(Kyogo 12, Forrest 61)
AZ Alkmaar 0
The team lined up as the following (with the number of accurate passes each player completed next to them).
Edouard made way for Abada which made sense from a defensive point of view and Ange stuck with the creative midfield three which was a risk defensively.
One surprise was Welsh playing left centre back and swapping with Starfelt. Maybe this was a vote of confidence from Ange given the perceived threat from AZ's right flank that I discussed in the match preview.
Ange made his quickest sub this season (excluding the Murray for Abada necessity substitution versus Midtjylland at home) when he brought on Edouard after 58 minutes. McCarthy, Soro and Montgomery also came on to tighten things up a little.
You'll note by the passes per player listed above that our accurate passes as a team was well down on what we had produced so far this season and that showed the level of opposition we were up against. AZ looked the very astute tactical team we thought they would be and they were very organised.
They had more possession than us (52%) and had 273 accurate passes to our 244. They had a pass accuracy of 79% and we had 78%. Our lowest passes so far this season was 434 versus Midtjylland and our lowest passing accuracy was 81% again versus Midtjylland. Our lowest possession of the season was 63% and that dropped to 48% in this game.
However we did have 13 shots to AZ's 8 and we had 9 on target and 10 box shots. Our long ball accuracy was only 29% which was our lowest of the season. 2nd lowest was 33% and average was 48%.
Our xG was 1.17 and xG per shot was at 0.09 which was our 3rd lowest of the season. AZ's 0.84 xG was our 3rd lowest xGA of the season but it didn't seem like that when watching the game.
Welsh had 19% of the team's total passes which is 2nd highest of the season (for any player) behind Starfelt's 19.3% at Tynecastle. Both incindently playing left centre back when achieved. Ralston only had 5% of the team's total but he had an excellent game in other ways through tackles, bursting runs but more importantly his positioning.
Fotmob stats match ratings had Kyogo at 8.5 and Forrest at 7.99 but their 3rd highest rated player (Welsh on 7.65) was my MotM with Ralston closely behind. Ralston was 4th on the ratings at 7.62. Outwith the subs Abada and Starfelt were the lowest on 6.55 and 7.13.
Our probabilities of winning the game at the start of the match were 47% and our 2nd lowest of the season so far (away to Midtjylland was 30.7%) but the goal in the first half gave us the confidence boost that was so badly needed. A tremendous Hart save keeping us in it. At half-time our probabilities changed to 71% (with a draw 21% and an AZ Alkmaar win at 8%).
We did have a bit of luck tonight but that's what you get when you try harder and pay the money for decent keepers. They are not lucky by accident.
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