Barnsley 1-0 Coventry City
A frustrating away day for Coventry ends in frustration with a missed penalty, but here is how Barnsley won the game.
Barnsley had the best overall season xGA in 20-21 at just 1.08 per game and that trend continued in this game. Coventry beat Barnsley at the end of the last season to solidify their position in the Championship, but Barnsley was having none of it this time. Especially from O'Hare.
8 yellow cards for Barnsley meant broken play that frustrated Coventry to the end.
To start. Barnsley played in a similar way. The long ball toward Cauley Woodrow was opportunistic, which Coventry dealt with well. However, the knock-downs were the problem. Underneath Woodrow was Frieser and Odour (replacing Morris on 33) eager to clean up, with a narrow midfield 4 providing support.
Though Coventry dealt with this threat, for the most part, it meant the team was deep. The depth proved to be the problem, and playing out from deep under pressure proved to be too much. As Coventry would recycle too slowly, allowing Barnsley to shift and block any forward play. Here you see the front 3 pressing and the block behind the Coventry midfield preparing to prevent any forward play.
And then the goal came from this exact issue. Coventry overplayed into trouble. Playing with wingbacks is successful in transition for the width and quick attack it can provide. As Coventry wins possession here, both Maatsen and Dabo (out of shot) take off. Though, Barnsley press Coventry into trouble. The result is a loss of the ball as Sheaf slides to win it back. Palmer breaks away and plays an excellent pass into the channel between Hyam and McFadzean. Coventry struggled to break the press of Barnsley and here it cost them a goal.
Hamer played several good forward passes, but it required moments of space, which were missing in the first half. Here, Rose wins the header and Hamer is able to look forward. O'Hare breaks off the should off Sibbick and Coventry eventually win a corner. Flashes of the Hamer from early last season were on display and passes like this are very welcome going forward.
However, the most success for Coventry came from breaking the press with a long ball and playing from the knock-downs. Here the ball was won by Gyokeres and laid into O'Hare. Just a moment of patience and attracting attention gives Maatsen enough space. The cross he whips was begging for a 'Houchen' header from Walker. Instead, he popped his shoulder and left the game. Incredibly unfortunate.
A similar moment happened in the first half but with Gyokeres hitting his shot into the ground and onto the bar. Attacking threat from wide for Coventry, but the threat was often thwarted by a smart and organized Barnsley team who pressed as the game began to build.
Coventry did find moments to break Barnsley. Positive forward play meant O'Hare could get on the ball in space, but is immediately under pressure and unable to connect with any forward players. The issue - Dabo played this pass. Dabo needs to be the outlet in this moment so a piece is missing. However, O'Hare is so good on the ball, similar to a £139m player, that he can hold up the ball and invite tackles.
8 yellow cards for Barnsley proves that they, A - wanted to break up any fluid attacks that Coventry showed. And B - wanted to make Coventry's play as predictable as possible. After all, Barnsley finished 5th for a reason last season.
Success for Barnsley came from Palmer too. O'Hare was fouled a lot in this game, but Palmer got on the ball and made things happen. In this example, he turns the press and gets up to play forwards. More of an appreciation moment for the 22-year-old after his excellent assist for Freiser and excellent 60 minutes of play in this game.
All in all, the performance failed in the final third. Conceding against a team that had last season's best defense would always mean a very difficult situation. However, it is amplified by the Gyokeres penalty miss in the final moments (regardless of who you think should have taken it) and then moments like the O'Hare chance on 84.
City had several moments to take control of the game and they were squandered. A frustrating afternoon out, but up next is a Blackpool team with a worse xG than Coventry. It might be 0-0.
Stats from whoscored.com