Bayern Beaten: How Emma Hayes set Chelsea up for success in the UWCL semi-final second leg – tactical analysis
Chelsea Women faced Bayern Munich Women at Kingsmeadow in the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final second leg following the Blues’ 2-1 defeat at Munich, and the game ended with a huge 4-1 win for Chelsea who have qualified to the final for the first time ever. This match of the tournament will be between Chelsea and Barcelona, who excluded Paris Saint Germain in the semi-final to earn the right to compete with Chelsea for the European trophy at Gothenburg.
In this tactical analysis, we will explore Chelsea’s tactics to figure out how they succeeded in penetrating into Bayern’s defence several times to score four goals while also looking at the latter’s weaknesses in this match and what they did wrong to lose. The analysis will also include some statistics of both teams’ performances and their individual players’ impact.
Emma Hayes started the game with the 4-3-3 formation relying on Ann-Katrin Berger as a goalkeeper, Jessica Carter as a right-back instead of the injured Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson as centre-backs with Jonna Andersson as a left-back. The midfield was formed of Sophie Ingle as a defensive midfielder, Ji So-yun and Melanie Leupolz as central midfielders while the front three were Fran Kirby on the right wing, Sam Kerr as a left winger and striker in some instances with Pernille Harder playing as a false nine.
Scheuer however switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation after using the 3-5-2 in the first leg, and he used Laura Benkarth as a goalkeeper, Hanna Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Marina Hegering and Carolin Simon in defence, Sarah Zadrazil and Lina Magull as central midfielders with Klara Bühl and Lineth Beerensteyn as wingers and Sydney Lohmann playing as an advanced playmaker behind Lea Schüller, the team’s striker.
Chelsea’s attacking performance
Chelsea started the game with clear ideas; attacking immediately and putting a lot of pressure on Bayern’s defence. This was apparent since the first minutes of the match and we saw Chelsea having more possession throughout the match with an average of 58.61%. The blues were patient in circulating the ball and knew that Bayern have an organised defence, which meant that it was necessary for the attacking players to keep moving without the ball to create spaces for themselves and give the midfielders passing options.
This happened with continuously in Chelsea’s build up and we saw Kirby, Harder, Kerr and even Leupolz moving either towards a free space near the goal or coming near the ball holder to give her a solution. In this way, Chelsea was guaranteeing the possession of the ball while at the same time waiting for the adequate time to pass towards the box. The following picture explains what we have just mentioned since here Ji was holding the ball and had plenty of passing options even though she was in Bayern’s half. The most dangerous and smart choice was to cross the ball for Harder who was running towards the box and asking for the ball at the back of defenders, while at the same time Kirby was coming closer to Ji to give her an easy choice, Leupolz was on the same attacking line holding a defender from marking Harder, and Kerr was waiting on the left side as well.
The great chemistry between Chelsea’s attacking players was crucial in this match since for example the passing exchanges between Kirby and Kerr generated the team’s first goal following Kirby’s run and Kerr’s dribbles. But what was most striking in this goal action is the anticipation of defenders’ movements from Kirby and the accurate passing from Kerr at the adequate time. Such actions require a lot of training and awareness of each other’s skills and intentions, and that’s what made this goal look even more beautiful to the fans of the game.
The credit for this goal also goes to Kirby’s decision of anticipating Kerr’s pass and going to meet it before it reaches her because she knew if she would just wait to receive the pass her marker would be able to disturb her or even intercept the ball. Instead, she opted for running towards the ball to gain time over her marker and get away from her while advancing with the ball at the same time, which allowed her to be alone in front of the goal and shoot successfully with her weaker foot to open the score.
Chelsea had five shots on target out of 16 and even though this is not a very satisfying number, it showed another facet of Chelsea who were able to exploit their moments of the match in the best possible way by scoring whenever they had the slightest opportunity to do so, just like what happened in Ji’s goal when she kicked the free-kick and when the ball deflected in front of her, she immediately attempted to have another go between two Bayern players who made a mistake in leaving some space in the “wall”.
It is true that this had a bit of luck in it, yet Ji deserves all the credit for her goal because believing in the possibility of creating something out of these situations and executing the shot accurately is worth the praise.
Chelsea were successful in keeping their advantage until the last seconds of the game, and during the last minute, they proved that they try to exploit every possible goalscoring chance even if it is at the last seconds. Chelsea players exploited Benkarth’s advanced position since Bayern’s goalkeeper left her goal empty to help in scoring from a corner. However, the Blues intercepted the ball quickly and Cuthbert did the hardest part of this goal by giving a key pass between two Bayern players towards Kirby who found herself in front of an empty goal.
Bayern’s performance and errors
Apart from the errors made during Ji’s free-kick, Bayern Munich’s defence committed other mistakes in this match which costed them the qualification ticket, and this included mainly poor marking inside the box and during set-pieces. For instance, Harder’s goal was scored mainly due to Bayern’s poor defending during a free-kick kicked by Carter. In fact, Harder was planning to run towards the near post and kick the ball before the referee even blew his whistle, since she found herself free from marking, as you can see below. Bayern players should have done better than leaving one of Chelsea’s most dangerous attacking players alone inside the box if they wanted to keep their chances alive and avoid conceding more goals. But at the same time, Harder’s idea, acceleration and the whole execution of the action deserves all credit.
Moreover, the team was not able to be as concrete in finishing as in the first leg, and this time Chelsea’s defence was more attentive and made Bayern’s mission even more complicated. In fact, Bayern used the same tools to threaten Chelsea in attack, and they were partly able to reach the box at some instances like the chance shown below. The reliance on Glas on the right wing was always fruitful for Bayern, yet, Chelsea’s defence adopted a new approach to counter this kind of penetrations. They let Bayern players do the overlaps on the wing but they made sure to mark all the players who are inside the box.
Eriksson played a fundamental part in this plan since she used to lean towards the wing to cover for Andersson and leave a player without marking inside the box. But this time she stayed with her direct opponent inside the penalty area and cleared the ball as soon as the ball was crossed from the wing.
This limited Bayern’s attacking threat in this second leg and gave more confidence and balance to Chelsea. While at the same time, Bayern resorted to shots from distance and Zadrazil was successful in scoring a goal from long range, but that was not enough for qualification. And despite shooting 16 times like Chelsea, only three Bayern shots were on target and Bayern players were not able to beat Chelsea’s defensive compactness in this game.
This compactness and awareness of Bayern’s threat was there even when Bayern had some clear goalscoring chances. And the best example occured at the 37th minute when Beerensteyn intercepted the ball and initiated a counter-attack, passed to Schüller between both Eriksson and Bright, and even though this looked like a goal opportunity, Eriksson still managed to disturb Schüller with a sliding tackle to prevent her from shooting towards the goal. This action resumes the match perfectly since it shows that Bayern attempted to score several times but faced a very compact and attentive defence.
Chelsea Women booked a ticket for the final for the first time ever and their performance in both legs and especially in the second leg warranted them the qualification since they were better both in attack and in defence while Bayern Munich’s efforts were not enough to beat their opponent even though they had the advantage following the first leg.
Chelsea will now need to focus on studying Barcelona ahead of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final to be able to lift the trophy for the first time in Chelsea’s history, but that will not be a simple mission for sure.