Swiss club BSC Young Boys (YB’s) and the most successful club in Croatia, GNK Dinamo Zagreb faced off in the first of two legs in the Champions League Qualifier. The most important phase of the game quickly became the battle between Dinamo’s defensive block and YB’s pressing and counterattack.
BSC YOUNG BOYS
In the opening minutes of the match BSC Young Boys (YBs) lined up in a traditional 4-4-2. Young Boys manager, Gerry Seoane took a conservative approach which translated to a defend in a compact deep block; and press in wide areas then quickly transition from defense to counter-attack. It was apparent from the opening minutes Seoane trained his players to think attack while defending and vice versa. This approach worked well and led to a goal in the 2nd minute by right full-back Kevin Mbabu (see below).
GNK DINAMO ZAGREB
Nenad Bjelica Dinamo Zagreb took a conservative approach as well. Mario Gavranovic as the lone number 9 in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3. Bjelica’s approach was to concede possession lock down the central areas: Dani Olmo (ESP), Amer Gojak (B & H), and Arijan Ademi (CRO & MAC), and have Gavranovic to occupy YB’s centre-halfs: von Bergen and Wüthrich. However, this approach failed because von Bergen and Wü thrich had more time and space, frequent switches with a threat of a counter-attack.
This pushed Dinamo’s defense further and further back toward their own box. YB’s then assumed full control of the match as Dinamo were forced to defend their box as the Swiss Champions constantly threatened into attacks into their penalty box while making sure to maintain balanced enough positions to control counterattacks.
The Battle for Control of Central Areas
For much of the first half YB’s physically imposing nines, Guillaume Hoarau and Nicolas Ngamaleu, caused problems Zagreb’s back four. Hoarau in particular was a consistent threat inside the six yard box; the target man used his height and strength to impose his will on Dinamo’s centre-halfs. On two occasions he nearly successful in doubling the lead. However, Dinamo keeper, Zagorać, sharp reflexes would deny YB’s 34- year old French striker. YB’s second line was anchored by a pair of 8s, Sanogo and Sow, whose raw power and techniques broke up any attempt to penetrate central areas. In my opinion, Seoane’s strategy to tighten the central areas with two defensive minded pivots was spot on. Time after time in the first half YBs would defend, press, win the ball then quickly transition to a counter-attack.
Despite the home side’s dominant performance early in the tie the guest subtly began to take control of the match.Spanish midfielder Dani Olmo started as an eight but later advanced into the number 10 role to support Gravanovic–especially, during the press and pinning back von Bergen and Wüthrich. This slight adjustment tactics helped Bjelica’s men achieve their primary objective to control the central areas and use accurate through ball to dispossess Fassnacht and initiate the counter-attack which lead to a sublime equalizer from Mislav Oršić (see below).
Bjelica switched to a 4-4-2 for a couple of reason; to put pressure on YBs’ backline and to tighten space in central areas and limit Sanogo and Sow time and space with the ball. Further, Dinamo had success blocking the home side’s passing lanes limiting access to their strikers. However, Dinamo had ongoing problem adjusting to the physicality and pace of the Swiss club. If Dinamo hope to qualify for the Champions league group stage they will need to take more risks out of possession specifically, press more aggressively than they are in the competition. These suggestions are base Dinamo’s tendency to concede possession and play defensive football outside their domestic league.
Next week the return leg will be held at the Stadion Maksimir if the match will be anything like it was this past Wednesday it will be a clash of titans. Cheers