The humble Austrian side Lask Linz nearly pushed Beşiktaş out of Europa League if it had not been for a magical touch by Alvaro Negredo. The Beşiktaş squad is five times more expensive than Linz's, but the game Thursday was certainly not in line with this statistics.
The Austrians may have played the least talented game possible, but it was very effective. Interestingly, it was also a nod to Jurgen Klopp's methods.
The Black Eagles, on the other hand, could neither dominate the game nor establish fluency in the offense despite having the more star-studded squad. In fact, it was coach Şenol Güneş's tactical inertia that saw Beşiktaş nearly eliminated from the Europa League.
Let us start with the first goal Beşiktaş conceded as it was the breaking point of the game, considering the monotonous 40 minutes that came before.
Everything started with a mistake from Oğuzhan Özyakup. He lost the ball in a very dangerous area right when Beşiktaş was pushing forward. Lask Linz finally did what they were trying to do in the previous 130 minutes and scored from a swift counterattack. At this point, nearly everyone, including coach Şenol Güneş, blamed Özyakup for the goal and he was taken off at the beginning of the second half.
However, the incident cannot be judged only by the weight of an individual mistake. Lask Linz deliberately pressed Beşiktaş in the midfield, where Beşiktaş was most unsure about what it was doing. The Austrians did not press defense or offense very hard since Beşiktaş did not lose much time in those areas. But Lask Linz was aware of the fact that Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş did not have a sophisticated plan on how to send the ball from midfield to forwards. So, they pressed fiercely in midfield, crippling Beşiktaş's offense and making them vulnerable against counterattacks.
In the recent games, Güneş's solution for midfield circulation was simply putting Adriano in the center. Although simple, Adriano's experience and vision were significant factors in Beşiktaş's recent good performances. But in this game, Güneş fielded him in the left back position, leaving the midfield in the hands of Tolgay Arslan and Oğuzhan Özyakup. Although these two are talented playmakers, without a collective strategy they simply could not perform.
What was even more problematic was Güneş's reaction to these events. He first took Özyakup off, for Quaresma on the right wing. This move was a clear declaration of total chaos. Regardless of his mistakes, Oğuzhan was the team's playmaker while in comparison Quaresma was the slayer of any organized playmaking. And unsurprisingly, this did not help Beşiktaş offensively, and they conceded another one. Lask Linz did nothing more than pressing the midfield and counterattack - a humble plan for humble ambitions.
But then came a move that only proved the strategic genius of Şenol Güneş. He replaced Kyle Larin with Alvaro Negredo. With this move, Güneş was basically saying that his team was creating opportunities but Larin was unable to finish. But, as anyone who watched the game would know, Beşiktaş never established the offensive fluency or created enough time or space for Larin to show his finishing skills. Thus, this was a clear misinterpretation of the game by Güneş and his technical staff.
As the minutes passed, the situation seemed hopeless as Beşiktaş's only offensive action was kicking the ball blindly into the penalty box. But then center back Pepe did what his colleagues up field could not do for 90 minutes. He elegantly passed the ball to Negredo and the Spaniard hit the bottom of the net with a fine finish. It was certainly Güneş's lucky day, as Beşiktaş's only clever ball in their opponent's half came from a center back, who was only looking for a last minute miracle.
Last but not the least, goalkeeper Tolga Zengin, unfortunately, could not put on a decent show once again. He was partially guilty for the second goal Beşiktaş conceded. Even worse, his goal kicks only benefited Beşiktaş's opponents. Şenol Güneş might want to go shopping for a new goalkeeper before the transfer window closes.
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