Both teams lined up in their usual 4-3-3 formations.
Alamein press high, Bulleen struggle to adjust
In previous articles, I’ve observed how Bulleen prefer to attack by playing short through the thirds, with deep playmaker Sarah Cain integral to the structure of their attacking buildup from the back.
In Round 4, Geelong concentrated on protecting space by using a compact mid-block to block easy passes into Cain. This kept the game close until a second half red card for Geelong made it easier for Bulleen.
Alamein took a different approach tonight in Round 7, using their signature man-oriented pressing style to great effect. Alamein central midfielders Mari Pastor, Caitlin Roberts, and Rachel Alonso followed opposite midfielders Kate Fotopoulos, Caitlin Friend, and Cain. Furthermore, Alamein centreback Taylor Schneider followed Bulleen centre forward Rachael Quigley even when she dropped into midfield to create overloads.
This can be seen in the diagrams below. Bulleen are trying to build from the back. With Schneider and all three Alamein midfielders man-marking (black), this was the cue for the remaining Alamein players to press adjacent Bulleen players (yellow).
Bulleen tried several methods of beating Alamein’s press
Initially, Bulleen’s centrebacks tried to bypass their midfielders with a low pass directly to their forwards. However, this seldom worked, as the Bulleen midfielders frequently tried to come to the ball. This brought Alamein’s midfielders with them and closed the passing lanes.
Another method was for Morrison or Hall to drive into midfield to create a 4v3. Again, this didn’t work, as the movements of Fotopoulos-Friend-Cain lacked coordination and awareness. As shown below, Morrison is driving forward, but Fotopoulos comes towards her, bringing Pastor, and ends up closing the space.
As a result, Bulleen resorted to hitting long balls, which generally proved unsuccessful with Jess Tay always free to sweep up.
Midfield marking means Alamein attack wide
A consequence of Alamein’s emphasis on man-marking in central midfield is that their central midfielders were rarely in positions to help build attacks. This meant that Alamein attacked through their wide players, with their midfielders focused on late runs into the box and second balls from crosses. This was how Alamein scored here – Lawson headed in a cross by Goff, and Pastor made a late run to get on the end of another cross.
In the photo below, Tay has the ball. Bulleen defend in a 4-2-3-1 mid-block. Pastor, Roberts, and Alonso (highlighted in yellow) don’t try to stretch Bulleen’s block, instead staying central to give space for Alamein to attack down their right wing through Sardo/Lawson rotating.
While Bulleen have one of the most prolific attacks in the league, teams have now figured out that marking Cain is the key to disrupting Bulleen’s attacking buildup. With Geelong and Alamein showing two different approaches, it will be very interesting to see how other teams adapt.
Missed the the game? Catch the full replay on the NPL Victoria Youtube channel.
Don’t miss the next analysis, like Tacticology on Facebook for all the latest updates.