The best thing about winning the 1st leg 3-1 is that you can lose the second 2-3 and still go through to the next stage. So here we are: Chelsea in the semi-finals of the Europa "We Care More About You Now Than We Did In The Previous Round" League. The goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses made sure that the fans can sing "One Team In Europe" again despite the sloppy defense's best effort to throw the game against Rubin Kazan.
The game plan was simple: contain and counter. Stay compact defensively with a 4-5-1/4-3-3 shape and break quickly to score on the counter. As it turns out, the latter part of the strategy worked better than the former in this game. With the youngster Nathan Ake anchoring the midfield, Frank Lampard and Ramires completed the inverted midfield triangle of the Mourinho days. Playing in their best positions as box-to-box midfielders, both Lampard and Ramries contributed to the goals, in their own ways.
The Torres Goal
From the very early stage of the game, Chelsea were defending deep with two rows of defensive shield ahead of Petr Cech. In this particular case, Paulo Ferreira was off injured on the sidelines, which meant that Moses had to drop back to the left back position and Torres to the left wing. Ake, who was almost the fifth defender at this point, would make an important interception* to start the break with Ramires.
* He was also the top interceptor of the game with 7 interceptions.
Shut down by two opponents, the Brazilian would quickly lose the ball but this phase of the game was vital for the buildup to the goal because it pushed Torres up the field from his initial left wing position. So when Cesar Azpilicueta grabbed a hold of the subsequent misplaced pass from Rubin Kazan and found Lampard centrally, the midfielder can send a first-time long pass up the pitch like this:
A well-timed pass over the defense for Torres to chase. Chelsea wouldn't have been able to break as quickly as they did here if the initially failed break-away with Ramires that forced Torres further up the field. And, of course, Zorres finished it with superb skill and confidence:
#FormIsTemporaryClassIsPermanent #Respect #Legend #Zorres #LOL
The Moses Goal
Unlike the first goal, this one was built on good pressing job from the Chelsea attackers in Rubin Kazan's half. A long ball out from defense (David Luiz) started us off. Chelsea lost out the first and the second ball but closed down the opposition pretty quickly. With one defender out of the frame next to Torres, it was a 5 v 5 situation with both Ramires and Lampard in advance positions, anticipating a forward pass to the two Rubin Kazan players closest to them. Of the two immediate passing options, the last defender picked the central route as Yossi Benayoun stepped up. This was wrong choice because Ramires would do this to the recipient of that pass:
I honestly don't think we would have won the ball back here if the last defender passed to the guy to his left, i.e. the player closest to Lampard. The England midfielder wouldn't have been able to press as quickly as Ramries did and win the challenge. This was totally in the Ramires territory, and the Brazilian did what he does best. Now, the stage is set.
It looks complicated, but this goal is actually quite simple. It is a series of one-two's stacked together -- Lampard-to-Moses, Moses-to-Ramires and Ramires-to-Moses -- as the Blues penetrates the defense. Of course, there was that first-time outside-of-the-boot assist from Ramires which took the buildup to another level: something we expect from the likes of Hazard, Mata and Oscar, but wonderfully surprised that Ramires pulled it off.
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Kudos to everyone involved but central to these two goals are the contributions from the two box-to-box midfielders, each according to their strengths: Lampard with the vision and the long range passing for the first goal and Ramires with the pace and ability to win the ball via tackles for the second.