Rangers 2-1 Leeds United
UEFA Champions League Second Round 1st Leg
October 21st, 1992
Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow
By Alistair Bain (@allybain)
Rangers Tactical Set Up
Build Up Play
Rangers build up play focused on short passes in the lower to middle third of the field, moving the ball quickly to draw forward pressure from Leeds thus pulling them from their set defensive structure, with the goal of creating attacking space to carry or pass the ball into in wide areas. McCall formed the deeper of the central midfield roles, with Ian Ferguson the naturally more attacking of the two and more progressive with his passes. Rangers would also pull the creative forces of Ian Durrant and Trevor Steven into central areas, giving Rangers an extra man when rotating the ball from left to right or building through the thirds, but both players were also strong in progressing the ball forward on the dribble and creating penetrative passes into the final third.
Attacking Full Backs
During moments of build up play we would often see Rangers overload one side of the field, only to quickly spring an attack on the opposite side of the field by switching play to find the attacking movement of the opposite side full back. McPherson’s right back role was far more functional in attack, often looking to play crosses into the box where possible, whereas Robertson’s lightning pace allowed him to penetrate space in the final 3rd to receive a through ball and cross from the end line. Robertson is also very comfortable in receiving the ball on the same line as the midfielders and drive forward to shoot from distance.
Target Man Play
Rangers were blessed with one of the most prolific strike partnerships in all of European football at this time. Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley would end the 92/93 season with a combined 78 goals (49 and 29 respectively). Rangers natural target striker would be Mark Hateley who’s commanding presence in the air was a constant threat to the Leeds back line throughout the game. Hateley would position himself on the high line in the center, or just off to the right between the center back and full back, therefore maximizing the distance he has to attack the ball in the air, but also increasing the floor space has to link play into deep lying runners should they find his feet. McCoist would predominantly work in behind Hateley after a flick on, be McCoist was also adept at dropping just underneath Hateley to provide a further linking option, thus acting as the perfect foil for midfield runners such as Durrant and Ferguson who liked to attack the central spaces in behind the opposition’s midfield line.
Ian Durrant was a constant threat throughout the match for Rangers, attacking the inside spaces with forward runs to support the attack, but his most impressive attribute was how effectively he carried the ball during counter attacks. His progressive movements allowed McCoist and Hateley to get into good attacking positions, but as the opposition narrowed to close down the central spaces it also freed up areas for the full backs to attack into and create crossing opportunities.
Leeds Tactical Set Up
Build Up Play
Leeds favored a narrow midfield shape, much like that of Rangers, however the midfield roles were slightly different to that of their counter parts. Gary McAllister’s movement to pull out into the channels and build forward was exceptional, added to this his passing range was superb. David Batty was the more combative central midfielder, however his aggression also came in progressive dribbles forward, often carrying his team forward 20-30 yards at a time. Gary Speed’s craft on the left allowed him to drift between the flank and the inside channels to link with Cantona, but his athleticism and dynamic attack play was a threat throughout the match. At 35 Strachan still maintained the agility to find central spaces consistently, more often than not evading his pressure, which then brought about crosses into the box or attack play via a dribble and shot on his own. In addition to midfield creativity Tony Dorigo was a strong attacking presence from left back, often working with Gary Speed to advance into wide areas should the Welshman move inside. His quality deliveries were also designed to allow Chapman and Cantona to attack the box where possible.
Target Man Play
Leeds overall attack play was very functional, with Lee Chapman forming the focal point of the attack and would look to win his aerial duels after a long kick form keeper John Lukic or a ball out the back from Whyte or Fairclough. Eric Cantona & Gary Speed would act as a foil to Chapman’s headers, making attacking movements to benefit from the knock downs or flick ons, thus creating attacks for each other or shooting on goal themselves.
Given the athleticism of players like Whyte, Fairclough, Newsome, Speed, Chapman & Cantona, allied to the quality of deliveries that Gordon Strachan could produce, Leeds were a constant threat throughout the game from set plays. 5 of Leeds 12 attacks within the game would come from this area of play, however there were many more that would simply apply pressure onto the Rangers rearguard and force another turn over in play.
As mentioned during build up, the quality of Batty & Speed to quickly carry the ball into attacking transition was remarkable. When we also add the passing range of Strachan and McAllister it adds another dimension to the game whereby their opponents always have to have one eye on balancing their attacking numbers, constantly living in fear that a turn over could spark a Leeds attack on goal.
