By Jamie Currie
Trying to break this match down tactically wasn’t easy due to the bonkers nature of it. The match had five goals and was filled with goalscoring chances. It ended with Rangers having an epic half-hour comeback after they went 2-0 down with goals from Fransergio and Abel Ruiz either side of the half-time whistle. However, Rangers found their way back into the match through a Ianis Hagi double, with a Joe Aribo wonder goal sandwiched in between the Romanian’s brace, giving Steven Gerrard’s Rangers a 3-2 victory.
I will be taking a more detailed look at some of the tactical talking points that took place during the 90 minutes at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard went with the tried and trusted 4-3-2-1 but it didn’t work too well initially against Braga’s wing-back system. In terms of changes, Borna Barisic came back in for Andy Halliday and Glen Kamara came in for Ryan Jack as they looked to build on the win over Livingston.
Braga used the wide areas effectively, especially their right-hand side
A feature of Braga’s play was how effective they used the wide areas of the pitch. Galeno, who came on for Wallace was a constant threat. 13 of the Portuguese sides attacks came down Rangers’ left hand side.
Braga’s threat from wide areas was noticeable from the outset; Galeno was at the heart of it. This example shows how Braga are able to take advantage of Rangers’ narrow shape. Kent and Kamara, who should be covering Galeno are caught inside and are unable to press Galeno which allows the Brazilian to create a 2vs1 against Borna Barisic, leading to a goalscoring opportunity for the visitors.
In the above example, Galeno again takes advantage of Rangers’ narrow shape. Barisic is drawn inside and even though Trincao is crowded out on this occasion, Galeno is in acres of space and Rangers made it far too easy for him to own the Braga right flank. Ryan Kent is the one who should be covering his run along with Kamara but both again are caught inside due to Rangers’ narrowness.
The above pass map shows Trincao and Galeno sharing 12 progressive passes as well as seven of those coming from Galeno. Furthermore, it shows Galeno starting higher while the left-wing back’s position is much deeper and that gave Galeno the freedom to create the 2vs1 and find himself in the final third. Galeno also made four progressive runs which further highlighted his influence in Braga’s attacking play.
Rangers getting chances from Braga’s high defensive line
The example above shows how Alfredo Morelos exploits the space in the channel and he runs into the shaded space. However, his cross for Ryan Kent (bottom of the picture) couldn’t be converted but it was a sign of things to come.
Again, in the above image, Morelos is played in behind by Hagi, but his shot is saved. Braga’s line is far too high and Morelos getting in behind using the inside right channel.
This time, Hagi found Morelos on the left. This was due to Braga’s passive press, leaving Hagi in space. Despite his two goals, Hagi’s numbers were very good and he was vital in creating the Rangers chances. He made two key passes, five out of nine successful dribbles (56%), he won eight out of 13 offensive duels (62%) and had two progressive runs, which obviously helped Rangers in an attacking sense. Additionally all of his shots were on target (3 out of 3) and he had an overall passing accuracy of 71%. A top performance by the Romanian.
Rangers press was much better in second the half
Rangers had an overall possession percentage of 39%, and it was mostly to do with how they started the game. While they were narrow in their shape, they were easy to play through and were passive in their pressing. The image above shows Braga in the build-up phase early in the match. It’s made easy for them as Rangers are in a medium block and not being aggressive in their press. It allowed Braga easy entry into each of the thirds and gave them free reign to create wide overloads.
The above image shows Rangers pressing more aggressively and a numerical advantage. Fransergio is forced to play backwards because Morelos and Davis are in his face. He is unable to play the forward ball to Paulinha because both Hagi and Scott Arfield are able to cut off the passing lane. The passage of play ends with Braga turning the ball over.
The above image is all about Steven Davis. Rangers’ press is very good. However, Sequeira’s pass into Braga’s midfielder, Paulinha, is exquisite allowing him to break the Hagi-Arfield press, but Davis shuffles over into his zone and gets in his face not allowing him space to look up to play any forward pass. Eventually, Due to Davis’ pressing, he’s forced to run the ball out of play, giving Rangers possession via a throw-in. Overall, it was no coincidence that Rangers found themselves getting back into the game when their pressing was more aggressive and organised – they always look a better side when those aspects of their game are on point.
In conclusion, the tactical battle was interesting and Rangers will take heart from the comeback and how well they managed to exploit Braga’s high line. However, the 4-3-2-1 may have to be put on the back burner as Rangers will have to find a way to cope with the marauding wing-backs. Rangers will get joy if they are able to utilise Kent’s pace in attack in the second leg. Talking of that second leg it’s bound to be a cracker as both teams will feel like they are capable of progressing.