Leipzig's outstanding manager is the youngest person to oversee a Champions League knockout tie and he did so in some style last night.
The Bundesliga title contenders started like a house on fire, peppering the Spurs goal with a handful of shots in the opening two minutes, with Angelino hitting the post. When the game inevitably settled down, Leipzig completely controlled proceedings and looked as though they were the home side.
Here's how they got the job done.
🔥 Frenzied start set the tone
Leipzig's aggressive approach in the opening minutes took Spurs by surprise and it was a bold way of exerting their authority on the contest. Tottenham was second-best for the majority of the 90 minutes and much of that was down to the aggressive, energetic tactics employed by Nagelsmann.
🤐 Defensive discipline despite key absentees
Leipzig managed to keep a clean sheet despite having to do without their most influential centre back Dayot Upamecano, and his compatriot Ibrahima Konaté. Welshman Ethan Ampadu, a converted defensive midfielder on-loan from Chelsea, had only made six appearances across all competitions for the club all season before last night. Injuries have taken a toll on the 19-year-old, but he looked right at home in the heart of Nagelsmann's defence last night. Ampadu and his colleagues hardly put a foot wrong with a performance highlighted by excellent decision-making.
🥽 Winning the midfield battle
It's a cliche in the sport, but generally, football matches are won and lost in the centre of the park. Leipzig duo Laimer and skipper Marcel Sabitzer dovetailed perfectly, sharing the defensive responsibilities and getting forward whenever the situation called for it. Ex-PSG man Christopher Nkunku's tactical intelligence saw him drop into midfield so that Leipzig never found themselves outnumbered by Spurs trio Giovani Lo Celso, Harry Winks and Gedson Fernandes.
Laimer, typically the deepest-lying player in the engine room, was the man who burst forward and won the penalty that Timo Werner coolly converted. That perfectly illustrates the great developing relationship between him and Sabitzer, and partially why Leipzig won this football match.
🧮 3-4-1-2 system pays dividends
Gulácsi; Klostermann, Ampadu, Halstenberg; Mukiele, Laimer, Sabitzer, Angeliño; Nkunku; Werner, Schick
With Timo Werner's acceleration off the mark and Mukiele's width, Leipzig was constantly capable of stretching the game and getting their attackers into 1v1 situations. Ethan Ampadu, the man in the centre of the Leipzig defence, was able to spray passes around and find the wingbacks easily with protection from the hard-working Laimer. In possession of the ball, Leipzig resembled a 3-4-1-2, and without it spare man Nkunku dropped in and their shape was more of a 3-5-2.
🎯 Timo Werner the goal machine
26 goals & 10 assists in 32 appearances across all competitions is a truly elite level of output for any striker, let alone a man who is still only 23 years old. It's unlikely that the German international will be playing his football for Leipzig next season, with a flock of Europe's elite circling around him, but he'll do everything in his power to fire them to silverware in 2019/20.
This was a remarkably mature display from a young team managed by a young manager, and they will no doubt push Bayern Munich all the way in the Bundesliga title race. They also look well-positioned to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals. Beyond that? Who knows, but count this team out at your peril.
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