Breaking Down Mata's Goal vs Man United

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Juan Mata of Chelsea (R) celebrates with team mate Fernando Torres as he scores their second goal goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Chelsea's performance against Man United raised a lot of debates among fans and commentators of the game. But there is no disagreement when it comes to the quality of Juan Mata's goal -- it was absolutely brilliant! A thumping finish that the beautiful cross from Torres deserves.

The build up to this goal is also very interesting. It wasn't direct but it was quick -- it took only 23 seconds from start to finish. Plus, it was built on forward and backward ball movement on just one side (Chelsea's right) of the pitch rather than the usual slow side-to-side progression (like this one against Man City and this one against Sunderland). Let's look at the second-by-second break down of this build up, shall we?

Phase_1_medium

[45:00] Second half kick off. Mata taps the ball to Torres. Torres sends it back to Meireles.

[45:02] Meireles passes back to Cahill. Welbeck and Rooney press Cahill and Luiz respectively, leaving Meireles and Essien open.

[45:04] Cahill sends the ball back to Meireles.

[45:05] Meireles finds Essien. Carrick presses Essien.

Pretty ordinary so far. Michael Essien, though, did very well to hold off Carrick's pressure. The Ghanaian was able to control, turn and move the ball forward. This is his first contribution to this attacking movement.

Phase_2_medium

[45:08] Essien finds Sturridge on the right. Torres begins his diagonal run to the right.

[45:11] Sturridge gets closed down by FOUR United players and he taps the ball back to Essien. Torres continues his run to the right and is tightly marked by Ferdinand. Ivanovic has also started his run up the pitch.

[45:12] Essien makes a first time forward pass to Torres.

[45:13] Torres miscontrols (apparently not a real word) the ball and the loose ball lands in Ivanovic's path.

A couple of things to note here. First, it was another good contribution from Essien whose first-time pass moved the attack forward very quick. In fact, if you go and look at his passing chart on chalkboard (Guardian/StatsZone), you will see that most of his passes in this game were forward passes.

Second, Torres's run dragged Ferdinand pretty wide and opened up a huge gap for Daniel Sturridge to exploit. If Fernando Torres has had a better touch in frame 8, he could possibly release Sturridge into that wide United gap as indicated by the yellow dash arrow. But to be fair to Torres, the pass from Essien has a little bounce.

Third, I have circled Florent Malouda who was marked by Rafael in frame 7 and 8. A player's positioning is often hard to point out especially when that player is away from the action. Here, you can see Malouda's positional discipline. He didn't get suck into the central zone because of the action on the right. He stayed wide on the left and helped create that gap United's defense. The same could be said about Mata whose position was a little bit more central than Malouda.

Phase_3_medium

[45:15] Ivanovic passes to Sturridge in the central area. Torres makes an overlapping run around Ivanovic.

[45:16] Evans tackles the ball before it gets to Sturridge.

[45:18]* Ivanovic collects the loose ball and distributes it to Torres who is wide open. Sturridge makes a run into the box.

[45:20]* Torres tees up the ball with his first touch. Mata sneaks into the back post undetected.

[45:21]* Torres crosses.

I know you want me to go on to part where Mata scores but let me stop and say a few things before we climax.

I think Sturridge's movement was very smart. Instead of rushing forward in frame 9, he held back and opened himself up for Ivanovic's pass. If there was no such passing option, Ivanovic would have had to either pass it back to Essien or pass it wide to Torres, in which case Ferdinand would have been quick to close down Torres -- no crossing chance.

* Frame 9-12 are from replays. So, the time indicated on frame 11 and 12 are late.

Now enjoy THIS!

Phase_4_medium

[45:23] BOOOOMM! Mata scores.

That's it, folks. I really enjoyed this goal not just because of the quality of the cross and the finish. The build up was quicker than usual -- 23-second attack with 12 passes (well, sort of). The players' movements and positioning were impressive. I like it. Also, Essien's contribution in the early stages of the build up was very important even though he wasn't involved in the final third.

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