“We spent two and half months preparing for this game, but everything went out the window because of the sending off. Now we have to focus on domestic competition.”
With disarming honesty, Iker Casillas expressed what none of his teammates said but almost certainly what they all felt post-match after the 2-0 defeat at the Estádio do Dragão against Juventus all but ended their hopes of making progress in the Champions League.
An Alex Telles red card for two senseless fouls in quick succession before the half hour mark left Porto facing an uphill task, and second-half goals by substitutes Pjaca and Dani Alves gave Juventus victory on an unexpectedly comfortable night for the Italian champions.
Porto coach Nuno Espírito Santo opted for caution in his line-up selecting Danilo, Herrera and Rúben Neves to start in midfield, while leaving the more offensive-minded Óliver Torres, as well as dangerous Mexican winger Jesús Corona on the bench.
After a bright start for the hosts, with André Silva winning a dangerous free kick that Brahimi hit over the bar and Neves trying his luck from distance, the Italians proceeded to take control of the game, looking the more threatening team albeit without creating any clear scoring opportunities.
In the 25th minute Alex Telles raked his studs down the back of Cuadrado’s leg and was somewhat fortunate to be shown only a yellow card. Two minutes later the Brazilian left-back clattered into Lichtsteiner with a reckless sliding tackle, leaving the referee with no option but to brandish the red.
Telles has been excellent for Porto this season, displacing Miguel Layún at left-back, but he chose the worst possible moment to let an excess of adrenalin get the better of him. The defender duly apologised on Social Media post-match.
Alex Telles: "Football is about split-second decisions, some right, some wrong. 'A Porto player's head only drops when he kisses the badge'" https://t.co/cbGmIGwLQC— Patrick Kendrick (@patrickendrick) February 23, 2017
Striker André Silva was sacrificed as Layún came on and from that moment onwards Porto, who had struggled to make headway against Juventus’ defence anyway, completely disappeared as an attacking force.
Casillas saved well from a deflected Higuaín effort and Dybala smashed a low drive against the post shortly before half time.
In the second half the one-way direction of play accentuated but another excellent performance by Porto’s centre-back pairing of Marcano and Filipe kept the Italians at bay, and as the match moved into the final 20 minutes hopes were intact that the Portuguese team could hold on.
But two goals in two minutes had the travelling Juventus fans in full voice and virtually guarantees the “Old Lady” a place in the quarter-finals. On the 42 occasions that Juventus have won the away leg of a European tie, they have progressed… 42 times.
By Tom Kundert
FC Porto: Casillas, Maxi Pereira, Felipe, Marcano, Alex Telles, Rúben Neves (Corona, 61’), Danilo, Herrera, Brahimi (Diogo Jota, 73’), Soares, André Silva (Layun, 30’)
Juventus: Buffon, Lichtsteiner (Dani Alves, 73’), Barzagli, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Khedira, Pjanic, Cuadrado (Pjaca, 67’), Dybala (Marchisio, 86’), Mandzukic, Higuain
0-1] Pjaca, 72’
[0-2] Dani Alves, 74’