RB Leipzig 2-0 Istanbul Basaksehir, Red Bull Arena
(Angeliño 16′, 20′)
The hosts showed more energy and intent from the off, as Istanbul Basaksehir sat back and looked nervy on the club’s Champions League group stage debut.
In the 3-4-3 formation that RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has generally favored so far this season, the two wing-backs pushed up high early on, especially Angeliño on the left flank. He got the first chance of the match and then continued his fine scoring form by notching a brace within the first 20 minutes.
That took the Spaniard’s tally to four goals in all competitions already. His first was the pick of the pair, a sublime first touch and turn followed by a fine finish to open the scoring.
Nagelsmann had high praise for the loanee: “The first goal was pretty much world-class,” he said in the post-match press conference. “He has a great left foot and can score from all angles. Last year he played very unselfishly but in his new position he plays further forward and he scores a lot in training so I’m not surprised. He can play three different positions.”
Man of the match: Angelino relished playing in a more attacking role
Life after Werner
The days of a counter-attacking 4-2-2-2 formation that suited former star striker Timo Werner so well seem numbered, with Nagelsmann now relying on his wing-backs to offer pace and width as Leipzig increasingly face oppositions sitting back.
The performance proved once more that RB have successfully made the transition to possession-based football under the young German coach. During a controlled second-half performance, Nagelsmann was so confident in his side’s superiority that he afforded his key players some rest, making five changes before the 70th minute.
Just 999 fans were allowed into the Red Bull Arena instead of the initially planned 8,500. Rising infection rates in the region had led to a late reduction in attendance. They watched their team patiently probe with skill and composure that belied the age gap between the two sides. Basaksehir’s cast of ageing superstars means their squad has an average age of 27, while Leipzig’s comes in at just 23.
Duel of plastic clubs
The echoing chants and cheers may not be entirely alien to an Istanbul side that averaged just 3,000 fans at home games before the pandemic. The visitors, like Leipzig, have a fairly short history. Basaksehir was founded in 1990 then and relaunched as recently as 2014, backed by Turkey’s ruling AKP party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. RB Leipzig launched in 2009, with energy drinks giant Red Bull the financial backers.
Read more: RB Leipzig’s Champions League opponents with strong Erdogan links
However, the sides went into the match with completely contrasting league forms. While RB sit pretty at the top of the Bundesliga with three wins and a draw so far, the visitors had only just managed to get their first win and first goals of the season on Saturday. They’re sat in 19th place, a far cry from the last campaign, in which Basaksehir won their first-ever league title.
Leipzig look the part
Leipzig’s journey to the upper echelons of European football may not have rewarded them with domestic honors yet. But a classy Champions League performance against a deep-defending opponent is indicative of their growth. Last season, they topped a group consisting of Lyon, Benfica, and Zenit. Repeating that trick will be tough, with PSG and Manchester United in their way this time but Leipzig’s depth and ability to also play on the counter will serve them well. Another semifinal appearance is certainly not out of the question.