Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Big win against Lyon

My tone in these first few blurbs I've written has been generally negative. After all, I started this blog at a point where all of the Portuguese football world has been comparing last year's Benfica with the current version. Despite Lyon's 3 goals in the last few minutes of Tuesday's match, my overall tone this time around will be very positive.

I'd like to point out that the last two points that I mentioned in my last blog entry were very pertinent in the game against Lyon. 

First, to my surprise, Jorge Jesus started the game with Fabio Coentrao playing behind Cesar Peixoto for the first time this season when these have been the 2 players to commandeer the left flank. With Fabio's legs at LB, he can participate in offensive incursions while having the capacity to recover his defensive position, something Cesar can only dream of doing. As I've beaten to death before, this is by far the best setup and only after Benfica's second goal did we see these two players occasionally switch positions. The switching at this point makes more sense, allowing for Fabio to pressure the ball carrier further up the field with a 2 goal lead.

Second, the first-touch passing increased, though not dramatically. A Champions League game against Lyon is much different than a league game against Pacos de Ferreira, which makes the slight increase more understandable. 

Though Benfica controlled the first 75 minutes, they spent great periods of time managing the game defensively rather than with possession. In this area, defensive organization, Benfica played 75 "perfect" minutes, as Jorge Jesus would say. Defining your team's identity is crucial in obtaining positive results. Benfica isn't a possession team against the bigger clubs (and arguably against the smaller clubs, since the Portuguese champs seem to have quite a bit of difficulty in games where they're expected to control ball possession). Defensive organization followed by quick attacking breaks, with first-touch passing as the centerpiece, is the trademark of this team against the likes of Lyon and is what allowed us to score 4 goals before we fell asleep.

After Lyon's first goal...well, I don't want to talk about it. ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

An alarming statistic

Coming off a win against Pacos de Ferreira, Benfica now plays a critical match tomorrow night in dictating their future in the Champions League. Though "our" side's superiority this past weekend should be uncontested, there's no doubt that the pace of play is nowhere near what it was last season. Other than Aimar's genius play in creating the first goal, as well as the final score, there's little to praise in Benfica's performance.

Though football isn't considered to be a statistical game, and rightfully so since team mentality trumps any sort of mathematical figures one can conjure up, statistics can give us a general idea of how a team is performing. Pace really is a big issue which we can dissect with a quick statistic.

In the game against Pacos de Ferreira, Benfica performed a meager 42 first touch passes, meaning only 42 times did the player not receive the ball before passing it. I didn't consider headers or passes back to the goalkeeper in this statistical analysis. Benfica's passing game consisted almost exclusively of stop and go passing. Receive the ball, pass the ball. "Stop and go," rather than "go and go." This kind of predictable pace benefits the opponent's defensive positioning and eliminates offensive fluidity. The opposition is able to anticipate your play.

Benfica had 61% possession and 43 attacks, according to SportTV. If we consider that a reasonable amount of first touch passes per offensive play should be in the 2-4 range, we can conclude that a team should strive for around 100 per game, more than double the 42 performed through the whole game. Furthermore, 10 of these were bad passes (not reaching their destination) and 11 of them were back passes. Only 22 of the first touch passes actually promoted forward progress. It also means Benfica resorted many times to first touch passing in a pressed situation.

When an offensive-minded team complains about their opposition playing too closed up and inside their own box (something that didn't even happen in Pacos' case), they're really complaining about their own inability to play quick enough to bypass the other team's defensive mentality.

That being said, I'll leave this post with two quick predictions. First, if Benfica doesn't double their number of first touch passes, they will not win against Lyon. Second (and this is semi-unrelated), if Cesar Peixoto plays left back instead of Fabio Coentrao, Benfica will also not win against Lyon. Cesar Peixoto and Maxi Pereira at wing backs is suicide. In games where the left side options are Cesar Peixoto and Fabio Coentrao, Cesar must be the player in the midfield with Fabio playing behind him.

Just a couple of thoughts...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lyon's First Goal: Pass the F***ing ball!

This has been grating on me for several days. Yes, we're almost a week removed from Benfica's loss at Lyon, but the French side's first goal shows a big difference between last year's league-demolishing Benfica and this year's more fragile one. Jorge Jesus' bulldozer of a team that consistently demolished teams by 4 or 5 last year is much more sluggish in his 2nd season. The issue goes beyond not having adequately replaced Di Maria and Ramires. It comes down to making the correct decisions on the pitch. Simple decisions.

