More than luck, FC Porto lacked effectiveness and quality in the decisive moves; a rising display that alarmed Barcelona
Fortunately, we are past that depressing and fatalistic time of moral victories. The Portuguese teams do not need a bacoca and provincial solidarity. Much less FC Porto, which remains the Portuguese team with the most international personality. Therefore, the defeat of Barcelona has an objective justification: a mistake gave rise to a loss of the ball in the forbidden zone and this is the type of mistake that cannot be made in the Champions League and, above all, when the opponent has the dimension of Barcelona.
Can a simple mistake fully justify a defeat? No. We have to add a lack of goal instinct to FC Porto who, therefore, could not take the advantage that they should and deserved from a dominance that, in the second half, became overwhelming, forcing Barcelona to defend as they could and to add fouls and yellow cards that illustrated an alarmed team.
Less risk and more security
Sérgio Conceição had said in the pre-match press conference that he was against the idea of a coach just thinking about his team, without thinking about the characteristics of the opponent. It was therefore thinking of Barcelona who decided to present an eleven that foresaw less risk, but greater security. A single striker, Taremi, and a stronger midfield, which made the team more balanced and more prepared for the Catalans’ transitions. Alan Varela was a wide-ranging defensive midfielder and, in front of him, extended lines with Pepê on the right and Galeno on the left, with central supports from Baró and Eustáquio, two players who create pressure with the ball, but who have recognized defensive qualities.
Barcelona got along well with this sporting idea. He did not suffer chills and managed to have density and diversity in the attacking moves. Enough to get to the break-in advantage? No, necessarily. Just enough to have the game under control.
And how FC Porto grew…
Despite having conceded the goal in the last moments of the first half, something that can bring down a team psychologically, the truth is that FC Porto not only recovered from this traumatic situation but emerged in the second half more convinced that they would not lose the game. And although things did not always go well, particularly in the quality and intensity of how he could attack Ter Stegen’s goal, the truth is that the team was always growing until the end, when it pulled Barcelona to the ropes and almost made banal one of the strongest and most titled teams in the world. It could even be said that from a goal shot made by Pepê, which Koundé saved by a miracle, FC Porto quickly opted to play with two strikers (Evanilson’s entrance) and completely lost respect for Barcelona in the final assault in which, yes, he took some risks, but was closer to the goal.
In the last quarter of an hour, the most radical bet, with the innings of Francisco Conceição to unbalance on the right flank and Ivan Jaime to unbalance on the left flank. Pepê retreated to right-back and, in times of distress, Barcelona still found themselves deprived of Gavi, sent off with a second yellow card.
It could be said that for a defeat, there need not have been so much Porto. But football at the highest level is not decided solely by greater territorial pressure or by dominance of the game. Sometimes, as happened yesterday, it can be decided by mistake, especially when the opponent has a high individual quality and consistency in the collective organization that becomes difficult to dismantle. And also when the team that heroically seeks the goal lacks some ingenuity and art to solve better in the goal spaces. That is, it is also effectiveness in goal that is needed in the decisive moments.
Even so, despite the defeat, FC-Porto has the best and cleanest horizon of the Portuguese teams in the Champions League and will hardly not be qualified.