on the left in particular, with Foden combining with Cancelo. In the closing stages, the wingers went more inside to open up a wide space for other players.
The visitors lined up in a 4-3-3 which became a 4-5-1 when they defended. Centre-backs Niklas Süle (15) and Mats Hummels (25) didn’t change positions for most of the game while midfielder Emre Can (23) would drop between that pair to help build from the back front at the top of City. pressing. The other midfielders, Bellingham (22) and Salih Özcan (6), had more attacking roles but were still doing important defensive work.
The formation on the right shows Dortmund with a midfield five without the ball. Bellingham and Özcan were praised by the UEFA Observer for their efforts to help cover the space in front of and between their centre-backs and full-backs – essential due to City’s extensive rotations in this area.
As for Dortmund forwards, Anthony Modeste (20) led the line as a central striker, Reyna (7) played on the right wing and Reus (11) operated more as a free player involved in most of his best attacks.
At the final whistle, Edin Terzić’s men were tied 5-4-1 following the introduction of a third centre-back, Nico Schlotterbeck, after 77 minutes.
A key feature of City’s performance was their rotations to both sides in an attempt to create space. Full-backs Cancelo and Stones moved high and inside as the players around them moved away or dropped deeper.
The video above offers examples of their rotations and in the first clip you see Mahrez backing up as De Bruyne moves into the space he has freed up and Stones attempts a forward run behind the defensive line .
The second clip comes shortly after Foden and Bernardo Silva’s introduction and shows a perfectly timed “triangle” with Cancelo racing uphill at the same time as Foden comes in from the left and Bernardo Silva drops down the wing. The same trio are involved in the winning goal, as highlighted in the third clip.
Cancelo’s fine ball for that winner underlined his importance on a night when he made more passes in the attacking third (33) than any other player in the Champions League this week and was fundamental to the work of City on the left side of the pitch.
For Dortmund, the late turn was a tough result given their defensive organization and discipline. Centre-backs Hummels and Süle were solid in the air, and on the pitch Dortmund covered spaces well and worked hard to prevent City from gaining the upper hand in one-on-one situations. Attackingly, they threatened more than once in their quick transitions into attack – notably in the 52nd minute when Reus looked set to cap a smooth counter, going inside Akanji but shooting wide with only Ederson to beat.
By contrast, in the UEFA match observer’s view, City’s build-up was too slow and predictable in the first half. The pivotal moment was the triple substitution just before the hour mark which “changed the pace” according to Pep Guardiola – and ensured Dortmund went home empty-handed. Thanks in large part to the defensive rigor of the visitors, City managed 12 shots but seven blocked and only three on target. Their xG was 0.97. Still, individual brilliance saw them end the night with two goals.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “We played in the wrong gear today. No aggression, we were passive. As we changed pace with Phil, Bernardo and Julián, we changed pace and scored two great goals. We We weren’t good enough today. At the same time, it’s always good to have that resilience. To have Julián and Erling in the box, to have that alternative, it works.”
Edin Terzic, Dortmund coach“It’s the third time we’ve had a great performance against them and the third time we’ve gone home empty-handed. It’s hard to accept because the guys deserved at least a point tonight, especially when you’re leading so close until the final whistle. But you just see the quality they have in moments like that. I don’t know how many goals Stones scores from that type of position. Later they doubled on the wings, which was a huge compliment for us actually. Ultimately it comes down to the quality they have, which made the difference tonight.”