Football is a passing game, one that is most effectively played in simplicity. More often than not, the most correct passing decision is the simplest one. Last season, Benfica reached glory through, among other things, a quick and mostly simple passing game.

A playmaker's role is to dictate the tempo of play and identify passing lanes. He organizes the team's offensive movement. In a counter attacking situation, the ball will more quickly reach the opposition's box through passing, not dribbling, especially if you don't have the luxury of counting on a Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo on your squad.

Carlos Martins was Benfica's playmaker in the game against Lyon with Aimar playing along the right side of the midfield. After Michel Bastos' shot hit the post, the ball landed right at Carlos Martins' feet in a privileged situation for a counter attack. Instead, the play ended up in Lyon's first goal, one which Benfica never recovered from.

Benfica is attacking left to right and this is the precise moment when Carlos Martins picks up the loose ball. It's all downhill from here, and for no reason other than being affected by Lyon's shot hitting the post and not emphasizing a quick passing game.

By the time he turns around, Martins has at least 5 clear options that are much better than holding on to the ball. By keeping the ball, Benfica's playmaker doesn't take advantage of all the passing lanes he has at his disposal and allows the defensive side to organize itself and eventually close down on him. He could have easily dumped the ball off to Aimar on his right or Fabio Coentrao on his left. He could have passed the ball back to Javi Garcia in order to permit Benfica's block to advance up the field in an organized fashion, since the defensive line is pushed back into their own box. He could have even tried a pass to Gaitan up the left flank to initiate a fast break, though this fourth option would be somewhat risky seeing as how a Lyon player is in the vicinity of this passing lane. As a last option, Martins could have even booted the ball upfield.

He takes none of those options, most of them low-risk passes. Inevitably, Lyon's midfield begins closing down on the ball carrier who is forced to retreat. Even as Carlos Martins backs up, he still has 3 simple and wide open passing options at his disposal that would relieve the pressure put on him. If you saw the game or the highlights, you know what happened next. He loses the ball to the Lyon player closest to him and the French side score their first goal within 3 quick passes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What happened to day games?

There's a certain mystique to day games. Living in Portugal as a kid in the early 90s, my dad and I used to go to as many Benfica home games as we could. Most of these games were afternoon fixtures and inevitably became day long adventures. We'd get to the stadium about an hour before the game so that we could find our seats. During those days, the mythical "terceiro anel" didn't have actual seats in place, so we'd find our place on the concrete slab stands and head over to the snack-bar. Pepsi and a snack, never failed. We'd come back to our "seats" with plenty of time to spare before kickoff. Basking in the sun, I'd just stare across the stadium and watch the people rush in while simultaneously watching the team warm up on the field. Day football was such a great experience, one that Benfica fans have been deprived of for over a decade.

I've never understood why Benfica has effectively had no day games in the past decade, excluding pre-season of course. It's understandable that television revenue is of utmost importance, the two-fold benefits of tv and box office revenue being instrumental in balancing the books. But games like the one this past Saturday against Arouca for the Taca de Portugal would be a great way to bring back the allure of day games. The benefits go beyond allure or mystique, though.

Football is, or very well should be, a family game. The games that "duped" me into being a hardcore fan were those games that I watched live, many of which were during the day. In the midst of an economic crisis affecting most of the world and with prices for sporting events skyrocketing, big name clubs like Benfica have to take advantage of promotional opportunities in secondary competitions such as the Taca de Portugal or the Taca da Liga, including change the time of the game to suit a different crowd.

The attendance for Benfica's game against Arouca was around 23k. Wouldn't it be better for the club in the long run to fill those empty seats? 23k is well under half the stadium. Why not make these games during the day? Why not create promotions for the first 20k in the door? Many American baseball teams pull off these promotional days very successfully. Yes, it's a different sport on a different continent, but we're all human. An American person appreciates a free scarf or t-shirt of his favorite team just as much as a Portuguese one.

These changes along with dirt cheap prices would get people in the doors, which is the ultimate goal. The ticket prices for the Arouca game were 5€ for Benfica members and 10€ for non-members. Why not make it something ridiculously cheap, like 2€ and 5€. There isn't a huge difference, but if you combine all these benefits I'm sure you wouldn't just see 23k in the stands. 

