Marseille win the ball in advanced positions through pressing against Leipzig

Marseille win the ball in advanced positions through pressing against Leipzig
Photo Credit To @OM_English

Les Phoceens follow up their astute defensive duty in Leipzig with a swashbuckling display at the Stade Velodrome against Die Roten Bulen.

Marseille progress to the semifinal of the Europa League after beating RB Leipzig 5-2 (5-3 aggregate) in the second leg of their last-eight tie. Despite losing 1-0 in the first leg in Germany, the French side largely neutralised Die Roten Bulen with a 3-4-2-1 shape.

The second leg saw Marseille boss Rudi Garcia retain the formation while RB Leipzig manager Ralph Hasenhuttl abandoned their usual 4-4-2 formation and utilised a 3-1-4-2 in an attempt to match-up against the Marseille shape. We’ll now see how both teams fared in the contest.

Frantic opening leads to Bruma opener for Die Roten Bulen

Les Phoceens escalated things quickly. The half-fit Florian Thauvin sent his kickoff straight out of bounds for a Leipzig throw-in deep in their own half. Les Phoceens did this in order to press Die Bulen in an awkward area of the pitch and possibly win the ball back in such an advanced position. It worked but the half-chance carved out of it saw Dimitry Payet mishit a first-time half-volley. In response, Leipzig blitzed to the other end and ironically got the opener instead through Bruma.

The opening minutes suggested both teams in attack mode, and the match turned into an open affair. Rudi Garcia made two changes from the first leg. He dropped Andre-Frank Zambo-Anguissa and Lucas Ocampos and introduced Maxime Lopez and Thauvin instead. Kostas Mitroglou also kept his place again to match-up physically with the massive centrebacks of Leipzig. Marseille needed to play more expansive football than in the first leg, especially now as Leipzig scored an early goal.

Leipzig laboured against Les Phoceens’ shape in the first leg especially in attack where Emil Forsberg struggled to get on the ball in between the lines. For the second leg, Ralph Hasenhuttl sent his side into a quirky 3-1-4-2 formation but the real surprise came from his personnel changes. The Austrian dropped both Timo Werner and Forsberg. Kevin Kampl started to buffer the midfield while Diego Demme performed as a screen in front of the backthree.

Thauvin shines in return for Marseille

The Bruma goal set the tone for large parts of the game where both teams pressed and in offence, tried to get their forwards in behind through pace. Marseille concentrated their attack wide right in order to use the dynamic superiority of Thauvin. Throughout the time he spent on the pitch, Thauvin performed very well, especially in his link-up play with Bouna Sarr and Hiroki Sakai later.

The Marseille equaliser came when they looked for Thauvin for just the second time in the match. Davide Upamecano made a passing error with the winger closing him down and Marseille capitalised from the resulting corner with extreme prejudice. The high-octane start continued and shortly after, Marseille took the lead via a fearsome counterattack that Sarr finished emphatically.

As they got the lead, Marseille tried to slow the game down, which would suit them more. However, Leipzig intensified their counterpress, rushing Marseille on the ball that quickened the tempo yet again. After assuming a deep-lying playmaker position in the first leg, Payet played in his more usual advanced creative role across the final third.

The successful selective pressing of Marseille

Again, Leipzig did well in the first phase of build-up via their wide vertical and horizontal spacing but struggled to create chances in advanced positions. Marseille shifted into a 5-3-2 when defending and kept their defensive discipline throughout. As mentioned in the first leg, Leipzig rely on the manipulation of defensive lines to create space but Les Phoceens largely negated it.

Marseille only pressed when the ball receiver was in a wrong orientation. An interesting thing to note is that as Les Phoceens frequently left the far side space open, Die Bulen did not utilise direct switches of play. Also, the centreback Ibrahima Konate displayed ability to carry the ball forward when Marseille do press but Leipzig lacked creativity up front, especially with Forsberg and Werner left out.

The structured Marseille defence then duly exposed the lack of imagination of an otherwise well-drilled Leipzig side. They forced Leipzig to recirculate the ball back into Peter Gulacsi who hoofed a long ball. This allowed Les Phoceens to win the ball back in an advanced position before Adil Rami, in for Sarr, drew a foul and won a freekick from Jean-Kevin Augustin. Thauvin sidefooted Payet’s freekick from close and Marseille open up a two-goal gap against Leipzig.

This particular flow of the match continued into the second half. Les Olympiens picked the right situations to press and forced Leipzig back to goalkeeper Gulacsi who then punted long balls. Marseille would win the ball back in advanced positions and this is how they threatened.

Leipzig capitalise yet again on play being stretched

However, Leipzig got a second goal before Marseille could capitalise on this. Like the opener, their second goal came due to the play being stretched. A Marseille counterattack, yes counterattack, broke down, leading to a Leipzig break on the other end. Naby Keita pierced through the disorganised Marseille defence and Augustin finished past Yohann Pele. This goal took the tie’s aggregate score to 3-3, which would see Leipzig through via the away goals rule.

Payet pierces through the heart of Die Bulen

Even before Leipzig’s second goal, Hasenhuttl responded with his side’s struggles by sending Forsberg in for Demme. The substitution proved crucial as Marseille took advantage of Demme’s withdrawal immediately. Payet sliced through the heart of Leipzig, where the recently withdrawn Demme should have been shoring up. Forsberg, who just came on, played further up the pitch, which left Stefan Ilsanker exposed one-on-one against the former West Ham man – who didn’t disappoint.

Marseille’s fourth goal meant Leipzig would not move on to the semifinal and caused Die Bulen to attack. The introduction of Forsberg, in his usual roaming role, made Leipzig more dynamic going forward. Forsberg’s calibre enabled Leipzig to make direct diagonal switches, which they didn’t use in the first half.

All-out attack from Leipzig but Sakai caps off solid Marseille showing

Due to this, Marseille adjusted their pressing and now left one teammate on the far side to cover switches. But the pattern in the match now developed with Leipzig hogging the ball while Marseille sat back and prepare to break.

Leipzig’s attack featured the two outside centrebacks Bernardo (in earlier for injured Upamecano) and Konate occupy fullback positions in the final third. To compensate, Kampl provided cover for Ilsanker against Mitroglou who was the only one not in behind the ball defending for Marseille. Overall, this was a risky for Leipzig as it made them vulnerable to counterattacks.

With less than ten minutes to go, Rudi Garcia beefed up his midfield by withdrawing Payet for Zambo-Anguissa. Die Bulen’s attack now featured Konate as an acting centreforward and they got close through Yussuf Poulsen chance. In the last minute of stoppage time, Leipzig keeper Gulacsi left his goal for a corner, which Marseille launched a counterattack from which Sakai capped off an outstanding Marseille display with a stoppage-time goal.

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