“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. 

Telles meltdown

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.

 

 

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 

Goals:

0-1] Pjaca, 72’

[0-2] Dani Alves, 74’

 

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Very disappointing result for Porto that leaves them with almost certainly too much to do to salvage their champions league season. Juventus are a stronger team with better players and it would have been quite difficult even with 11 against 11 to get a positive result, with a man down for 2/3 of the match it was just too much for Porto. What was Telles thinking, making another foul so quickly after the yellow card? He could have actually got a straight red for both the fouls, so there can be no complaints whatsoever. The thing is red cards will happen, and teams have to react well to going a man down. Porto were simply unable to and Juventus completely dominated proceedings as the statistics clearly show.

    The moment I saw the draw for the round of 16, I knew that Juventus and Dortmund were the firm favorites to progress and what happened in the first legs of both ties affirmed this feeling I had. Benfica still have a decent chance to progress, but Dortmund are still the favorites considering how well they played in the first leg and the fact that the tie concludes in their imposing stadium. While in the other tie, I just think Juventus are arguably one of the 4 strongest teams in Europe at the moment, so it was very difficult to see Porto (or any other Portuguese team for that matter) getting past them. I actually think that this season, the quality of the top 3 Portuguese clubs relative to the big clubs of Europe, is less than it has been for some time (perhaps less than at any other time this decade), and the results in Europe this season pretty much confirm this. On the whole it's been a pretty awful season for Portuguese clubs in European competition this year.

    So this tie is not over yet of course, with 90 minutes still to play, but very very difficult for Porto now. Difficult to see any team in Europe winning by 2 clear goals in Juventus' stadium at the moment. Nevertheless, nothing is guaranteed in football and there's no point in Porto throwing in the towel. They've got nothing to lose now so should just have a go in the second leg. I do think they will have to score first in Italy though, should Juve score first that will likely knock the stuffing out of Porto.

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  • Andre,

    I had this conversation with Chris as well. Is it just us or has the league overall dipped in quality? Outside of Porto, Benfica, Sporting the other clubs have been bad to awful barely scrapping out 1-0 wins every week.

    Boavista, Moireirense, Feirense and Chaves at least go for it every game but the other clubs are all plodding and seem to lack energy and motivation. Setubal, Estoril and Beleneneses have been especially unwatchable.

    I hope its just a transitional thing with the clubs and things get back to normal but the liga this year, in terms of entertainment below the big 3 has been weak.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Andre/UK
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Hi Guys,

    Disappointed with the result, but thought the Porto players battled on despite having only 10 men since the 25th minute mark.

    Chris:

    "the quality of the top 3 Portuguese clubs .... is less than it has been for some time" - It's a really great question or statement to pose.
    Overview:

    Co-efficients - have declined recently, but this is because they were only high because Benfica and Porto made 3 Europa league finals, and before that Sporting, Braga and Porto. Simply put a few teams made great Europa league runs as opposed to all or many dominating.
    Champions League - Portugal have not had a team past the quarters since Porto won it, and in fact this year having two teams in the second round is rare.
    Europa League - For the past two seasons the winner gets automatic Champions League qualification. Simply put more teams, especially Italian ones now take it seriously. Even Spain, who usually have 2 or 3 teams in the last 16 only have Celta Vigo left. To be competitive we need our best teams or those with potential like Braga, Guimaraes, Setubal, Belenenses, Boavista and Maritimo to qualify regularly. This year Braga did, but weak ones like Arouca and Rio Ave also made it.

    Positives:

    Porto qualified by wiping the floor with Roma.
    We had 3 of the best Portuguese teams in the champion’s league, and the fourth best in the Europa league.
    All Portuguese clubs are developing their youth players and Benfica and Porto are currently still in with a chance of winning the Youth Champions League.
    We have 2 teams in the champion’s league knockout stages.
    Rise of middle ranked teams such as Guimaraes, Boavista and Setubal.
    Portimonense will join the league next year and hopefully ensure the Estadio do Algarve gets some liga games again.
    Academica and Santa Clara are also battling Aves for the last promotion spot and if either make it they will add more regional teams (like Chaves) outside of Lisbon, Porto and Braga.
    This year Guimaraes and Braga should qualify for Europe and could be joined by other strong Liga sides like Maritimo, Chaves, Boavista or Setubal who could all be competitive.


    Negatives:

    3 teams done poorly in the Europa league - Arouca (lost to Greek champions Olympiacos), Rio Ave (lost on away goals to Slavia Prague) Braga (Lost to their former coach Paulo Fonseca's Shahktar, and Gent who just beat Tottenham.)
    Sporting/Jorge Jesus - Simply put. Results do matter, and his record in Europe speaks for itself. He rarely qualified from the group stages with Benfica, lost to CSKA last year in qualifiers and was smashed 3:0 by an Albanian team in the Europa league (hasn’t done well in it since the automatic champions league qualification for the winner was introduced), and this year came last in the group with only 1 win.
    Outside Porto and Benfica, all other sides have done poorly in Europe and have low club co-efficients, which mean they will always get a tough draw.
    Sporting and Braga need Europa league runs to boost their co-efficient rankings and ensure Portugal keeps its place.
    Sporting will most likely finish 3rd in the Liga, which means they will have to qualify for the champions league by beating a team like Roma (As Porto did).
    Braga's performance and form has been very inconsistent, and I can't help but think that changing coaches at least once every season cannot be helping.
    Like Chris said some teams are quite hard to watch, because IMO they play a lot of anti-jogo (time wasting, diving etc.) when facing the big teams.