We live in a time where "selling" your sport is needed for longterm gain. Clubs are handled more and more like businesses. In today's day and age, you have to make your product multi-faceted in order to achieve that same longterm gain. While league games can continue to have their serious night setting where the club gets the most value possible for each ticket, many taca games can be during the day, with a light and fun atmosphere as well as dirt cheap tickets and freebees to boot. Had Benfica done some of this in their marketing of the Arouca game, I'm pretty sure there would be close to 50k in the stands. The club might not have made as much money on this single game, but the future benefits of having so many more people (and impressionable children) in the audience would have been the forward-thinking way to go.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why 4-3-3 works for Portugal

Compiling a squad for a national team may seem like an easy job but there is somewhat of a science to it. As I briefly mentioned in my last post, club squads could be assembled based around the tactical scheme that the coach is trying to implement. National team squads have to work on putting the most amount of talent on the pitch at one time.

Let's say, for instance, that a club manager's favored formation is 4-2-3-1. Generally speaking, this means his team will have a layout consisting of a 4 man defensive line, a defensive midfield of 2 men placed immediately after the defensive line, an offensive midfield comprising 2 wingers and a central offensive playmaker, and one striker. If we assume that this manager operates under the two-players-per-position rule on his squad, basic math will tell us, for instance, that he'll have to arrange his team to have 4 total defensive midfielders. Money will buy you any player you need for any position at a club, but money won't buy national team managers the right to develop their preferred system.

The primary objective of a national team manager is obviously to select the best players possible, almost regardless of position. There is some regard for position, but in a very basic sense of needing X defenders, X midfielders and X forwards.

When we look at the talent that Paulo Bento has at his disposal in generating the Portuguese national team, we notice 2 things.

First, there's a glaring lack of quality forwards beyond Hugo Almeida (operating under the assumption that we're considering Ronaldo and Nani wingers). Almeida aside, there just isn't a competent forward that would be good enough to start. Helder Postiga is far too average and Liedson isn't as productive as he once was.

Second, there is a TON of talent around the middle of the midfield. Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho, Carlos Martins, Tiago and Miguel Veloso are all players that can easily claim a starting 11 spot. Ruben Micael and Ruben Amorim are 2 other players that can contribute in the not so distant future and perfectly justify a starting role, though neither of them are currently starting at their respective clubs.

These two points make choosing a 4-3-3 an easy decision. If Bento were to go with a 4-1-3-2, he would be keeping too much of that midfield talent on the bench, using one as a defensive midfielder and the other as the playmaker. As similar as these players' skill sets are, none of them are playmakers except for Carlos Martins, which would also eliminate any formation that needs a Rui Costa or Deco type of player. In the 4-1-3-2 as well as the more classic 4-4-2, only two players from the above list of midfielders can make the starting lineup.

Fielding a 4-2-3-1 would be possible, as our friend Queiroz did many times (as well as many others before him), but this setup, and this is now strictly a matter of opinion, is way too defensive for one of the most technically sound teams in the world. Fielding a defensive line of 4 along with 2(!) defensive midfielders entails having 6 players with very defensive roles. I also disagree with pretty much any formation that has a 1 at the end of it, but that's a conversation for another time.

4-3-3 allows you to field the typical defensive line of 4 while also playing 3 of the central midfielders, which is as good as you're going to get. A traditional 4-3-3 would imply 3 strikers, though this version of it consists of 1 striker and 2 wingers that become forwards with the unraveling of the offensive play. This is very similar to how Porto works, which is part of the reason why Joao Moutinho played such an important role in these two qualifying games. He felt right at home.

A formation isn't the determining factor in who wins a football game (it's not even the most important factor, a discussion about that will warrant a post of its own). Despite this, spreading the players out accordingly is the basis for any team's success. In Portugal's case, 4-3-3 allows them to field as much talent in the midfield as possible while still maintaining an attacking mode.


Being new to the blogging world, I'm in need of much feedback to improve this place. Don't hesitate to send suggestions to or comment to these posts. I'm open to any and all suggestions and questions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Portugal: A good start to the Paulo Bento era

Two games, two wins. Can't beat that. Victories over Denmark on Friday and Iceland on Tuesday, both by a 3-1 score, completely change Portugal's situation in Group H of Euro 2012's qualifying round.

Paulo Bento didn't make many structural changes to the player layout on the field, opting to keep the 4-3-3 we saw Queiroz implement during this year's World Cup. The similarities between both managers end there. 

