By Rico Chan
Runs are crucial in the attacking phase; in fact, it is one of the most important elements in soccer matches. Effective penetration can only be achieved by off-the-ball runs that will either take defender(s) away from his/her original position. One of the most used runs that can be seen from the professional game is the inside-outside run. It involves a player without the ball (either in advance of or behind the dribbler) making a run away from the center of the pitch with the aim to take away a central defender (or his/her focus, at least) away from that area so that the dribbler has more space to dribble into and possibly take a shot.
During the past weekend, Messi of FC Barcelona and Joe Allen of Swansea City were the latest beneficiaries of such runs from their teammates (Pedro and Scott Sinclair) and scored 2 beautiful goals.
Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair
It all started with a brilliant interception from Scott Sinclair himself at the half-way line. Joe Allen immediately drifted a little bit towards the side to stretch Fulham’s imbalanced defense further following the change in possession.
Joe Allen then took the ball and advanced forward positively and challenge his marker. At the same time, Sinclair made a sprint into the space behind while his marker was running with him. The third Swansea attacker also moved towards the other side of the pitch to further clear the central space at the edge of the box.
Without effective cover, Allen’s marker was beaten and Fulham’s defense was immediately exposed. It was too late for any of the defender to recover and exert any realistic pressure on Allen’s shot which was beautifully taken into the corner of the goal.
Messi and Pedro
The goal also started with a change of possession. After collecting a loose ball in midfield, Messi delivered the ball to Iniesta, who was on the left side of the attacking half, and made a run forward. As was doing it, Pedro, who was originally in the centre forward position, swiftly clear that space by making a run towards the left winger position.
From the snapshot above, we can see the Sevilla’s defender’s attention was taken away by Pedro, turning his back towards Messi, who is about to receive the ball.
Iniesta chose the perfect time to give the ball back to Messi as you can see all the Sevilla’s defenders were caught in bad positions and not able to exert any immediate pressure on Messi.
The Sevilla defender was already in a dilemma because he was facing a 2 v 1 situation and he decided to apply pressure on Messi immediately, which was correct to be fair. However, we all know how easily Messi can beat a rushing defender with his skills, not to mention the space left for Pedro. Eventually, of course, Messi’s finishing was phenomenal which capped yet another beautiful team maneuver from FC Barcelona.
Rico Chan is a UEFA B License coach based in Hong Kong