Value of Chances
The Leeds United goal in the early moments engendered a trading of blows in the first half that would see Rangers assume control of the attack play for 10-15 minutes but then strike when the iron was hot with a critical goal. Each goal would see Leeds United recover and close the gap, only for it to widen once again in the closing 15 minutes as Rangers finished with a flurry of chances.
With Rangers recording almost double the attacks in the match, its interesting the see the overall value of these efforts come in with a similar overall xG (Chance valuation). When we delve deeper we see that each side would be presented with 1 big chance in the match, (“Big Chance” 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), however it was only Rangers who were able to capitalize upon that big chance when McCoist would notch their second goal of the game from inside the 6 yard box. The other big uptick on the xG timeline for Rangers came in the form of a John Lukic own goal, a chance in which the Leeds keeper would punch the ball into his own net. Leeds would create three attacks in the match that would score highly in terms of probability and contributed greatly to their xG, yet it was a chance from the edge of the box they did take (Gary McAllister’s strike on 2 minutes) which was graded as one of the lowest scoring, yet would give Leeds a lifeline in the tie headed into the second leg.
Type of Chances Created
Rangers would create 17 of their 21 attacks from Key Passes, and based on their general build up style of fashioning efforts through the center, we can see that this translates into lots of key passes coming from the midfield area (middle vertical third). We also see that many of these passes came from within the width of the 18 yard box, which would allow for the full backs to get into advanced areas.
Further to this we also see that 11 of the 21 attacks came during build up play, which helps us understand how effective Rangers were in executing their game plan to create attacks by exploiting spaces and creating attacks during open play. When examining how Rangers faired in converting their attacks into efforts on target we have to look at Corners as being their most effective route to goal. They would convert 3 on target from 4 efforts, returning them the two goals which brought about the victory.
The most effective method of creating a shot on goal for Rangers came from a Switch Pass (passing sideways to open up the play horizontally) and a Cross, both of which brought about 2 shots on target from 4 attacks created.
Leeds would only create 7 of their 12 attacks from Key Passes, which when we overlay this against the key pass locations we see that they created 5 highly rated attacks around the 18 yard box. While on the surface this looks like a solid return, we also found that none of these attacks would end up with a shot on target, therefore it would suggest that chance conversion was the bigger issue on the night. Using more functional attack play, creating attacks from flick ons and working off a second ball, is always far more risky in a team’s ability to create solid chances, which tonight very much proved to be the case with only 3 of the 12 attacks hitting the target overall, none of which Leeds created for themselves.
Where Chances are Created
When we assess the relatively small margin in difference of xG in the match it brings us back some interesting results. Rangers would create almost double the amount of chances in which to generate a similar xG (21 shots vs 12), so we could assume that Rangers were wasteful and Leeds more effective in front of goal. As xG only accounts for the location of shots, when we examine the value from the shots on target it shows us that Rangers returned 49% of their xG from shots on target, whereas Leeds on the other hand could only return 14% of their xG on target.
By looking at the Shot locations we can assess performacne further, starting with both teams shooting from distance. While it brought about a fairly poor return from both sides, with Rangers attempting 12 shots and Leeds United 7, both of which recording 2 shots on target from distance, it was the shots inside the box that would illustrate the key differentiator in this match.
If we examine chances inside the box we can look at those within the Golden Zone (Central portion of the 18 yard box) to better understand scoring probability. Each side would create 5 attacks inside the golden zone, however their fortunes were drastically different. Leeds United would only hit the target through 1 of those 5 efforts, with two chances being blocked and two further chances missing the target all together. Rangers would return 4 of the 5 Golden Zone efforts on target, with two chances being saved by Leeds United keeper Lukic, and two more finding the net. This turned out to be the critical point in evaluating both teams performances on the night, and it would set up the second leg perfectly given how important the goals return would become for both sides.
Who Created Chances
Ally McCoist would finish as Rangers best statistical attacker, taking part in 4 attacks on his own and creating 2 more for his teammates. His 4 attacks would generate 1 goal, and his personal xG for the match would 0.66, almost 35% of his teams overall attacking value.
Ian Durrant would finish as Rangers best statistical creator with 5 key passes, two of which turning into shots on target, and a goal assist which would open the scoring (A corner swung in and punched into his own net by Leeds United’s John Lukic).
Gary McAllister was Leeds United best statistical attacker, recording four shots on goal with an xG of 0.16. Only one of these efforts hit the target, but what a hit it would be as it rifled into the top corner and gave Leeds a vital away goal.
Leeds United’s best statistical creator gave slim pickings, however Eric Cantona tops the table with 2 key passes. One of these chances turned out to be Leeds only Big Chance of the game, as Cantona set up Lee Chapman for a front post effort that he sent wide.