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Stuttgart’s free-kick goal against Schalke

This week’s example comes from Germany with hapless Schalke throwing away some valuable points just by moving back too early from a free-kick. The use of two free-kick takers is a common occurrence in football, and is used to disrupt the timing of the dropping movement of the defence, and Stuttgart are able to push Schalke back dramatically with a simple pass and delivery.

We can see the play starts below with Stuttgart having two players stood over the ball, while Stuttgart overload the near post area slightly compared to the far post. Schalke are positioned medium to deep I would say, but as soon as the first player begins to even run up to play the ball, they begin to drop. Schalke are also in a staggered structure with a player on the edge of the box used to try to limit second phase opportunities.

The first player to run up to the ball for Stuttgart feints to play the ball in, but simply rolls the ball backwards to aid the delivery of the second player. The Schalke players however take the bait of this first run, and we can see already Schalke are now on the penalty spot and have moved back about four yards. Stuttgart use their own staggering too, and have players make early and later runs, with the target player making a late run past that Schalke player on the edge. The Schalke player on the edge does nothing to stop the player getting past him, as he is more focused on dealing with a second phase opportunity, and so the target player gets a free run from deep.

Due to Schalke ‘biting’ early on that feinted delivery, we can see that when the ball is now crossed in from the free-kick, that Schalke are now about ten yards away from their goal, and so with one feinted movement by Stuttgart, they are able to get Schalke approximately six yards deeper. Due to this depth, space opens up in front of the Schalke defensive line, and so the late target runner has space to arrive into in front of them.

Therefore, the target player gets a free header in front of Salif Sané, and the defender has to move forward to try and stop the header, which leaves his arms flailing and leads to Stuttgart winning a penalty for handball, which they convert. Having the line less flat would probably benefit Schalke here, but the rate at which they drop after a simple feint is what does the majority of the damage.