So that was, at least for me, unexpected. We escape Dortmund with all three points do to some good play and perhaps more good luck. We were certainly due some. Onwards…to the recap!
The game was certainly physical. Called by an English ref, I thought it was even but definitely faster and more physical than a typical La Liga tilt. The goat of the match for Dortmund had to be the left back Schmelzer, who took down Dabo on the right flank for a yellow right at the end of the first half. The resulting free kick was eventually volleyed home by Cigarini. Schmelzer followed his first half heroics by hurdling a fairly innocuous Dabo challenge in the 49th minute and then crumpling to the turf for a deserved second yellow and the sending off. Without a doubt the turning point of the match. Dortmund were still quicker and more aggressive, but they couldn’t sustain the pressure as they tired.
As to our boys–well, LuFa at least looked interested again. He was pretty isolated for much of the match but did barely miss with a strong header in the 71st. Cigarini got the goal, but I didn’t see a whole lot else from him; he looked visibly displeased at coming off for Kanoute in the 52nd. It looked to me that Navas was not 100% yet…he didn’t display his usual pace, and he scrambled at least two counterattacks in the last 30 minutes with poor passes to LuFa. On the other hand, Perotti did the same on a couple of occasions…the counter was on and he couldn’t find an open striker. Sadly, the one time he did Negredo fell all over himself in surprise and couldn’t muster a shot from the six. Not exactly clinical on the offensive end.
Defensively we were tighter in the second half than in the first. Alexis played very well throughout, as did Caceres. The best Dortmund chance came via a quick 1-2 through the center just after Escude came on for Dabo (who also played well) and pushed Caceres out wide. Palop was Palop. He was steady through most of the game, if unspectacular, but in the 89th minute (!) inexplicably challenged for a ball well off his line and whiffed a punch. Caceres made an amazing clearance off the line with a man on his back. It seems Palop is good for one major error per game (see: @CSKA Champions League 2009-10); today Sevilla escaped punishment.
The end result? Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. Manzano sent out much the same team/formation/subs as I would have expected from Alvarez, although given the circumstances that was no surprise. We didn’t look a whole lot different than in past weeks; we still seemed to lack any real consistent cut and thrust. Formation wise, it was still the 4-2-3-1. The subs were like for like–no concerted effort to kill the game when Dortmund went down a man (again, tactically sound but no different than what Alvarez probably would have done.) We sat back and played to counter, which is the right call with an effective counter attack; sadly we didn’t have one. I’m sure Manzano game planned conservatively in the hope of squeezing out a draw away to an arguably superior and certainly more in form opponent; stealing all three points through a set piece and some good fortune was a welcome twist of the plot.