Portuguese League: FC Porto-CS Marítimo (Match report)

FC Porto 5-1 CS Marítimo (Estádio do Dragão), 7 August 2022 – match report below

Line-up (4x1x2x1x2): Diogo Costa, João Mário, Pepe, Marcano, Zaidu; Uribe, Grujic, Pepê, Danny Loader; Taremi, Evanilson

Also played: Eustáquio, Galeno, Veron, Gonçalo Borges and Toni Martinez.

Porto starts off the new league season with a dominating win over Maritimo, a team that usually gives us problems. The final score was 5-1, but I found it a little flattering – it could have been a lot closer if Marítimo had taken their early chances.

We saw some very good individual performances, but it was good a team effort all around; this team has an identity which has been there since the early days of Sergio’s tenure and has not changed – a team that presses high up the pitch to suffocate the opponent and win the ball back quickly in dangerous areas. This is the base for how Porto will try to win the League again this season.

I will be keeping track of the goal and assist tallies for all competitions.

Positives & Negatives

I’ve written the full match report below, which I would encourage you to read. But here I’ll focus on the key takeaways from this match. Starting with the positives:

  • To expand on the point above, we saw a team that understood exactly when and how to press – Taremi-Loader-Evanilson would go right up to Marítimo’s backline as the first layer of pressing. Then you would see Zaidu and/or João Mário sprint up the pitch (depending on what flank the play started) to form a second layer of pressing next to Grujic and Pepê, sometimes even ahead of where Marítimo’s midfielders were, cutting off all passing lanes; Essentially, at least 6 players inside Marítimo’s half to try and win the ball back at all times. This worked really well.
  • Similarly to the match last weekend against Tondela, it seems the Taremi-Evanilson partnership is starting the season off very strongly. Both scored (Taremi twice), Evanilson got one assist and probably should have scored one more. Taremi was very involved in the build-up as well and pressing really high up the pitch – that pressure resulted in two goals. He takes my vote for MVP of this match.
  • João Mário with two more assists, both of which were great passes, but especially the second one – an exquisite cross for Toni Martinez to head it home. A word to Zaidu as well, who seems considerably better on offense than he was last season. Toni Martinez and Galeno both continue to be good options off the bench, injecting energy into the team and making things happens.
  • Uribe and Grujic bossed the midfield, barely letting anything through. Pepê seemed to understand his defensive assignments better this time, giving Zaidu a lot more support. Diogo Costa was exceptional in goal, with a couple of important saves in key moments. Also, his footwork is incredible – I would argue on par with Helton at this stage; he just exudes confidence.
Taremi and Evanilson contributed with 3 goals.

There were some negatives however:

  • We continue to see this rather uninspiring and narrow formation. It doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. I don’t think it’s working very well when the opponent is organised on defence. There is a lack of width, the midfield is too crammed and there is very little creativity or ability to play the final ball. The majority of the goals scored have come from winning the ball back due to high pressing – this has worked against less talented teams who try to play out from the back, but it won’t work every time and Sporting is coming to town in two weeks…
  • Otávio is coming back next week, so I hope this will mark the end of the ‘Pepê as a central midfielder’ experiment. He just doesn’t look comfortable out there. Bad decisions on the ball, misplaced a few passes (one of which almost resulted in a goal for Marítimo) and just seems out of it. He’s a guy that excels at running at defenders and for that he needs space, which he doesn’t have as a central midfielder.
  • Despite scoring a goal and doing well on the ball, I thought Marcano struggled on defence, which was mildly concerning. Given we’ve won our two first games, I don’t expect David Carmo will just be given a starting spot next to Pepe by default, so I’m pretty sure we’ll see Marcano against Sporting and that worries me. Danny Loader was also off in this game.
  • I want to avoid talking about referees, because the point of this blog is to discuss football. But sometimes you just feel really frustrated by the lack of uniformity of refereeing decisions. This gets exacerbated with VAR, because there is no excuse for bad mistakes. We saw a ridiculous sending off for an Arouca defender on Friday night, by the same crew who denied Porto an obvious penalty against Tondela in the Supercup (both plays were reviewable). Last night we saw a player on a yellow card deliberately using his arm to stop a counter-attack and… nothing. It’s Marcano that gets a yellow card for protesting. It just doesn’t make sense. I’m glad Sérgio called them out in the press conference after the game.
Sérgio was quite frustrated with some of the refereeing decisions.

Match Report

Porto lined-up in the same 4x1x2x1x2 that played against Tondela, with just one change in goal – Diogo Costa back to the starting line-up after a one game suspension, in place of Marchesin who has since joined Celta Vigo.

