Club Brugge 1-1 Rangers FC
UEFA Champions League Group A Matchday 3
March 3rd, 1993
By Alistair Bain (@allybain)
Rangers Tactical Set Up
With Rangers yet again missing club Captain and starting center back Richard Gough, Dave McPherson would again deputize in the central positions alongside John Brown. Walter Smith had placed Trevor Steven at right back in the last game, however he would opt for utility man Scot Nisbet in this match to fill into a more defensive role on the right side. Despite this change in personnel it was evident how well drilled and coached the Rangers defensive line are, as is illustrated in the amount of blocked shots well talk of later, but in these clips we see the orchestrated movements when dealing with direct entries into the defensive third. Protecting the space in front of the back four was the midfield duo of Stuart McCall and Neil Murray, both of whom marshalled the space effectively and prevented many second balls reaching a forward running Brugge midfielder.
Counter Attack Play
Such has become the way of a Smith side in Europe, Rangers’ ability to break forward, after regaining the ball in their defensive third, causes their opponent no end of problems structurally. They threatened throughout the 90 minutes using a variety of patterns of play:
- Forward Passes into McCoist & Hateley combination play
- McCall & Murray switching possession
- Weakside wingers joining attacks at the back post and underneath forwards
Where Rangers began to really threaten in the later stages were the center backs stepping into midfield and attacking spaces from deep. Brugge central midfielder Van der Elst would drop into the Brugge back line at times, giving the back three additional help when handling overloads. This created an opportunity for Rangers to create a 3v2 in midfield of their own, with Brown and McPherson choosing to join McCall and Murray in moments of transition. In these next clips we see how aggressive their movements were, especially so in Dave McPherson who almost grabbed the winner for Rangers with a late headed chance that was saved by Verlinden.
Build Up Play
We once again saw Rangers use Mark Hateley and Alexi Mikhailichenko as the two main creative forces in periods of build up.
On the left Mikhailichenko had the craft and creativity to find entry balls to supporting runners, but his positioning, inside of the Brugge right wing back (Peter Creve) and just behind the Belgians creative central midfielder (Gert Verheyen), allowed those around him to find passes and pull Brugge from their default defensive structure.
David Robertson also formed a critical part of executing Rangers creative play in the match, with his relentless runs overlapping Mikhailichenko on the left wing, but also in carrying the ball into the final third and creating attacking chances on goal for the forwards.
In any game that Mark Hateley plays for Rangers his threat in the air in undoubted, so Rangers use of him to link play in the air and attack the ball in the box from crosses forms a premier part of their attack play. As has become a staple throughout this campaign the opponent would attempt to man mark Hateley throughout the match, in this case Brugge turned to Lorenzo Staelens to complete the task. While playing as a sweeper in this game Staelens also played as a midfielder and an attacker for Brugge, such was his ability to attack the ball effectively in the air. In these clips we can see that neither player was ready to step down from the challenge of competing with their opponent.
Throw In Threat
As we will see in the Brugge tactical analysis, attacks from throw ins formed an important part of the flow in this match. While the Belgians were a threat from long throws as were Rangers, with David Robertson launching a number of dangerous balls into the Brugge box.
Club Brugge Tactical Set Up
Club Brugge Set Up
Brugge would become the third opponent Rangers would face in this campaign to use a 3-5-2 variant, such was the trend across European football at the time. In Lorenzo Staelens Brugge would have a player with the passing ability of a midfielder during build up, but the defensive capabilities of center back when blocking shots or man marking Rangers target man Mark Hateley. In Cossey and Querter Brugge had two competent center backs who could cover spaces well, and were equally solid in possession when passing into midfield or over longer distances.
At wingback Borkelmans and Creve offered lots of attacking intent, more so Creve who was as good on the dribble as he was in delivering balls into the box. Borkelmans was a little more conservative in his positioning, which likely spoke more to the 1v1 defensive role he would have against Rangers winger Pieter Huistra.
