From the start, Bulleen dominated possession but struggled to play through Geelong’s block. Geelong were well organised, compact and only came out to press according to certain cues. This forced Bulleen to resort to longer passes, causing them to struggle in creating clear chances.
The 1-1 deadlock at halftime was a fair scoreline.
The second half continued much in the same vein as the first, until Bulleen got the breakthrough in the 60th minute when Deryal Aziz was sent off for handball. Melanie Camilleri scored the ensuing penalty.
Even at 2-1 and a player down, Geelong still caused Bulleen several problems and looked the more dangerous side until Bulleen killed the game with two goals in the 73rd and 74th minutes. Totally dominant from thereon, Bulleen scored three more goals in the final seven minutes to add some gloss to the scoreline.
Geelong were very impressive from a tactical perspective. While it may be strange to praise the team that lost 7-1, the score doesn’t tell the full story. Let’s look at Geelong’s block and their pressing cues.
Please note: As the video feed did not having the usual game clock I’ve noted the estimated game clock and the video timestamp.
Geelong block disrupts Bulleen buildup
The game started perfectly for Geelong, with Imogen Pratt scoring in the second minute after Bulleen defended a corner poorly. This meant that Geelong could focus on counter-attacking with the comfort of an early lead.
Bulleen’s default style is to build their attacks through the thirds with short passing, with their centre backs looking to play into their deep playmaker to start their passing patterns. Knowing this, whenever Liana Iaconis, Kayla Morrison, or goalkeeper Emily Shields had the ball, Geelong set up in a 4-2-3-1 mid-block and concentrated on blocking easy passes into Sarah Cain.
This can be seen clearly in the image below (taken approximately four minutes into the match; video 23:30). Bulleen’s back four are highlighted in yellow.
Iaconis was in possession but all of the short passing options into her midfielders are covered by Geelong’s players in a very compact mid-block. Not only were Geelong compact vertically (between the lines), they were also very compact horizontally, covering the ball-side fullback (Francesca Iermano) and leaving the far-side fullback (Hayley Richmond) free.
As Geelong’s sole striker, Ciera Major was told not to press Shields, as this would allow Bulleen to create a 3v1 overload (Shields + Iaconis + Morrison v Major) and easily access Cain. Instead, Major was tasked with blocking passes from Bulleen’s centrebacks into Cain, before closing them down. Here, Major presses Iaconis while blocking the passing lane into Cain. Meanwhile, Kanna Oda is simultaneously keeping the block compact but still close enough to press Morrison if Iaconis considers switching play.
Geelong remained disciplined when Bulleen managed to advance up the field. In the image below (~ 38 minutes into the match; video 57:22), Geelong were vertically compact, this time in a 4-2-3-1 low-block as a result of ball position. With nowhere to go, Iermano was pressured into overhitting her backpass for Iaconis. With Iaconis out of position, this created an opportunity for Major to counter-attack.
However, within 15 seconds of this image, Bulleen equalised. Morrison was able to beat Major to the ball and recover Iermano’s overhit backpass. With Geelong’s lines pushing up to support Major, Morrison launched a long pass which the Geelong defence do not clear. Kelsey Zafiridis wriggled into the area and set up Tessa Sernio to score from 6 yards out.
Bypassing the block
Bulleen’s equaliser showed another route to goal. Instead of trying to go through Geelong’s block, Bulleen realised they could simply go over it, and adopted this more direct approach to try to create 1v1s for their wingers against the Geelong fullbacks.
This also highlighted a vulnerability of Geelong’s block. Against a very mobile Bulleen front three, Geelong’s back four were slightly hesitant to push up in sync with their midfielders to maintain compactness. Consequently, this momentarily left gaps in between the lines, which Bulleen began to exploit as the game progressed.
This was clear in the second half, when Bulleen positioned themselves wider and deeper to further stretch the Geelong block. With Geelong’s midfield pushing up to pressure their Bulleen counterparts, and the Geelong defence hesitating, the space between the lines was considerably larger as shown below. Here, Nyankor Joseph was drawn out of her line to track Tessa Sernio, and Melanie Camilleri stepped into the space created to receive (~45 minutes, video 1:22:43).
Geelong displayed a number of pressing cues during the game. As noted previously, their coverage of Cain was essential to disrupting Bulleen’s preferred short buildup. For example, the image below (~47 minutes, video 1:24:26) shows how Major and Tomoko Fukumaru alternated between going to press the Bulleen centre back on their side, as well as retreating to cover Cain when the ball was switched across.
Other cues included:
- Geelong striker:
- Hold a deep position around Cain, and only press higher up when your midfielders arrive to provide support
- Never press Shields, but block pass to Cain
- Show pass to a Bulleen centre back, or wait until it happens, then press while blocking the passing line into Cain
- Geelong midfield:
- Leave far side fullback free
- Compress space around ball
- No numbers? Don’t press
- Press backpasses and contested balls eg throw ins
- Show passes wide, and then press aggressively against the sideline
After going down to 10 players, Geelong set up in a 4-3-2, and tried to maintain their block. However, with one fewer player, Geelong were unable to cover as much space with their block and Bulleen found it easier to stretch the play. Notably, three of Bulleen’s six goals after the red card came from crosses.
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