Millwall FC 1-1 Coventry City
A tough away day for the Sky Blues saw a game that was exciting and sloppy all at the same time. It was clearly the third game in 8 days for both teams.
Coventry finished the first half with 58% of possession. The issue that Coventry faced was that when they got the ball into the feet of O'Hare he was often surrounded, as you see here. Millwall made 11 tackles in the first half, due in part to their organization underneath the ball, leaving Smith to press and the rest of the team to jump on central balls. There was also no Waghorn to share the workload for dropping and receiving.
Alternate attempts to break the defensive organization came from Hyam pushing forward. Here he receives the ball wide from Hamer, but bringing a center back forward slowly means the entire Millwall team is between him and the goal. The shift was slow so it's man: man and the attempted pass is deflected out of play.
Interestingly, the depth of the Millwall line, coupled with City's somewhat slower pace of play, meant that Coventry struggled to have much joy in the channels. Kane was never afforded the space to play that Dabo often finds.
At the other end, Millwall won 40 aerial duels. Smith and Bradshaw the obvious targets, but importantly the duels lead to chances from players running through the Coventry lines. The goal came from such a chance. Wallace drops out to collect a long Bialkowski goal kick that was headed down.
Smith checks, bringing McFadzean.
JCS goes out to Leonard with the ball.
Hyam is drawn to Wallace's run.
Saville takes the open space and receives the layoff from Wallace, and though the shot is deflected, it was a very well-worked goal made possible by overloading the backline with forwards runs.
This happened a lot in the game and there were several moments toward the end of the first half that Coventry looked to be surviving as the second goal was disallowed. We tweeted an image of the cross and it shows how Bradshaw is onside, but before that, he started the move by winning the long ball with a header over Clarke-Salter. The cycle of possession lead to the cross and goal. City were incredibly fortunate, but Millwall had a way of turning the defense and winning those first and second balls were key. However, that momentum was lost by 60 minutes and Smith leaving the field at 69 and Bradshaw leaving on 79 wrapped up the final Millwall attacking moments.
The goal for City came from something they have done successfully prior, but not so much in this game. That would be patiently building out and drawing in the opponent. In the build-up to the goal, Coventry drew Millwall in to the point that they could quickly exploit. Not over playing, but playing with an excellent purpose.
The result of creating gaps is space for players to carry the ball into. Hyam has been excellent at RCB this season and this moment is just another example of his value when playing on the right side. Though Gyokeres gets a lucky bounce, he is persistent and the ball landing at his feet is a perfect reward.
*note the space compared with a similar moment above.
However, beyond the goal, Coventry really struggled to get through the Millwall lines. In just one of many examples, Coventry pushes forward with Kane. His pass inside is left by O'Hare and intercepted by Cooper. Though there were 3 Coventry forwards in the same space looking for the ball, the one defender for Millwall stepped and cleared it. Coventry also had 7 in this attack and Coopers pass into Malone took 4 players out and then Malone took out 3 more with the next pass. Coventry has consistently given the ball away around in the opposition's half recently and half chances disappear. In this game alone, Millwall had 18 interceptions and this is one of many examples.
You might have felt that at 60 Coventry could have gone for it. Introducing Walker and Allen at this moment might have given Coventry the legs to punish Millwall as they took control of the game. Instead, it was a fatigued finish to the game and making those subs on 82 demonstrated the desire to see out the point, instead of leaving the game open, as it had been for the previous 50-60 minutes.
16 shots with just 3 on target is a growing concern. 18 interceptions - 15 in the Millwall half lends itself to poor decisions and
Importantly, 7 points from 3 games is a result we can be happy with. Yet, Coventry should take stock of this game and perhaps look at an alternative approach against a team like Luton who will look to disrupt Coventrys possession.
Friday night football is next and 3 more games coming quickly before the next international break.
Stats from whoscored.com