Aberdeen vs Real Madrid – 1983 Cup Winners Cup Final Data Analysis

Aberdeen 2-1 Real Madrid

UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final

May 10th, 1983

Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden

By Alistair Bain

To give us some context on the data here is a quick overview of each team:

Aberdeen Attacking Structure

  • Aberdeen set up in a 442 shape, that was really only evident when defending. In attack it would morph into a 4411 or a 433 at times, with the wide players and full backs complimenting each others movements to vary their attack.
  • Simpson and Cooper would work centrally to both protect the back line, but would also find diagonal and switch passes in transition to progress the ball forward.
  • On the right wing Strachan would drift inside, quite often picking the ball up between Real Madrids midfield and defensive lines, but he’d also look to dribble diagonally inside and open up forward passing options for the strikers. Rougvie predominantly protected the space behind Strachan, but the movements inside also allowed him to overlap when available to do so.
  • At left midfield Weir was comfortable coming inside to cross on his right, as well as advance forward and cross with his left from the end line. This variety gave McMaster the opportunity to move forward and play crosses and diagonal balls from deep as Weir quite often drew players with him that would free up space.
  • McGhee served as a target man on the right side of the field, pulling out the oppositions center back and flicking the ball on with his head or knocking down to an on rushing midfielder. Black’s role was to scheme in behind McGhee, looking to move the opposition center back but also to stretch the space in which Aberdeen could attack within should the opponent squeeze high.

Real Madrid Attacking Structure

Real Madrid would operate within a fluid 442 system, one that allowed their wingers the freedom to move inside and their full backs to advance, quite often looking more like a 433, with Juanito dropping off the high line and playing behind the main striker Santillana.

Gallego would look to stretch the play and run beyond the Aberdeen midfield, with Stielike holding centrally more often and playing shorter link passes.


xG Timeline:

From the timeline we can see Aberdeen make an absolutely excellent start to the match, with 7 attacks on goal in the opening 15 minutes. The goal comes after their 5th attack, and they were very unfortunate not to add to this tally during this period.

Real Madrid’s penalty was their opening shot on goal of the match, however it would take until the remaining 10 minutes of the half until they were able to wrestle back control of the attacking flow of the match.

Real Madrid were the more consistent attackers throughout the match averaging an attack every 12 minutes. With that said it was Aberdeen who created chances that had the higher probability, but more importantly in phases of the game that mattered most. We see that they bettered their opponents xG in both the 2nd half of regulation time and throughout extra time, which gives us an idea of how potent their attack was despite enjoying less of the possession. 

Aberdeen would create the games’ most “big chances” (Opta def: A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal) recording 5 in total throughout the match. We can see from the timeline graph that they would have more opportunities that really moved the needle and caused bigger upticks than Madrid, added to this they would hit 3 of their 5 big chances on target. Two of these three big chances on target would result in goals, which shows us that not only did Aberdeen create good chances in the game they were also clinical in finishing them when it mattered.

Real Madrid’s data is naturally skewed by the valuation given to their Penalty (76% chance of success and 0.76 xG), which if we deduct it from their score shows us the value of their attack play reduces to 1.39 expected goals. Looking at the data we can deduct that Madrid got themselves into decent situations throughout the match, but when we get into what they did with these attacks it will paint a different picture entirely.

Type of Chances Created

Real Madrid favored a more patient build up play approach, however it was their inability to stretch Aberdeen that prevented many of these attacks from troubling their opponents goal. The set up play from inside the box was often a flick on or a knock down, where as the key passes from the center of the field came later in the game when they had ran out of ideas and resorted to knocking balls into the box from distance.

Aberdeen were far more comfortable playing on the counter, which is evidenced not only by the amount of attacks they generated from this pattern of play, but also spoke to the amount of crossing opportunities they were able to fashion from the high wide left position for Peter Weir to deliver into the box.

We can also see that Aberdeen were very strong from set plays, not only in their organization and set up, but also physically with Miller, McLeish, Rougvie, McGhee and Simpson all very strong in the air when attacking crosses. Overall Aberdeen would create 13 attacks from crosses in the match, which returned 5 shots on target, a very solid return from a team who wanted to advance forward quickly and create chances inside the opponent’s box.

Where Chances are Created?

The shot map was an interesting read on a number of levels. Primarily we see that Aberdeen created almost 13 of their 22 chances (59%) inside the Golden Zone (The central portion of the 18 yard box). In comparison their opponents would only create 6 of their 18 shots within the same space (33%). We can drill into this further by assessing shots on target, with Aberdeen hitting 8 on target from the Golden zone, which was double the amount of shots on target Real Madrid would register across the whole field (4 in total).

If we break down Aberdeen’s expected goals we can see that they had a nice variety to their attack play, splitting their xG between open play and set plays (1.92 & 1.17 respectively). This shows us the threat they carried throughout the match, and were not reliant on a specific way in which to win the game. If we compare this to Real Madrid we can see that the value of their attacks from open play was actually less than that of their set pieces, even when we take into consideration the value of their penalty (0.75 xG). Madrid havent set up to play for attacks through set pieces therefore it illustrates how well Aberdeen have defended in the game, as they were able to nullify much of Madrids approach play before they entered the final third.

The last piece I’d like to look at is each sides expected goals on target. xG Calculates the probability of the shot from the location in which it comes from, not its outcome, therefore when we factor in how much of each sides xG actually hit the target it makes for interesting reading. Aberdeen recorded an xG value of 3.08, however their xG on target comes in at 1.43. This shows us that 46% of Aberdeen’s chance creation is testing the goalkeeper. When we analyze Madrid and their attacks out with the penalty, it tells a different story completely. Instantly their xG on target goes down to 0.35 and shows us that only 25% of their chance creation is actually testing the keeper.

Who Created Chances

Aberdeen’s best statistical attacker would be Eric Black. He had 6 attacks on goal in the match, 3 of which were on target, returning 1 goal. His personal xG value was 0.99, which accounts for 1 third of his teams attack play.

Juanito would be Real Madrid’s best statistical attacker, returning 1 goal from his 4 attacks on goal in the game, and a personal xG of 0.99 also. Additionally he would set up 5 more attacks for his teammates, two of which would result in a shot on goal.

Match Predictor

Using our very own Retro Football Analysis Match Simulator, we use the probability rating of each attack to calculate the odds of the matches outcome should it be replayed 1000 times. Here are the results we got back.

Our verdict:

Typically in games where a team is awarded a penalty the probability of future results weighs heavily in their favor, however on this occasion Aberdeen were just too strong for Real Madrid. They amassed a very impressive amount of chances inside the box, but were also clinical at crucial times in the game. Given the flow of the match and the significance of the goal times, it may seem that this was closer than it really was, overall their superior attack play warranted the win.  

Why not check out the Match Report from this match? CLICK HERE to do so.

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