UEFA's Technical Observers put Sevilla's Matchday 5 triumph under the microscope.
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At the fifth time of asking, Sevilla finally got their first Group G victory this week – a 2-0 success against Wolfsburg which keeps alive their hopes of progress going into Matchday 6.
In this piece presented by FedEx, the UEFA Technical Observer panel highlights key contributions from Julen Lopetegui's midfield three as the Andalusian side earned a first European home win for 12 months.
1-0: Joan Jordán (13)
All three of Sevilla's midfielders played their part as Jordán scored for the first time in the UEFA Champions League. Fernando drove a long crossfield pass to the feet of Ivan Rakitić on the right and the captain delivered a perfect angled cross to meet Jordán's run into the five-metre box.
2-0: Rafa Mir (90+7)
Rafa Mir's own first goal in the competition was a far-post tap-in which followed excellent work by the hard-running Lucas Ocampos. Tireless to the last, the Argentinian winger picked up the ball just inside Wolfsburg's half, carried it out wide and then left two green shirts trailing in his wake before delivering the crucial low cross. Credit too to Fernando, who showed his alertness by winning the ball in the first place from Pavao Pervan's kick upfield.
Best player: Joan Jordán
The 27-year-old showcased his qualities in the Sevilla engine room: tactically clever, good in defensive transitions, and physically strong and quick. He came close to a second goal with a run into the box to meet a brilliant Marcos Acuña ball from deep; an errant touch meant the chance went begging, but his physical qualities were clear.
Sevilla play a possession-based game and after gaining their early lead they spent much of the remainder of the first half 'protecting' the ball, moving it from side to side and retaining control albeit without creating many chances. At half-time they had a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard and just a slight 2-1 advantage for attempts on target.
For UEFA's Technical Observer Peter Rudbæk, the midfield trio of Fernando, Jordán and Rakitić were fundamental as "the heart and the brains" and the three of them showed their intelligence with their rotations when building play – a response perhaps to Wolfsburg's more man-to-man approach to marking.
Both Fernando and Rakitić – the latter on his first start in the competition since September – showed all of their experience on a big night for a Sevilla side who needed three points to retain hope of progress to the last 16.
It is also worth noting that Sevilla managed to outdo Wolfsburg in high-intensity running. They covered 9.46km at a high intensity compared with their opponents' 8.23km – a significant point for a team who had struggled to cope with the speed and direct running of their opponents in previous Group G matches.
On the subject of speed, Wolfsburg looked to go forward quickly where possible. They have players with one-vs-one ability but struggled to create chances against a Sevilla side who had not previously kept a clean sheet in the competition. They came no closer than in the 23rd minute when Lukas Nmecha's shot span up on to the crossbar off goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
Florian Kohfeldt had predicted that the hosts would have more of the ball but his own team were "sloppy" – his word – when in possession. Though they saw more of the ball in the second half than the first, they ended with a pass completion rate of 73.4% compared with Sevilla's 83.6%.
Lopetegui's men set up in a 4-3-3 in which their full-backs had an important role to play in the attacks. This was particularly the case with left-back Acuña (19), who ended the match with four take-ons, just one less than the highest-ranked home player in that category, right winger Ocampos (5). A powerful runner, Acuña almost broke through down the centre of the pitch on one exciting surge upfield in the first half.
With their midfield structure, Sevilla's shape looked at times like a 4-1-4-1 as Fernando (25) controlled from deep with Jordán (8) and Rakitić (10) given more licence to go forward. However, as mentioned above, the three would rotate in the first phase of building up play.
Kohfeldt's favoured formation since becoming Wolfsburg coach in October has been a 3-4-2-1 but in Seville his team set up in a 4-3-3. They set up in a compact block with centre-backs Maxence Lacroix (4) and John Brooks (25) screened by Joshua Guilavogui (23), with two hard-working central midfielders in Aster Vranckx (8) and Maximilian Arnold (27) in the next line.
With wide forwards Yannick Gerhardt (31) and Nmecha (10) often found centrally too, this put the onus on full-backs Ridle Baku (20) and Jérôme Roussillon (15) to provide the width.
Julen Lopetegui, Sevilla coach
"The energy from our fans was key to this victory. We rose to the challenge against very tough opponents, one of the most physically powerful teams in Germany."
Florian Kohfeldt, Wolfsburg coach
"Conceding [the first goal] from a deep cross was frustrating and then you're chasing the game. It wasn't good from us and we were far too sloppy when we had the ball. It's OK to have less possession, but that means when you have it, you have to play with more conviction."