The 2-2 thriller between Hearts of Oak and AshGold at the Accra Sports stadium on Tuesday night was perceived by some as a combination of mistakes and poor defending.

However, on a closer look; both sides set out with effective tactics which filled the match with a lot of great chances.

On another night the match could have easily ended with 5 goals. Let’s have a look at how both sides set out tactically.

Systems

Hearts set up in a 4-3-3 shape with Ashanti Gold also deploying a 4-4-2 on the day.

Attacking Shape

Hearts set up in a 4-3-3 but in attack, the Left Winger (Razak) drifted centrally alongside Kojo Obeng with Left back Ovuoka bombing high and wide up the left flank. This rotation was the hub of Hearts of Oak’s attacking play.

AshGold also had some interesting movements during the game, especially from Yaw Annor and Hans Kwofie. With Yaw Annor always making runs down the channel between Ovuoka and the left side CB with Hans Kwofie drifting into space in and around the box

Hearts of Oak Press

When AshGold had the ball in the build up phase, Hearts used a man-oriented press: the wingers picked up the fullbacks, the two central midfielders marked out AshGold’s midfield two and the striker split the difference between the two center backs. The aim was to force AshGold to go long as Heart’s defence could deal with the long balls and second balls

Key features: Attacking transitions and blind side runs

A feature of Hearts and AshGold’s attacking (and goals) throughout the game was the “up-back-through” movement.

Up-back-through movement involves an attacking player receiving the ball with back to the goal, laying it off to the initial passer and a 3rd man making a run behind the defence to receive a pass from the player who started the move

Blindside runs were very common in the game also; a blindside run is a run a player makes on the blind side of the defender i.e, makes a run inside or in behind the defender before they can react.

Great wing play or poor defending?

When you notice each of the blindside runs pointed out above, you see one common factor: the fullbacks.

Throughout the game, especially down Ovuoka and Amoako’s flanks, there was a LOT of space for the opponent to exploit because of how high these two fullbacks operated on the flank.

This could have been solved by letting one of the midfielders drift slightly wide to cover the gap left by the overlap. This was absent throughout the game and it led to passages of play like this:

Conclusion

It was a great game for the neutrals, but it’s a result that would have left both managers shouting at their teams in the dressing room.

Nevertheless, both teams’ game plans in attack worked; focusing on attacking the channels and out wide did yield some returns.

Hearts of Oak had more success with their attacks but the quality of finishing from the attackers was really poor; overall Patrick Razak and Yaw Annor had superb games and Tuesday night’s encounter has been Match of the Season so far.