What was a scared, inhibited, fragile team just a few months ago is now a much more confident and creative one. The laid-back, defensive, wait-for-the-opposition's-mistake style which should never have been employed in a team so rich with talent has been amended with Bento's more aggressive attacking build-up.

I never quite understood why Queiroz was even chosen to manage the National team (once again). I think a few people forgot his debacle while managing Portugal in the 90's. His head coaching glory days go back quite a bit to before he even coached anyone over the age of 22.

I loved Paulo Bento's choices for the starting 11. In fact, he fielded the same exact starting formation I would have picked. Though I'm not a huge fan of the 4-3-3, it's by far the formation that best suits Portugal's interests and the one that best uses the team's current talent. 

Club managers have the luxury of choosing players that fit their desired formation and can scout accordingly. Need a striker? Ok, get your scouting department on the job and find one that fits the skill set you're looking for. National team managers don't have this luxury and must therefore implement a tactical formation that places as much talent on the pitch at one time. The talent pool is limited to players of Portuguese nationality, so there is no scouting random leagues to find exactly what you need. Though the 4-1-2-1-2 may be Paulo Bento's favorite, I think he realizes that the current Portuguese talent pool consists of a surplus of middle midfielders (is that even possible?) and a lack of strikers. I'll expand more on this thought later in the week...

What really changed was the team mentality. Sports are very highly influenced by psychological factors. Queiroz came from a sub-par World Cup performance where key players blatantly came out against him. There was little team unity and an ingrained philosophy of passively watching the other team play. The ONLY Queiroz-led game that I saw Portugal be aggressive in was the 7-0 victory against North Korea. Go figure.

At first, I was afraid of Paulo Bento's slim coaching resume. Professional coaching experience? 4 average years at Sporting. League titles: 0. The more I came to terms with the fact that Paulo Bento was the only logical option, the more I realized that his leadership could be exactly what the group needs. He's much younger than the last few head coaches and brings a fresh perspective in terms of game approach. 

Bento's team goes after the ball, not the other way around. The team works together, passes quickly and usually simply. Ball possession is prized and he allows the players to make creative decisions rather than restrict them to rigid defensive roles. All the ingredients needed to make a functioning football machine.

One thing is certain, change was mandatory. I'm really glad it has worked out so far.

Thanks to everyone that has shown their support for my blog during the past week. Suggestions and comments are appreciated as always at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Covering Passing Lanes

At the end of my last post, I mentioned Javi Garcia's role of cutting passing lanes. Since I left that comment way too vague, I figure I'll give an example of what I meant.

At this point in Braga's attacking play during Sunday's game, the player with the ball has no clear passing options. All of the lanes leading to his teammates are effectively covered by Benfica players. A simple defensive movement, shown by the arrows, will throw off the defensive balance and allow Braga to get into Benfica's box fairly easily. Maxi is going to run up to meet the player with the ball and Javi will shift over to cover the open space left by Maxi. This isn't necessarily Javi's fault since I think it's a tactical shift that he's been instructed to do, but we'll see the problem that arises.

Javi Garcia's original movement outside to cover Maxi opens the passing lane. Javi then overcompensates, cutting back in to protect the front of the box as we'll see in the next picture. Meanwhile, Lima, Braga's striker, makes a great run outside to open another passing lane through Javi's overcompensation. Though it's impossible to keep track of every player around you, in this case, keeping track of the striker is particularly important since he's the only player ahead of the ball.

So Javi moves in, Lima moves out, and a clear passing lane is there once again.

David Luiz' quickness allows him to cut off Lima's angle. Lima is still able to get the shot off that goes wide. Though no major damage was made as a result of this play, the fact that a goal scoring opportunity even happened was a factor of not effectively covering the passing lanes.

Javi Garcia a very talented player, certainly one of the best defensive midfielders playing in Portugal, and will likely get called up to the Spanish national team in the near future. He has a very important role on this team, I just think this is an example of how he can improve his positioning.

Looking forward to seeing the new and improved Portuguese national team tomorrow. I'll be chiming in with my thoughts on Paulo Bento's first game...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Benfica-Braga: Positives and Negatives

Benfica's win on Sunday against Braga was a much needed boost as the overall team production looked much more stable. Things are looking up and I truly believe Jorge Jesus when he says that the 2nd half of the season will be much more consistent.

