Speedy attacks are the toast of Europe

English teams hailed for pace, resilience in Uefa report on last term's Champions League

GENEVA • A Uefa study of last season's Champions League has suggested that speed was a key factor in Liverpool's title-winning campaign.

Analysing all 366 goals in the competition, Uefa praised the Reds for "pace and directness when attacking the opposition" en route to the club's sixth European Cup.

Liverpool's 24 goals took an average of 7.81 seconds when possessing the ball and 2.51 passes.

In contrast, the overall average for the 32 teams' goals was 12.5 seconds and 3.89 passes.

The fast and intense play demanded by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and other Premier League teams, including beaten finalists Tottenham, was cited by European football's governing body as an important factor to success.

"The mental and physical resilience of the English participants stood out," Uefa's technical panel said, noting their comebacks in the second leg of their semi-finals.

Liverpool trailed Barcelona 3-0 before beating the Spanish champions 4-0 at home, while Spurs overcame a 1-0 home deficit by defeating Ajax 3-2 in Amsterdam, going through on away goals.

"It seems reasonable to suggest the English calendar offers stern tests more regularly - in terms of high-intensity, high-tempo games - than Ajax, for example, face in the Eredivisie," said the report, which did not identify the members of its 10-man technical panel.

  • CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2018-19 GOALS: HOW FAST THEY WERE SCORED 

  • LIVERPOOL'S 24 GOALS 
    AVERAGE TIME TAKEN (SECONDS)
    7.81 

    AVERAGE NO. OF PASSES 
    2.51 

  • ALL 32 TEAMS' 366 GOALS 

    AVERAGE TIME TAKEN (SECONDS)
    12.5 

    AVERAGE N O. OF PASSES
    3.89

"Similarly those clubs who win their national leagues with large points margins may suffer in the Uefa Champions League owing to the absence of a serious threat that keeps their competitive levels sky-high week in, week out."

In a rare pointed criticism, the report also highlighted a lack of work ethic by Barcelona in the 4-0 second-leg loss at Liverpool.

One Uefa observer suggested that the limited defensive contributions of talismanic attackers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez did not help in the away tie.

"You have to defend with 11 players," said the report.

Liverpool also won an unofficial contest for pure speed in Europe's elite club competition last season.

The fastest sprint recorded was 34.5kmh by defender Virgil van Dijk in the 3-0 first-leg loss at Barcelona. The other two quickest sprints were also by Premier League players:

• Manchester City's Leroy Sane, 34.4kmh versus Hoffenheim

• Kyle Walker, 34.2kmh versus Tottenham

The report said that 696 sprints over 30 kmh were recorded, with forwards and wingers contributing to the bulk of it.

Liverpool front men Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, all renowned for their blistering speed, did not feature among the 17 fastest sprints in a Champions League game in 2018-19.

Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku did, clocking 33.3kmh playing for Manchester United against Barcelona, putting him at joint-eighth.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'Speedy attacks are the toast of Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe