CSKA Moscow vs Rangers – 92/93 UEFA Champions League – Data Analysis

CSKA Moscow 0-1 Rangers FC

UEFA Champions League Group A Matchday 2

December 9th, 1992

Vonovia Ruhrstadion, Germany

By Alistair Bain (@allybain)


Tactical Analysis

Rangers Tactical Set Up

Up until this point in the campaign Walter Smith would line up his Rangers side in a 442, giving them a natural balance across the field, defensive solidity with two banks of four, as well as the combination play of the wide players (full backs and wingers) to rotate and create opportunities in attack. In the last match with Marseille, who fielded a 352, it was apparent that the French side were exploiting the spaces between Smith’s 442 set up, so given CSKA would use a similar strategy/formation he was dealt with a dilemma. Switch from a system that’s served his side so well or match up man for man in a 352? What we would see in the match was almost a hybrid of the two depending on what phase Rangers found themselves in. Here we break it down below.

Rangers Defending

Given Richard Gough’s omission due to injury McPherson moves inside with Trevor Steven coming in to start at right back. Steven is a winger by trade therefore his inclusion was a signal of intent by Smith that they were coming to Bochum to stay solid, but with Robertson and Steven they could also get on the front foot in transition. With Ferguson and McCoist returning to the starting eleven, we would see Durrant move to a wide right role and a return of the McCall/Ferguson partnership in central midfield that worked so well this season. Smith’s strategy was to defend in a mid zonal block, with two banks of four, which gave McPherson and Brown (two center backs) license to aggressively man mark any strikers when they dropped off the high line into midfield. McCoist and Hateley would press/cover each other centrally in front of the block in an attempt to prevent any unopposed split passes making their way into the Rangers defensive third.

Counter Attack Play

The defensive strategy was designed to create immediate pressure on CSKA’s creative players as they built play forward, but by working in small groups to press the ball and gain turn overs in possession Rangers were then able to spring forward on the counter attack. In these next few clip’s we see how well Rangers advanced the ball quickly, using the movements of McCoist and Hateley to link centrally, but also through the penetrative movements of the wide players to attack the spaces in behind CSKA’s wing backs.

Build Up Play

During this match we saw two main variations to Rangers build up play. When building from center backs Rangers favored a more rudimentary style, starting with a direct ball into the strikers and using the combination play of McCoist and Hateley to fashion attacks in the final third. They were supported centrally the diagonal runs of Durrant moving inside from the wing, but also through the advanced wide play of Alexi Mikhailichenko who offered a threat from crossing positions.

We also saw some moments when they used a more patient approach, switching the ball from side to side. We saw something similar in the 1st leg of their match with Leeds, with Ferguson and McCall recycling possession when the opponent would press heavily on one side. We saw that when play reached the opposite side full back (Steven or Robertson) they would advance play forward via a pass to the strikers or a cross into the box. These spaces were open mainly due to CSKA’s lack of pressure from wide areas, as their wing backs tended to drop back to form a defensive line of 5.

As the match developed, we soon saw the importance of the Rangers full backs with both Robertson and Steven forming critical attacking duties.

Here is a highlight reel of David Robertson’s involvement from left back, which saw him offer a threat on the overlap but also real quality when carrying the ball forward on his own.

On the right side we saw Trevor Steven offer a similar threat, acting as a service point to offer deliveries from deep. With Durrant moving inside to offer more central penetration, Steven’s approach play was simple in that he looked to find Hateley as quickly as possible. What soon became apparent was Rangers had clearly scouted how aggressive the CSKA keeper Guteyev was in attacking cross balls, so Steven’s deliveries formed a large part in getting the keeper off his line and allowing Mark Hateley to attempt either a flick on or a direct headed attack on the goal. In these clips we see CSKA keeper frequently attempting to claim crosses, which prompted further attacks from those in Rangers midfield. Inevitably it would be a goalkeeping error that lead to Rangers opening goal.

CSKA Tactical Set Up

CSKA Build Up Play

CSKA would use a possession based approach to progressively build up play through the thirds throughout this match, with Bystrov being the lead orchestrator of starting play from the back. At wing back CSKA had two very athletic attackers in Kolotovkin and Guschin, both very adept at using combination to fashion crosses from the flanks. In midfield the pairing of Bushmanov and Karsakov gave Rangers endless headaches, as their movement to pick up the ball in both deep and advanced areas illustrated their game intelligence, yet it was the quality of their execution that offered the greatest threat as they slipped through a gluttony of chances for their strikers.

Up front CSKA had an attacking pair that complemented each other very well. First of all they had Sergeyev leading the line, who was more of a traditional number 9 and looked to create shooting opportunities largely inside the 18 yard box. He was supported by, who I regard as CSKA’s most entertaining player, Ilshat Faizulin. While not someone we’d perhaps look at as a true striker in today’s game, in this 352 system he offered a creative presence in the final third through his link up play and good first touch, but its his ability to beat players on the dribble that made him such a problem for this Rangers side.

When the match kicked off it became immediately apparent that CSKA would be dangerous in counter attacking situations. When play turned over on their right hand side the ball was drawn to Karsakov like a magnet, and in a few short moments CSKA almost had the ball in the net.

