El Centrocampista

LOS LEONES PUT TO THE SWORD: Real Betis 2-1 Athletic Club Tactical Analysis

José Manuel Vidal – EFE

A dramatic late winner from full back Nelson secured all three points for Real Betis over Copa Del Rey finalists Athletic Bilbao last night at the Estadio Benito Villamarín.

Champions League hopefuls Athletic knew that three points would propel them into the top four after seeing rivals Atletico Madrid draw 0-0 with Racing Santander two hours earlier, while Betis needed a win to move them away from relegation trouble.

The teams lined up in similar styles, utilising a deep lying forward in support of a target man – Jorge Molina for Betis and the potent Fernando Llorente for Bilbao.

 Betis tried to take full advantage of the home crowd and started lively, taking the game to Athletic by getting the ball into the box at every opportunity and trying to keep possession, stifling Athletic’s usual passing game. Betis’ main attacking threat came from inconsistent Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero, who was cutting inside and driving at the Bilbao defence.

And it was Montero who had a big part to play in the opening goal, cutting inside yet again to find Ruben Castro (with some good fortune from a bobble), and Castro bent a delicious shot past Iraizoz and into the far corner to give Betis the early lead.

Unfortunately for Betis, they seemed to take their foot off the gas and it allowed Bilbao to get the ball down and play their natural game.

Eventually, you could see a certain flexibility in the Bilbao formation; a 4-4-2 when they had the ball, but moving to a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system when defending. The interchanging nature of the formations seemed to allow Bilbao to gain the upper hand and they duly got their equaliser, Javi Martinez notching a goal from a well delivered set piece.

Betis then adopted a similar system to Bilbao. Whilst in 4-4-2, Salva Sevilla didn’t have the pace to trouble Bilbao left back Jon Aurtenetxe, so we often saw Sevilla tucking inside and allowing full back Nelson to bomb forward and support the attack. When they changed their system, Sevilla moved inside along with Iriney and Benat, whilst goalscorer Ruben Castro moved out to the right. The emphasis was placed on finding the giant Molina up front, so play often went through the channels – especially with the ‘hot and cold’ Montero.

 Montero is on loan from Villarreal and has drawn some considerable question marks over his infuriatingly inconsistent displays. During this game though, Montero was instrumental in creating chances and causing problems for Betis.

For Bilbao, we saw Iturraspe playing a very deep, holding midfield role and it allowed Inigo Perez to push on and support Fernando Llorente and the ‘floating’ Iker Muniain, who drifted between the left wing and the role just behind Llorente.

The teams went in at half time drawing 1-1, though there was room for improvement from both teams.

Betis were always trying to get the upper hand in the game but found Athletic a tough nut to crack – until the crucial moment in the second half.

Athletic captain Javi Martinez was harshly sent off for a 2nd yellow card, and it seemed to hand Betis a real opportunity to take all three points. It became slightly scrappy after that and Athletic were happy to play on the counter, win corners and try and win the game from a set piece – understandable tactics deployed by Bielsa.

And after late pressure from Betis, they finally got their reward when full back Nelson found himself on the edge of the box and hit a thunderous half volley past Iraizoz to send the Betis fans into delirium.

Athletic tried to muster a late attack when Iraizoz came up for a free kick, but Betis held strong and claimed all three points in an absorbing but not always exciting game.

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  1. Pingback: SOCCER NOMAD: LA LIGA AROUND THE WEB | elcentrocampista.com - Spanish football and La Liga News in English

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