Terrible game by Olympiakos yesterday, and a really solid performance by Partizan.The center was irresponsive and irresponsible defensively and build up was almost nonexistant.
For Partizan, Jevtovic instead of Kosovic provided an extra defensive presence, Everton was less restricted to defensive duties and Partizan managed to forward the ball to the front 4 very well in general, bypassing the midfield with few passes. From then on, the defence of Olympiakos clearly had problems with both Sumah and Jankovic. Both Figueiras and Koutris are not good defensive SBs (the first had a very bad game in general yesterday) and were exposed repeatedly. The left side in particular, of Koutris and Retsos, was very susceptible to Jankovic's personal attempts and his and Vulicevic's combinations because of their inexperience and lack of tactical awareness.
As for the first game, Partizan were expected to set the tempo and did so in the first half where Olympiakos played on the counter which suits the team's current readiness to create play as a group a lot more, as we can surmise from the second game. Partizan was ineffective though (as opposed to an inadequate Olympiakos in their home performance) and a little one dimensional in their creative efforts. In the second half, Olympiakos picked up their performance noticeably, and were a lot more dominant in the midfield ,now with Odjidja Ofoe dropping deeper to iniciate build up ( as opposed to Siopis in the first half, something that's clearly not part of his repertoire and resulted in lots of mistaken passes and lost possession) Odjidja was also a lot more attentive and aggressive in his defending. That, paired with the fact that Marin, Carcela, Ben and Seba could breach Partizan's defence, when advanced ,with relative ease turned a balanced game in the way it was playing out (in the sense that the home team attacked with little effect and the away team couldn't fully take advantage of the open space) to a far more advantageous set up for Olympiakos.
Partizan's 4-4-2 ,which at times looked a 4-2-4, is an exploitable system, though Partizan permormed fine with it and was clearly the team more comfortable in their own skin. That said, what's needed most for it to be more functional is a suitable partner for Everton Luiz, since Kosovic isn't a conventional CM as i undertand it but an AM and Jevtovic is defensively oriented but sloppy and a limited player in general.
On the other hand Olympiakos is in a transitional period with 5 newly aqcuired players in both games' XIs, so there's not much expectation for the moment regarding the team's cohesiveness and level of performance.
- As for best and worst permormers... Tawamba was so impressive, a player that can take advantage of his physicality (that particular physicality
) is something rare, immense in holding the ball and really made what looked a 4-2-4 a lot of the time work unexpectedly well (unexpected for me ofcourse), bringing his teamates into play fantastically, particullary in the second game where Sumah and Jankovic had more space to move, he was just great.
As for Ben, for me he earns pretty close to the highest mark for both performances( with his talents in mind ). In the first game both goals were for the most part his babies. In the first one he starts the effort by stealing the ball from Everton, does the 1-2 with Marin, ends up inside the box with a great incicive run and makes a great first touch to get himself at a shooting position in very tight space with Partizan's whole defence around him (it's important to note here that Ben's first touch isn't his best feature) and makes a very difficult finish as well. The second goal is a more straightforward individual effort. In other fronts, he was solid in his decision making, held on to the ball well and contributed defensively more than he does standardly, ofcourse he created danger with his movement. He's not really to blame for not shining in the second game, there was less space for him to exploit, service was meager and he isn't some great target in the box ( something Olympiakos doesn't have at the moment ).
- Now for the stinkers
, most of Olympiakos' individual performances earn a lower score than the equivalent ones of Partizan, especially in the second game. Concerning the ones that stood out negatively in the individual level, Odjidja Ofoe had a bad first half in Serbia, a great scond half and a terrible second game, many moments of absent mindedness and lots of giving away possession. Fortounis was also terrible in the time he played.
As for Partizan, i'd pick Ostojic's first game especially. He seemed very unhinged when faced with any quick footed opponent and quite irresponsive in general. Ben's goal was a moment of individual brilliance but it was he that took on Ben in a very straightforward way and was beaten, in Seba's personal effort he also staggered and the third goal might have taken Partizan's defence by surprise and Figueriras and Emenike both did great in that goal but he was out of position and didn't get what had happened until too late. To be fair, i am putting him on the spot because he's the more experienced one and considered a solid defender, as i understand it.
To sum up, i think the way they played, both team's would have conceded 2-3 goals for different reasons, Olympiakos was in danger because they seemed unconnected in most areas of the pitch and unfamiliar to each other, and Partizan due to their shaky defence and more easily exploitable system. Had Jevtovic played in the first game, unimpressive as he looks, the game could have been even tighter just for adding more balance to the center, though they would have lost a more creative player. Had Jankovic converted that last opportunity with 4 minutes to go and added time it could have gone either way no question.
But as the aggregate scoreline suggests, the qualification was decided by two moments of great football from Mohamed Ben, and he was wearing the red and white shirt