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Rated 1 out of 5 stars

    What Alex Telles did was not the regular kind of stupid, it was Steven Defour - Valeri Bojinov stupid. He pretty much sealed his teams fate with moronic, avoidable fouls. Alex Sandro he is not.

    It is hard to judge the team too harshly due to being down a man. Its one thing to go down a man vs Setubal but Juve? 2-0 down and going back to Italy...

    At least the return leg will be entertaining as Porto have to attack for 90'.

    Dumbest, dumbass move of the year by a player on a Portuguese club in the biggest stage football has. Sorry to the Portistas about my post I am just irritated this isn't an attack on Porto but more on Telles and his 2 cent head.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - jon/usa

    While many people are going to criticize Nuno's cautious approach to the game, you cannot blame the man for Telles' sheer stupidity. If his plan was to sit back, nullify Juventus' attack, and look to pose a threat through counter-attacks and set-pieces, I would say that is tactics were working. I have no doubt that had Porto played the rest of the game with 11 men, we could be looking at a very different scoreline. We also need to realize that this current Porto side lacks the individual talent of some of the more successful sides they had in their recent past. Nuno simply does not have anyone near the quality of a Falcao, Hulk, James, Lucho, or Moutinho. He does not have the personnel to regularly play free-flowing, technical, possession-football. However, they do have an experienced keeper, a solid back line, a superb defensive midfielder, and two out-an-out center-forwards in Tiquinho Soares and Andre Silva. Therefore, given the players he has at his disposal, Nuno has understandably opted to build a team that is hard-working, extremely physical, difficult to break down, and dangerous on set-pieces. It may not be the most beautiful football that Portistas have seen at the Dragao, but it does appear to be effective, especially in Portugal.

    I honestly do not see Porto turning this around in the second leg. If anything, I think Barcelona winning 5-0 in the Camp Nou is far more likely than Porto winning 3-0 in Turin. I don't see either happening, though. Therefore, it looks like Benfica are going to have to carry Portugal on their shoulders for the second consecutive season in Europe. It is going to be extremely difficult to get a result in Dortmund, but it's definitely possible.

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  • Yes I would have to agree Jon, but we'll never know as the Telles sending off completely changed the game. I think Nuno perhaps should have taken Tiquinho off instead of Andre Silva, only because Andre Silva has more experience at a higher level, but would it have changed anything? Probably not... who knows.

    Did anyone also notice that 'once again' Danilo failed to track his man and left him free to score for the first goal. I really like Danilo as a player, but the reason I prefer William Carvalho for Portugal in defensive midfield for the big games. Danilo has done this far too many times against higher, well drilled opposition now. At times, he just seems to get back for the sake of being back. He's regularly ball watching and not looking around and see where the danger is occurring, which is often a midfielder running centrally into the box. If you switch off for a few seconds at a higher level that equals goals for your oppositions, whereas against weaker teams those shots don't hit the target or passes or runs don't occur as often. If he improves this facet of his game then he could be a top quality defensive midfielder, because he got a lot of other positive attributes.

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    @Val: well on one hand, I do think our Liga has been more competitive this season compared with previous seasons. Sure Benfica and Porto have been winning the majority of their Liga matches, but they have hardly been easily blowing the opposition away every week and there have been many hard fought victories by a single goal margin. This is good for our Liga, with matches being more competitive and difficult for the top 3.

    On the other hand to mention again, in relation to the rest of the big clubs in Europe and in European competition, I think our top 3 are not particularly strong this year compared with other past seasons this decade. Sporting are out of Europe altogether, while Benfica and Porto scraped through their groups. Both played at home in the first legs of the round of 16 and both were dominated by the opposition. Ok Porto were a man down, but red cards are part of the game and you have to respond well to going a man down, and I've seen plenty of occasions when a team went down to 10 men and put up much more of a fight than Porto did last night.

    I think the reality is our big 3 simply sell their best players too often, virtually every single transfer window, and always need to build up a new team and squad almost every season, and eventually this catches up with the teams. Difficult to remain competitive with Europe's strongest clubs, when you constantly lose your best players. Stability is everything in this game, in the end.

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  • "our big 3 simply sell their best players too often, virtually every single transfer window". The Goncalo Guedes transfer is a example of this. I understand teams need to sell to turn a profit etc., but why not sell him at the end of the year and give the team more time to adjust to a new player with a different style? Maybe he wanted to go? I'm unsure, but if that's not the case then it seems strange. I mean I know Benfica have plenty of good wingers, but Goncalo Guedes is a bit different to a Rafa, Salvio, Carillo and Zivkovic, because as well as being fast and a good dribbler, he's also athletic, taller, stronger and more powerful, and would have been perfect against more physical teams like Dortmund. And besides PSG can't use him in Europe (because he's cup tied), and their main aim is to win the Champions league this year.

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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