The psychological blow that Braga has taken with its losses to Porto and Benfica, as well as the beatings they've taken in the Champions League, have effectively left them out of the race. This, of course, is just my opinion. They're only 8 points away from Porto and it's still too early to tell how this will all end up, but I don't see them making the same type of run they did last year. The defensive organization that allowed them to contend last season is now much more permeable. While I'm at it, let me add that Sporting is out of contention as well. A 10 point deficit isn't one that a team as emotionally scarred as they've been these past few years can overcome. They continue their inconsistent ways, still losing a lot of points to smaller teams. It's a 2 team race in my book...unless Guimaraes can continue their good results and be this year's Braga.

But back to Benfica. Here's a short list of pros and cons I've taken from Sunday's match.


  1. Aimar proved that he's a playmaker that is VERY difficult to stop when he's in form and physically fit. It's a shame that a player with his ability and vision was never able to put it all together as a complete player due to his fitness. He lost most of his career to injuries and bad luck but he's still one of my favorite attacking midfielders to watch. I don't care that he's 30, he can still deliver the goods with superb passing and organizing the team's attacking movement. The play where he cradled the ball with his chest and served Saviola was world class.
  2. The fact that Carlos Martins wasn't named to Portugal's World Cup squad was already an aberration. The fact that Ramires is gone has only been good for him, allowing more playing time and influence on the team. He uses both feet extremely well, as shown in the ferocious left-footed shot that gave Benfica the win in this one.
  3. I'd like to think that hustle and pressure allow you to win games when things don't always go as fluidly as we'd like. I love that Jorge Jesus has implemented a philosophy of high intensity in Benfica's approach to defending. This allows the team to win back the ball while the opposition is on their heels. High intensity and pressure is a topic I'd like to go a little deeper into in a blog entry of its own coming soon. It's one thing Benfica does very well and has somewhat maintained from last season.
  4. Fabio Coentrao returning to left back is the best adjustment that could have been made going into this game. As I said in my previous post, Cesar Peixoto becomes a liability at this position. There's no reason to change last year's defensive formula, considering the options we currently have on the squad. Fabio is a defensive warrior and is much more dangerous offensively when he supports the offensive play coming from farther behind, though Leandro Salino DID play a great game in limiting Fabio's adventures up the left flank.
  5. Alan Kardec is really promising. He might not have Cardozo's cannon for a shot, but I love how he positions himself to win loose balls and win his position against the defender. He's only 21 and has the world ahead of him. The potential is there to be a more complete player than Cardozo. Kardec is very fast and agile for his size, especially compared to Cardozo's slow-motion sprinting. Once he gets playing time more consistently, we're likely to see this guy explode to the point of making the Brazilian national team in a couple of years.
  1. The amount of goals that Saviola has been missing lately is cause for some concern. Players naturally go through ebbs and flows in form and he has certainly seen better days. It has also looked like he looses way too many balls to the opposition. A lot of times, a player not being in form is very much a psychological block. Taking an extra second to think the play out and determine the best course of action can make all the difference between a successful attacking play and losing possession. Even some of his off the ball runs have seemed a little uncharacteristic.
  2. Benfica got a scrappy win, which was the fruit of their high intensity approach. The passing game and team web that must be created on the offense is still not as fluid as it should be. There are still a good amount of lost balls due to inaccurate passing. The play is much more funneled to the middle of the pitch. Gaitan and Carlos Martins aren't natural wingers, so their tendency is to pull the ball in. Funneling the game down the center can limit creativity and help the opposition in closing gaps. Di Maria opened a lot of passing lanes last season and I think the team still misses that.
  3. I love Javi Garcia. He's definitely the best defensive midfielder we've had in years but he can still improve in terms of cutting passing lanes. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shalke's goals and Cesar Peixoto's (lack of) involvement in them

If you follow Benfica or any other European football team whose manager has a personality similar to Jorge Jesus', you've undoubtedly heard a lot of generalized jibber-jabber regarding technical and tactical aspects of the game. The 2-0 Benfica loss at the hands of Shalke 04 during this past Champions League fixture is a perfect game to  discuss both the technical and tactical aspects of Benfica's defensive play with particular emphasis on Cesar Peixoto. This analysis has two hard morals:
  1. Cesar Peixoto has no business being the left back in Benfica's 4-1-3-2 system.
  2. Benfica's defensive contingency when faced with a counter-attack needs some revision.
The first goal doesn't require much discussion, showing Cesar Peixoto's technical inability to head away a ball that came right at him. It was a pretty basic defensive play that was botched and shows a complete lack of concentration and basic defensive skills.

