Juventus vs. Dortmund: Brilliant Bonucci or the Beauty of the Counter?

Soccer Features Juventus
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In a recent column in The Telegraph, Jonathan Liew assessed Borussia Dortmund’s disastrous 2014-15 season; the team is currently in 12th place in the Bundesliga (only three points above the drop zone) and facing elimination in the Champions League after their 2-1 first leg round of 16 loss to Juventus. In the article, Liew details how Klopp lost his cool in a press conference when asked if part of the reason for Dortmund’s slide may be because opposition coaches have found him out.

“If you say we’ve been found out,” Klopp asked, “What does that say about the work of opposition coaches for the last few years? Were they unable to see what our game is?”

It’s not for me to say whether Juventus or Massimiliano Allegri “found Dortmund out” ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie, but there is good evidence that Leonardo Bonucci did. His long, accurate passes through the energetic, hard-pressing Dortmund midfield led to both of Juve’s goals. However, they don’t tell the whole story, particularly in regards to the second goal.

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Here is the decisive moment, roughly ten seconds before the goal. Bonucci is faced with a dense midfield containing half a dozen Dortmund players. However, he has spotted Carlos Tevez and, trusting both his own accuracy and the Argentine striker’s ability to trap the ball, sends him a pass that essentially eliminates Dortmund’s press.

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Now Tevez has the ball facing away from goal with Paul Pogba to his right and Roberto Pereyra and Arturo Vidal to his left. It appears, however, that he will have to contend with Sokratis Papastathopoulos bearing down on him. However…

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...Sokratis instead decides to back away to Dortmund’s left flank, perhaps to ensure Pogba is covered. This forces ?lkay Gündo?an to run to the ball, thereby giving Tevez all the space he needs to turn and face goal.

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This is the moment of Gündo?an’s failed tackle. In addition, though Sokratis has retreated into a covering position in order to limit Pogba’s space, the French midfielder is still essentially unimpeded. Still more alarming for Dortmund is the space afforded to Alvaro Morata in the center and Vidal on the right. But again, this is the aim of the swift counter, which forces defenders to quickly move in tandem and spot trouble at the same time. Mistakes will be made.

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Now luck certainly played its part, as Pogba’s cross is nearly cleared by the outstretched leg of the Dortmund captain, Mats Hummels. However Morata isn’t picked up at all and is easily able to finish past Roman Weidenfeller. Notice too how many Dortmund players are crowded in the right side of the box. A good strategy for cutting out crosses perhaps, but not the ideal defensive shape.

Though Bonucci’s pass was the brilliant catalyst to the play, some forced decisions on the part of Dortmund’s defense also played a role.

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