While they would struggle to replicate the quality of this attack throughout the 90 minutes, it didn’t diminish the threat that CSKA offered during moments of transition, such was the pace, smart approach play and striking ability that they possessed in their team.

Data Analysis

Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

We can see from the timeline that despite recording a similar number of attacks overall that Rangers were the more consistent attackers during the match. CSKA would condense their attack play into smaller clusters, often shooting multiple times during the same attack or registering them in short bursts. We can see that Rangers score early in the game, but whats apparent is they didn’t retreat back to protect their lead, if anything it spurred them on to score more. The final twenty minutes is perhaps the only major outlier in the match, with CSKA out shooting their opponents 6-2, but we can see that Rangers rearguard was more than a match as they saw out the game 1-0 victors.  

Chance Quality:

When the overall number of attacks are relatively similar (16 to 15 in Rangers favor) it makes judging chance creation quality far easier. We can see that Rangers enjoyed bigger upticks in their timeline, which shows us that their individual attempts carried far higher probability of turning into a goal, which accumulatively added up to a higher xG and chance creation value. By looking at the time line however we see that CSKA enjoyed a large part of the match dominance up until the 40th minute. An effort from McCoist, after Guteyev would save a long range effort from Trevor Steven and it rebounded into the 6 yard box, would give Rangers their highest ranked chance in the match. Unfortunately for McCoist and Rangers the shot would miss the target, but it signaled a change in match domination and Rangers would remain on top for the duration of the match.  

Type of Chances Created

In looking at the patterns of play that generated the most attacks it’s apparent that each side were at their strongest when starting an attack and gradually building up play. CSKA used a short passing game which focused on working the ball up the field and shooting from central positions, where as Rangers favored a combination play approach through the wings which ended in a cross into the box. When we overlay each teams approach against the shot completion it tells us a different story, as CSKA would only generate 1 effort on target from their 11 build up attacks. Rangers however would work the goalkeeper 6 times from their 13 efforts on goal.

By looking at the locations it also shows us that Rangers were creating key passes (passes that result in a shot) closer to their opponents goal, with a total of 7 inside the final 3rd. CSKA would create 6 key passes from within the same zone, however the distances were markedly different to that of Rangers and would have a far lower success rate in terms of a shot converting into an on target effort.

Where Chances are Created

The first thing that jumps off the page when analyzing the shot locations is Rangers 8 golden zone shots from their 16 shots on goal, with 4 of these shots forcing the keeper to make a save. Slightly disappointing for Rangers would be that 3 of the 8 shots missed the target, however given they created a goal inside the box and created a big chance they can be happy with their numbers based on the opponents performance and the fact this was a game away from home (albeit this was the case for the opponents also). 

Perhaps slightly strange was that Rangers didn’t record a single effort on target from a corner, given how good they have been in those situations, especially against Leeds. With that said creating over 2 expected goals in an away win is impressive.

CSKA will be disappointed with the amount of efforts that failed to hit the target (3 from 15), but especially in the golden zone where they had 3 attacks and only 1 was saved (Sergeyev’s effort in the opening moments of the match). When we break down their xG we see that only 21% of its value is derived from shots on target, which again underlines how potent their creation was but the conversion was sadly lacking. Rangers on the other hand saw only 40% of their xG come from efforts on target, which in itself could be better, but in a match where they outperformed CSKA in almost every attacking metric it illustrates that this victory for Rangers was a just one.

Who Created Chances

Ally McCoist would finish as Rangers best statistical attacker, taking part in six shots on goal one of which being Rangers only Big Chance statistically speaking (his miss from the 6 yard box nearing half time). His 6 attacks would generate 3 efforts on target and his personal xG for the match was 1.02 (49% of the teams overall xG).

Alexi Mikhailicheko would again finish as Rangers best statistical creator (did so during the opening game with Marseille) with 4 key passes, two of which turning into a shot on target.

CSKA shared out their attacking intent in this match, with substitute Aleksandr Grishin registering the most attacks, however in terms of potency Oleg Sergeyev recorded their highest personal xG with 0.64 (43% of the teams xG rating).

Yevgeni Bushmanov would create the most CSKA attacks in the game, and was unlucky with a strike that was ruled out for offside, however given the lack of conversion in front of goal only one of these would result in a shot on target.  

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

Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – *DAVID ROBERTSON* & Club Brugge vs Rangers – Match Day 3 Retro Football Analysis Podcast

Rangers UCL Review 92/93: Stew and Ally are joined by special guest David Robertson to discuss Glasgow Rangers historic 1992/93 Champions League campaign. In this episode we cover: – David Robertson's season & time working under Walter Smith – Club Brugge's season to date – Rangers run up to the match – Club Brugge vs Rangers game tactically
  1. Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – *DAVID ROBERTSON* & Club Brugge vs Rangers – Match Day 3
  2. Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – CSKA vs Rangers – Match Day 2
  3. Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – Rangers vs Marseille – Match Day 1
  4. Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – Leeds vs Rangers – 2nd Round 2nd Leg
  5. Rangers UCL Review 92/93 – Rangers vs Leeds – 2nd Round 1st Leg
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