Bundesliga matchday 1 is done and dusted with nine fascinating games producing goals, excitement, drama, controversy and everything you would expect from the best league in the world. But now the dust has settled, let’s take the opportunity to dig a little deeper and analyse one particular stand-out performance from the weekend. Step forward Marcel Sabitzer.
RB Leipzig got their new era under Julian Nagelsmann off to the perfect start with a 4-0 win over East German rivals Union Berlin at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Sunday. The ideal start for die Roten Bullen and the performance of 25-year-old Austrian stood out amongst the other impressive displays from the away side.
The Sabitzer Show
The Man of the Match was involved in all four of Leipzig’s goals, scoring one and providing the assist for the other three. With Union fans carrying out an atmosphere boycott for the opening fifteen minutes, Leipzig struggled at first to get into their flow, but that all changed in the 16th minute when Sabitzer teed up Marcel Halstenberg for the opening goal.
Lining up on the right-hand side of Leipzig’s front three in a 3-4-3 formation, Sabitzer was fed the ball near the penalty box by Lukas Klostermann. With both Timo Werner and Yusuf Poulsen covered by defender, he had the vision and the pass accuracy to switch the play to the left, where the advancing Halstenberg was able to cut inside and sweep home for 1-0.
Fifteen minutes later and the lead was doubled with Sabitzer this time the scorer rather than the provider. Halstenberg took advantage of poor throw out from goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz and burst forward. With the Berlin defenders backtracking and focused on the ball and Werner/ Poulsen. Sabitzer hung back a little and was on hand to fire home with a first-time left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area.
A very good first half became an excellent first half with RB Leipzig adding a third before the break. The origin was the same as the first on the right-hand edge of the Union penalty area. Werner’s headed pass was well controlled by Sabitzer, before he cleverly fed the ball into Werner’s path. The striker did the rest lashing the ball into the back of the net with some gusto. 3-0 at half-time and it really was the Marcel Sabitzer show.
A rampant Leipzig calmed down a little in the second-half, but there was still one more goal, and Sabitzer was once again the architect. A long switched pass from Halstenberg from the left to the far post on the right was headed into the danger zone by Sabitzer, who had busted a gut to sprint forward and get on the end of the pass. Poulsen and debutant Christopher Nkunku were waiting, but it was the Frenchman who was on hand to poke home.
The tale of the tape
One goals and three assists doesn’t tell the whole story of Sabitzer’s impact on Sunday. He was involved in 8 of RB Leipzig’s 13 attempts on goal (two shots himself and six teed-up for others). With 11.1 km accumulated over the 90 minutes he was one of the busier players on the pitch.
He amassed 95 touches and had a pass accuracy of 79.1% from his 53 passes. He intercepted the ball twice and won possession in the opposition half on 11 occasions. His heat map shows that he was predominantly occupied on the right as an attacking outlet, but was more than happy to cut inside.
As far as first games of the season go, Sabitzer had one to remember. A slow start to the season? Not from the Austrian, who surprised even more with his choice of coloured boots. He is normally an adherent of the old-school black boots, but the change doesn’t seem to have affected his game.
In his own words
“We stuck to the gameplan and were confident in front of goal. We did that well. We have a lot of potential with some very good players on the bench as well” Sabitzer explained after the final whistle. “It was a great game. It was also important for Pete to keep a clean sheet. Let’s hope we can continue like this.
“I like how the coach lets us play and I wanted to pay him back on the pitch. It has worked well for us twice now, which is great. Last season, I struggled a little in front of goal – not any more. I’ve worked hard in training and now it’s paying off.”
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