In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting matches in world football, providing you with an in-depth tactical analysis powered by Wyscout tools and stats. This time, we focused on the Copa Sudamericana semi-final between Lanus and Velez.

Following defeats for Boca Juniors and River Plate in the Libertadores, the intriguing semi-final clash between Lanús and Vélez in the Copa Sudamericana ensured there would be at least one Argentinian side still in with a chance for continental silverware.

Though neither side is one of the five traditional Grandes of Argentinian football, both Buenos Aires-based clubs have regularly punched above their weight over the last decade and have a strong emphasis on bringing through young players from their academies.

For all their similarities, their contrasting styles of play made for a fascinating two-legged encounter which ultimately saw Lanús prevail 4-0 on aggregate and reach their fourth continental final in the last eight years.

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In the first leg at Velez’s Estadio Jose Amalfitani, the hosts lined up in a 4-2-3-1 looking to boss possession and control the tempo against Lanus’ more direct 4-4-2.

Indeed, Velez dominated early proceedings, averaging 68% possession and 85% pass accuracy throughout the first half, and were rewarded for their pressure when Lautaro Morales brought down Ricardo Centurion for a penalty after 27 minutes.

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However, the 21-year-old goalkeeper made amends for his error by saving Cristian Tarragona’s tame spot-kick in what would prove to be a decisive moment in the tie.

10 minutes later, Lanus took the lead after Pedro De la Vega’s excellent searching ball down the right pick out the willing run of Nicolas Orsini, who beat the woefully out-of-position Lucas Hoyos to the ball and squared for veteran Jose ‘Pepe’ Sand to tap into an empty net.

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Indeed, we can see from Lanus’ average positions below that Luis Zubeldia’s side targeted Velez’s left-hand side, with 89% of the attacks coming down Lanus’ right flank, and successfully managed to create scenarios where the trio of Sand (9), Orsini (27) and De la Vega (8) were in close proximity and able to link up, as they did for the winning goal.

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For all their possession, Velez struggled to carve out many decent opportunities until they brought on youngsters Thiago Almada and Luca Orellano. The pair combined on a couple of occasions but were thwarted by the excellent Morales, who made five saves in total during the game.

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Their introduction provided Mauricio Pellegrino with food for thought on how to break down the resolute Lanus backline ahead of the second leg. Velez’s xG of 2.64 suggested that with better finishing they could trouble El Granate in the reverse fixture.

The tie was far from over and throughout the tournament, Velez had proven themselves to be comeback kings. Los Fortineros had needed injury-time penalties against Aucas and Penarol to progress on away goals and had mounted stirring the second leg away performances against Deportivo Cali (1-5) and Universidad Catolica (1-3).

Needing to take the initiative in the second leg, Velez came out of the blocks all guns blazing with Ricardo Centurion twice going close and Almada once again testing Morales.

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However, the dynamic of the game swung in Lanus’ favor just before half-time, once again with an incident involving Cristian Tarragona.

The 29-year-old striker capped off a week to forget with a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Lautaro Acosta. A few minutes later, Tomas Belmonte nodded in the opener right before the break to give Lanus a 2-0 lead on aggregate.

Belmonte had typified everything great about Lanus’ first-half performances, disciplined in the heart of midfield and tough in the tackle, and by the end of the game he had racked up 13 successive duels and 11 recoveries.

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With the cushion of a two-goal lead and an away goal, Lanus were able to settle into their preferred counter-attacking tactics. Good work down the right from Braian Aguirre teed up Orsini for his sixth goal of the tournament. And then, Alexandro Bernabei finished the tie with a late diving header.

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Much like the first leg, Lanus may not have had as many shots on goal but their efficiency in front of goal (from an xG of just 1.87) proved to be the difference. Indeed, all four goals across both ties came from inside the six-yard box, showing the quality of chances created on the few occasions they got into the opponents’ box.

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On the other hand, Velez were made to pay for their profligacy, and the fact that the majority of their chances came from lower percentage positions outside the box (15 in total) points to their goal-scoring issues. To reinforce this, their average shot distance was 22.9m to Lanus’ 15.1m.

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Velez managed to create plenty of opportunities (24 shots compared to 8 from Lanus) but the best they could muster in the second half was Lucas Janson’s effort against the post.

When they were able to hit the target, they were once again foiled by Morales who bolstered his growing reputation as Argentina’s most exciting young goalkeeping prospect with another excellent display.

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Lanus, clinical and vibrant, march on to the final where they will be firm favorites against another Buenos Aires-based club, Defensa y Justicia.

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