Before I get into the second goal, let me just begin by stating that I believe Cesar Peixoto is a quality player. Was a quality player, I should say. There's no doubting he's past his prime, and what a way to show that than by placing him in one of the 3 most physically demanding positions on the field. 

With Benfica's high pressure 4-1-3-2 (or 4-1-2-1-2, as you wish), the defensive midfielder, usually Javi Garcia, runs the most kms during a game serving as the bridge between the team's defensive and offensive play. After the defensive midfielder, the most physically demanding positions are the right and left backs. These players habitually incorporate themselves in the offensive scheme, often reaching the byline for a cross into the box.

The machine was a well oiled one last season with Maxi Pereira and Fabio Coentrao running up and down their respective flanks. This season has been a different story, more often than not Fabio playing the role of left winger with Cesar Peixoto taking the reigns at left back. This won't work against good teams. The beauty of having Fabio Coentrao playing LB is that he's much more durable, plus he's much more dangerous on the offensive side of the ball since he's coming up from the back, overlapping the left winger and generating creative plays. Playing LB on a team where the left side center back begins a lot of its offensive initiatives makes the physical demands even greater.

So, let's take a look at the goal and how Cesar Peixoto at this position is a liability, as well as the team-wide defensive flaw. David Luiz started advancing with the ball, losing it to Raul...
Typically, in a situation where David Luiz loses the ball out of position, the defensive midfielder compensates and shifts to play side-by-side with Luisao, as indicated by the red arrow. David Luiz is on the ground and Cesar Peixoto is seen at the bottom of the screen. He's right where he should be at this point, being that he accompanied David Luiz' offensive initiative through Benfica's left flank.

The Shalke player at the top of the screen is a very important one, his run forward being represented by the white arrow. This player will be unaccompanied by the Benfica midfielder right next to him.
Raul continues with the ball, cutting toward the center of the pitch. Javi Garcia continues his run back to cover David Luiz and play next to Luisao. Cesar Peixoto, at the bottom of the screen, is already far behind where he should be expected to be. The Shalke player on the right flank has already passed him up and David Luiz up, though the Brazilian central defender was on the ground when the counter-attack began.

The main issue with this sort of defensive movement by Javi to cover the central-defender is that it leaves a HUGE hole right in front of the defensive line. In this particular case, Javi should be pressing the man with the ball rather than prioritizing defensive placement next to Luisao, especially since Raul is cutting into him with the ball. There is basically no defensive midfielder to give the defensive line some coverage, as we'll see here...
Javi is now close to being side-by-side with Luisao, and Raul has all the space in the world to navigate the play as he wishes. There is no Benfica player within 10 meters of him. The Shalke player running down their right flank is now far ahead of both Cesar Peixoto, who for all intents and purposes is completely out of the play, and David Luiz. Cesar should be accompanying the Shalke player while David Luiz cuts in to temporarily replace Javi Garcia in the defensive midfielder slot.

Remember the Shalke player from the first picture making his run up? There he is, along the left flank, unaccompanied by the Benfica right midfielder.
The dotted lines represent where the players should be. Cesar, playing left back, should be expected to recover his position and be where David Luiz is, covering the Shalke player along the right side of their attack. If Cesar does his job, David Luiz isn't forced to cover him and could have replaced Javi in front of the defensive line (though I'm pretty sure they don't have instructions to do this).

Maxi, playing right back, is almost glued to Luisao and practically invites the Shalke player to continue his run through the German team's left flank. If David Luiz were allowed to be somewhere in the middle in front of the defensive 4, it would limit Raul's options. It would also allow Maxi to more comfortably cover the passing lane on the right side of Benfica's defense by placing himself a few paces further to the right.
Checkmate. The pass goes to the player making his unaccompanied run down Shalke's left flank, who in turn crosses it low to Huntelaar (inexplicably getting rid of Luisao) for the easy score. Zone defense breaks down, no pressure on Raul by the non-existant defensive midfielder, no midfield help accompanying the Shalke player making the run all the way from his own half (I miss you Ramires). Easy goal.

And where was Cesar Peixoto? At the bottom of your screen...