Brugge’s midfield was the most impressive part of their side, with a trio that complemented each others strengths as well as covered up for their weaknesses. Tomasz Dziubinksi would be Brugge’s scorer in the game, but showed himself to be a very competent passer of the ball when switching play from side to side and maintaining the tempo of the game. Franky Van der Elst formed the link between Brugge’s back line and midfield, often dropping into the back three to open up the passing angles into the forward areas. Van der Elst passing technique was sublime, zinging multiple 30+ yard passes on the diagonal.
To finalize the midfield Gert Verheyen was the linchpin between Brugge’s midfield and the attackers. Positioned predominantly on the inside right channel Verheyen’s dribbling ability to progress the ball in transition was exquisite, as was his ability to both take and find a shooting opportunity in the final third.
Brugge’s attacking duo was formed with the inclusion of creative Dutch striker Foeke Booy, and the powerful Nigerian forward Daniel Amokachi. In Booy Brugge had a forward who liked to drop off the high line and link play. His ability to receive and turn to face forward was an asset that contributed toward Brugge’s 23 attacks in the game, and tested the defensive resolve of Rangers on multiple occasions. Brugge’s most dangerous striker however would be Amokachi, who despite having an off night in front of goal offered a constant threat throughout the game. His athleticism was a level above any player on the pitch, add to this his dribbling ability and power in striking the ball, we can see why Rangers center backs were so quick to apply pressure and often completely leave the back line in which to do so.
Throw In Threat
As mentioned in the Rangers analysis each manager used restarts as an orchestrated way to attack the opponent, and in Brugge’s case it would bring them the games opening goal. Peter Creve, at right wing back, was Brugge’s attacking weapon from throw ins, who would look to attack the front edge of the Rangers six yard box. It would appear the reason in doing so is to primarily create an attacking action close to Rangers goal, but in doing so it expands the space within the box to attack a potential clearance from Rangers defense or set back header from the Brugge attackers. In Dziubinksi and Verheyen Brugge had two players who were attentive in finding second balls and getting a shot on goal, with Dziubinksi demonstrating this with a left footed strike into the bottom corner on 44 minutes.
Value of Chances
With 12 attacks to 7 in Brugge’s favor in the opening 45 minutes we can see they not only had a numerical advantage but more control of the attack play given the heightened xG. Rangers would have two main clusters of attacks where as Brugge would span out their attack play almost evenly in the 1st half.
The 2nd half however was a completely different affair, with Rangers recording 18 shots over the remaining 45 minutes, and Brugge staying somewhat consistent with a further 11 shots on goal. It would be Rangers who attacked more consistently in the 2nd half (a shot every 2.5 minutes on average) with Brugge now moving into more clustered attacks and only recording 1 shot during the 55th and 80th minutes, arguably the most critical period of the match and more importantly when Rangers get their equalizing goal.
With both teams scoring over 2 xG from their 20+ efforts on goal it shows us the amount of high quality chances in the game. Rangers will be delighted with the away point, but perhaps a shade disappointed to have only converted 1 goal from their 2.66 xG and 4 big chances during the match.
While we will see later that Brugge’s attack play from inside the box was acceptable, to have found themselves in a winning position and drop off the way they did, from an attacking perspective, they will be disappointed. We see only one major uptick in the 2nd half, which can be attributed to Rangers resurgence, but also an acceptance that they wanted to protect what they had?
Type of Chances Created
We can see from the patterns of play that both sides gained most success from periods of build up, however each side’s differing tactical approach allows us to see where specifically they were able to create chances from.
With Rangers dropping off into two zonal marking lines of 4 we can see that Brugge were able to find spaces in wide areas, but also within the inside right and left channels that their superior midfield advantage afforded them. 16 of Brugge’s 23 shots came from Key Passes (passes into the shooter), Borkelmans being the lead provider in terms of deeper entries from the left hand side into the forwards. From Brugge’s 16 key passes the most frequently used method of feeding their shooters was a through ball, which also speaks to the threat that Amokachi carried in transition, his power and skill while dribbling turned into 8 efforts on goal.
