Porto Secured Wins, Even though Conceded

Porto successfully gave a surprise in the Champions League last 16 first leg. Facing Juventus at the Estadio do Dragao, Porto won 2-1 in the match which was held on Wednesday Evening. This victory meant a lot to Porto even though they have finally conceded after their last several matches.

Porto scored two goals at the start of each half. Just into the second minute, Rodrigo Bentancur made an unexpected back pass by Wojciech Szczesny and was too weak. Mehdi Taremi successfully blocked Szczesny’s sweep so that the ball turned towards Juventus’ goal. In the 46th minute, Moussa Marega sneaks into the Bianconeri’s penalty box and finishes the attack from close range.

Juventus could only score a goal in the 82nd minute. Adrien Rabiot’s cross was maximized by Federico Chiesa. The score ended 2-1, Porto still won, but Sergio Conceicao’s positive team record was slightly tarnished. The last time Porto conceded in the Champions League was in the group phase opener at the Etihad Stadium. Man City successfully beat Porto with a score of 3-1.

Porto was able to register zero goals in the remaining five matches in the group phase. Strong defense is one of the factors they can finish below Man City with 13 points. Unfortunately Porto’s slick defensive record was stopped because of Chiesa’s goal.

Even so, Porto’s defense in the match against Juventus still deserves thumbs up. They can reduce Juventus attacks well. If you look at the expected goals, Juventus only recorded an xG of 0.8. Meanwhile, Porto recorded more than double the number, namely 1.62.

Conceicao fielded a 4-4-2 formation in this match against Juventus. Porto dominantly play with low blocks, but when possible they go up and play high pressing. When Juventus entered Porto’s defensive area, they played with a tight defensive shape and low blocks, but still kept wide if there was a Juventus wing attacker available as a bait option. The aim is to close the space on the flanks so that the Juventus wing attackers cannot be accessed.

Porto’s central area is also difficult to penetrate. Their two midfielders, Mateus Uribe and Sergio Oliveira, were impressive. Uribe had two tackles and Oliveira had three. Not to mention there is Pepe as a central defender who is difficult to pass. Good physique and ability to read the game also put Pepe ahead of the Juventus attacker.

Although there are several players who steal more attention, the strong defense from Porto is the result of the team’s collectivity. Discipline and determination are the main factors. Juventus only recorded 12 shots, five of them from outside the penalty box. Of the seven shots in the penalty box, three of them came from set pieces. This means that Porto is able to hold Juventus well in open play situations.

In formation, Porto is actually flexible. In the five matches when they registered zero goals in the group phase, Porto did not always play in a 4-4-2 formation. Reporting from Whoscored, Porto played in a 4-4-2 formation in only two matches against Marseille. Facing Olympiacos, Porto went down with a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation. Entertaining Man City, Conceicao applied a 5-3-2 formation.

Not only formations, Porto’s pressing style is also quite flexible. As previously discussed, Porto did high pressing several times in certain situations. Some of them managed to snatch the ball from Juventus and produced opportunities.

The victory in the first leg is a valuable asset for Porto. Even though they conceded an away goal, it is not impossible for Porto to qualify and make Juventus stop again in the last 16 phase. Last season Juventus were eliminated by Lyon in the same phase. Strong defense will again become Porto’s main asset in facing the Old Lady in the second leg which will be held on Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see whether Porto will be deemed as the winner again in their next matches. All the fans are hoping that they can repeat their successful win in the Champions League in the year of 2004 with Jose Mourinho.

ASL

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