Match Reviews

Porto 0-1 Barcelona: Match Review

Barcelona’s second UEFA Champions League clash of the season took the team to Portugal. They faced off against Porto on Wednesday night in perhaps their most difficult fixture of the group stages and the 90 minutes that played out were gruelling.

On the night, Xavi Hernandez opted to deploy the much-awaited central defence pairing of Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo. Alejandro Balde and Joao Cancelo completed the backline at left-back and right-back.

Oriol Romeu joined Gavi and Ilkay Gundogan in midfield while Robert Lewandowski started in attack alongside Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal.

The Catalans kicked things off at Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday night. Barcelona began with the more impressive opening minutes with Joao Felix even enjoying an early shot on goal.

After an initial spell of 15 minutes dominated by Xavi’s side, Porto began to find their rhythm. By the 20th minute, they were mounting serious pressure on the Catalans and even came close to winning a penalty.

Pepe and Mehdi Taremi attempted to link up inside the Barcelona box when the latter went down under Kounde’s challenge. The on-field referee refused to blow the whistle, and the VAR review concurred with his decision.

The Blaugranas’ first real chance of the game only arrived midway through the first half when Felix’s well-worked shot was tipped over the crossbar by an alert Diogo Costa. Minutes later, the youngster had the ball at his mercy once again but could not make the most of it.

Barcelona suffered a massive blow when Robert Lewandowski found himself at the receiving end of a vicious tackle from Carmo. The Pole could not continue despite his best efforts and Xavi replaced him with Ferran Torres a little after the half-hour mark.

Porto and Barcelona continued their juggle of possession and dominance in the spell of play that followed. Both sides had their chances, but could not capitalise.

Eventually, Barcelona got the late lead in the first half courtesy of an alert interception from Gundogan. The German international pounced on a sloppy pass by Romario Baro to find Ferran Torres who made easy work of a 1v1 situation.

Heading into half-time, it was the Catalans who boasted a 1-0 lead, and not undeservingly. Yet, it was clear that Xavi’s men were far from their best in the final third.

The hosts began the second half with an inspired spell in attack that led to Joao Mario creating a wonderful chance. Nevertheless, Barcelona regained control by the 50th minute and balanced out the equation.

Chances continued to flow down Porto’s left wing as the hosts struggled to find an equaliser. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was forced to make some good saves after the hour mark.

Sergi Roberto and Fermin Lopez came on for Oriol Romeu and Joao Felix respectively.

Porto won a penalty in the 77th minute after a wonderful run by Eustaquio ended with the ball striking Joao Cancelo’s arm. The Portuguese international clearly made unnatural contact with the ball, but VAR ruled out the penalty for a handball by the Porto player in the buildup.

Marcos Alonso came on for Lamine Yamal in the 80th minute.

Porto just could not get the luck going for them even in the dying minutes as Taremi’s spectacular overhead finish was ruled out for offside. For all their efforts and attacking transitions, the elusive goal never arrived.

Gavi was shown a second yellow card and thus given his marching orders in stoppage time. He will miss the clash against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barcelona held on to the tight 1-0 lead until the full-time whistle. With this win, they head to the top of the standings in Group H with six points in two outings.

However, it is safe to say that the hosts were hard done by the result and a draw would have been a fairer result. Xavi’s side will take all three points with both arms open, regardless.

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