Rangers creativity differed from Brugge in that they were more progressive in their approach play. While Brugge were happy rotating the ball left to right before finding the time to move forward, Rangers used the positioning of Hateley and McCoist to strech the field and advance play a lot faster. While Rangers certainly aren’t afraid of playing in a direct fashion, in this match they looked to play driven balls into the attackers feet, thus narrowing the opposition to press the ball, at which point they would spray passes wide, typically to Robertson and Mikhailichenko on the left side of the field, at which point we’d see balls served into the box. Added to this we saw similar movements from central midfielder Stuart McCall, who in the previous match with CSKA would often pull into wide areas to serve crosses into the box, he would be the provider again with a box cross to Huistra this time to strike home the equalizer. While the key pass locations show clusters inside the box, which translate into Rangers attackers creating chances inside the box through flick ons, knock downs and square passes, Rangers most frequent shot creator came from crosses that account for 6 of their 17 key passes.
Where Chances are Created
Lets start by analyzing each sides performance in the Golden Zone. This game saw the highest number of shots from within this area of Rangers 5 game UCL campaign, with 18 overall, but when we breakdown the GZ shots on target we see that both sides have a similar conversion rate (around 40%). While Rangers efforts came closer to the oppositions goal, which isnt always necessarily easier to score, we see that Rangers defense were in top form making 4 blocks compared to Brugge’s 2. Who knows were these efforts might have ended up, but given how many more times Rangers managed to get a shot on goal from inside the 18 yard box (Rangers 5 to Brugge’s 3) it suggests Rangers ability to both create and defend in the boxes was of a slightly higher standard.
Big chance conversion offers an interesting twist on the game, with Brugge scoring from their only created Big Chance in the match. Rangers however would only hit the target from 1 of their 4 Big Chances, with them missing the target from two and the final chance being blocked by a Brugge defender. This is the most Big Chances Rangers have created in a match, so no doubt Walter Smith will see this as an opportunity missed in his analysis of the game.
As xG is calculated from the point of the ball being kicked, when we evaluate the quality/probability of the overall shots vs those on target we see that while a lot was created it carried minimal threat. From Brugge’s 2.05 xG we see that only 0.62 xG came from efforts on target, thus suggesting that only 30% of the overall probability reached Andy Goram. Similarly from Rangers 2.66 xG only 0.79 xG came from efforts on target, again hitting the 29% mark in terms of efforts challenging the keeper. With both sides therefore only averaging around 70% chance of scoring we see that in fact 1-1 is a fair result given the circumstances.
After five matches Rangers are now averaging 6.4 shots per match from inside the Golden Zone. While in this same metric we see their conceding on average 6 shots per match, when looking at the on target data it shows them leading their opponents 3.4 p/g to 2.6 p/g. Over such a small sample size of games this margin may appear minimal, but when we overlay where Rangers score goals we see that 6 of their 8 goals come from within the golden zone. Interestingly 2 of their 5 goals conceded have come from this area, which is to be expected given its high probability, but this data shows us how much of a threat Rangers have carried in their 5 games within this competition.
We fired up the RFA Match Simulator to replay the match 1000 times and in doing so calculating the accumulative win percentage based on the probability of each shot, here are the results:
Who Created Chances
Ally McCoist would finish as Rangers best statistical attacker, taking part in eight shots on goal and three of which hitting the target. His personal xG for the match was 0.88 (33% of the teams overall xG).
Stuart McCall would finish as Rangers best statistical creator with 3 key passes, two of which turning into a shot on target, one of these being Pieter Huistra’s equalizing goal.
Daniel Amokachi was Brugge’s most threatening attacking force recording 8 shots on goal with a personal xG of 0.97. Of these 8 attacks only one would hit the target, so he will no doubt be looking to increase his conversion rates when the sides meet next.
Vital Borkelmans was Brugge’s best statistical creator with 5 key passes in the match, and would be the driving force in creating much of Brugge’s attack play down the left hand side.
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