FC Porto 3-0 CD Tondela (Estádio Municipal de Aveiro), 31 July 2022 – match report below
Line-up (4x1x2x1x2): Marchesin, João Mário, Pepe, Marcano, Zaidu; Uribe, Grujic, Pepê, Danny Loader; Taremi, Evanilson
Also played: Eustáquio, Bruno Costa, Galeno, Veron and Toni Martinez.
New season, same outcome – and the first title is in the bag! Porto faced Tondela in the Portuguese Supercup final, and came away with a comfortable 3-0 win. It could have been more, had it not been for a stellar performance from Babacar Niasse in goal. There were some very good performances and moments in this match, but also a couple of issues to point out, which I’ll get to shortly.
This was the first official match of the season; even though Porto had already played in front of the fans last weekend against AS Monaco, it’s different when there is an actual trophy on the line and the outcome of the game matters. The players seemed unfazed by it and created several chances early on, before finally breaking through around the half hour mark. The second half was smooth sailing until the end.
Positives & Negatives
I’ve written the Match Report below, which I would encourage you to read, but here I will focus on the key positives and negatives from this game:
- Not a huge amount to say here – everyone played well, there wasn’t anyone who I thought looked out of their depth. Even Zaidu seems more confident. Taremi was man of the match though, and looks like he’s about the start the season with a bang! Two goals and one assist. His partnership with Evanilson appears to be taking off where they left it last season. Danny Loader had a very encouraging debut in the starting line-up, being really involved and trying to make things happen, even though he played in a new-ish role. João Mário was also very good in this game.
- The midfield was very solid and barely allowed Tondela to create any sort of danger. Pepe and Marcano took care of the rest, in what was probably one of the most uneventful games of Marchesin’s career. I believe Tondela managed one shot at goal.
- Galeno once again came on and made things happen. He seems to be forcing less and just trying to play within the system. He has incredible athletic characteristics, so just needs to continue refining his technique (especially passing) and improving his decision making. Under Sergio Conceição, I believe he can do it.
- A word to Tondela, who were a very worthy opponent. They’ve just been relegated and are unable to register new players, yet they did their best considering the circumstances, and all their players remained professional throughout. It’s also worth noting the excellent outing from Babacar Niasse in goal – it could have ended 5 or 6 zero if not for him.
- We saw an even narrower version of the formation that started the game against Monaco, this time with a very well defined midfield diamond, where Loader played behind Taremi-Evanilson, and Pepê was used essentially as a central midfielder next to Grujic, with Uribe anchoring the midfield. I don’t like it. We saw some of the same issues of the previous game in terms of offense, as the full-backs had no one in front of them to help do give and go’s (a staple of Zaidu’s game, who otherwise is unable to get to the by-line) and faced a few 1v2 situations on counter-attacks.
- There was some praise in the press conference for Pepê’s performance… I guess because he was involved in two of the goalsbl, but I disagree. I thought he looked lost in stretches, trying to do things he would normally do on the wing, but doesn’t have space for in middle of the park. He got dispossessed too often for my liking and also missed a few easy passes. He is not a midfielder. Someone asked if he was being transformed into Otávio 2.0 – I hope that’s not the case, because it would be a waste of a potentially very good winger.
- Sérgio mentioned that he had lined the team up like this a lot at the end of last season – it’s true, but the dynamics were very different. For starters, Fábio Vieira was the one playing as #10, and that’s his natural position, plus he is a master at link-up play. Loader is a forward, who gets the ball and carries it forward only – and that’s fine, those are his characteristics, it’s just not suited for that position. Also, there was Vitinha as one of the midfielders, who covers more ground than Grujic, plus adds a lot more creative flair, and Otávio instead of Pepê, who is actually a midfielder. It somewhat worked last night, but I think we’ll struggle against better opposition.
- Set-pieces: we saw Zaidu and João Mário take corners. Not a great idea. Whilst our first goal came from a well taken João Mário corner, most of the time it created issues, as the full-backs wouldn’t have time to switch back and would have to stay on offense on the opposite flanks. Whilst João Mário can sort of make it work, Zaidu cannot. Sérgio needs to find a different set-piece taker.
For the first official match of the season, Porto lined-up in a 4x1x2x1x2 formation, with a diamond shaped midfield: Uribe anchoring the midfield, with Grujic and Pepê in front and Loader behind the strikers. Diogo Costa and Otávio were missing due to suspension, otherwise both would have started. I’m curious to know who would have been dropped in favour of Otávio, had he been available.
I’ve commented above how I wasn’t overly impressed by the formation, but the truth is Porto started off the game strongly and could have already been up by two goals after 10 minutes – Niasse twice denied our forwards, first Loader (header off a corner) and then Evanilson (one on one against the keeper). Loader had another good chance on the 20th minute (a shot from a the penalty spot), but Niasse again saved it. The onslaught continued, until Porto got two goals in 3 minutes and cruised to victory.
The first goal resulted from a near post corner from João Mário from the left, headed to the far post by Evanilson for Taremi to tap it in for the 1-0. A couple of minutes later, Pepê sent Taremi through on goal; the Iranian forced a good save from Niasse that hit the post and then Evanilson was quicker to react to the ball, making it 2-0 on the rebound. Before the end of the half, Loader forced Niasse into another good save.
After half-time, Sérgio sent on Toni Martinez in place of Evanilson, who looked a bit hobbled at the end of the first half and couldn’t go – hopefully nothing serious (didn’t look like it). The majority of the second half was quite dull, with Porto controlling the game and not really allowing Tondela to do much, but equally not a lot happened on the other end.
Midway through the second half, Galeno and Eustáquio were brought on for Grujic and Loader, injecting a bit more energy into the game. Galeno in particular was quite active on and off the ball, and Eustáquio also helped move the ball better, as Grujic looked worn out (and was on a yellow card). Galeno almost made it 3-0 on the 79th minute, with a superb strike from distance that went just a fraction too high off the bar.
The third goal finally came on the 83rd minute, as Pepê passed it inside to Taremi who was cutting in front the left; he dribbled past two defenders with some nice footwork and slotted it into the far corner for the 3-0. Excellent goal. No chance for Niasse. There was still time for Bruno Costa and Veron to play a few minutes, as they replaced Pepê and Taremi shortly after the third goal. Veron almost managed to get on the scoresheet right at the end, as Toni Martinez headed the ball inside from the near post for Veron, who managed to outjump the defender but the header went just wide. It would have been a nice confidence booster for him to get a goal in his official debut.
Overall, a nice start to the season. Onto Marítimo next Saturday at 8.30pm at home – an opponent we typically seem to struggle against.
Match ratings (1-5):
Marchesin 3, João Mário 4, Pepe 3, Marcano 3, Zaidu 3, Uribe 3, Grujic 3, Pepe 3, Loader 3, Evanilson 4, Taremi 5; Toni Martinez 3, Galeno 3, Eustáquio 2, Bruno Costa & Veron n/a.