It was Marítimo who started the game on the front foot however, and almost scored on the second minute, from a long range shot by Xadas that hit the crossbar. A few minutes later, a miscommunication between Marcano and Diogo Costa, resulted in a back pass that Joel Tagueu intercepted and was about to score with an open net, but Diogo Costa was very quick to react and blocked the shot.

Just three minutes later, Porto scored the opening goal. Zainadine lofted the ball to the right to Claudio Winck to evade pressure, but Zaidu saw it coming and sprinted all the way there to intercept the ball; Evanilson picked it up just outside the box and played it beautifully to Taremi, who slotted it in as the goalkeeper was rushing out of goal.

Porto seemed to stabilise and gain some confidence after that. On the 20th minute, Danny Loader broke through the defence and got dispossessed as he tried to shoot it, but the ball rebounded to Evanilson who scored. However, the brazilian was 28cm offside and the goal was correctly called off.

Marítimo recomposed and almost equalised through Tagueu. Xadas with a nice in-swinging cross from the right found Tagueu for a header from the penalty spot, but he hit it straight at Diogo Costa. Dangerous play. A few minutes later, Tagueu should have been sent off with a second yellow card for a deliberate handball, but Helder Malheiro inexplicably let him off the hook.

On the 39th minute, Uribe lofted the ball forward beautifully to João Mário on the right side of the box, he crossed it first time to Evanilson who controlled it brilliantly and volleedy it home for the 2-0. Exquisite control, turn and finish. A couple of minutes later, Taremi made it 3-0. Pepê won the ball back just outside the box and gave it to Loader, who tried to curl it into the far post, but the goalkeeper saved the shot. Taremi was right there however and scored on the rebound.

Marko Grujic and Mehdi Taremi celebrating the third goal.

Porto came out strong from half-time and nearly scored the fourth goal on two occasions: once by Evanilson, who curled in a left footer just wide (he should have scored) and then Taremi from close range for Miguel Silva to save (it was high degree of difficulty). You could tell Porto slowed down a bit after the opening 10 minutes and that allowed Marítimo to get on the ball more.

On the 65th minute, Miguel Sousa almost scored for Marítimo. Pepê misplaced a pass just outside Porto’s midfield half, allowing Vidigal to start the counter attack against a Porto defence that was all over the place. He crossed it from the left to the right, where Sousa controlled the ball past Zaidu and hit it just wide. No chance for Diogo Costa if the ball had gone goal wards.

Sérgio didn’t like what he was seeing and sent on Toni Martinez, Galeno and Eustáquio, for Uribe (on a yellow card), Evanilson (had some fitness issues during the week) and Loader (not a very inspired performance). Taremi moved back to the #10 position, with Galeno as a wide-left forward and Toni Martinez in the middle. Grujic moved back to the #6 position, with Eustáquio taking his place in central midfield next to Pepê.

Almost immediately after the changes, on the 67th minute, Porto made it 4-0. A long throw from the left was poorly cleared by the defence and the ball landed at Galeno’s feet. He tried to shoot the ball first-time from outside the box, but it ricocheted off a defender and transformed into a nice dipping cross for Marcano to head home.

On the 75th minute, after a nice build-up between Taremi and Galeno, the ball was passed to Eustáquio who set off João Mário on the right; with all the time in the world, he put in a great cross to the penalty spot, where Toni Martinez got to the ball before the defender and struck a powerful header to make it 5-0.

Sérgio made his final two subs right after the fifth goal, bringing on Gabriel Veron and Gonçalo Borges, in place of Taremi and Pepê, switching to a 4x2x3x1, with Veron behind Toni Martinez, and Galeno and Borges on the wings. Soon after coming on, Borges could have made it 6-0, after receiving a nice pass from Galeno inside the box, but he shot it wide.

Marítimo got their goal on the 87th minute, which I’m sure Sérgio wasn’t happy about. Galeno conceded a soft, but dumb free-kick on the left edge of the box. The out-swinger managed to go through the near post and rebounded off 2 Porto defenders, landing at the feet of Claudio Winck who scored from inside the 6-yard box.

There was still time for a Veron cameo on the 91st minute, after a nice one-two with Toni Martinez, the brazilian forward tried to curl one from outside of the box to the keeper’s top left corner, but the shot went too high. The match ended shortly after.

After an uncomfortable start, Porto stabilised and got an early goal. With a 3-0 score at half-time, the second-half was a breeze. Next up is Vizela, on Sunday at 6pm. This will be a tough away game.

João Mário has started the season really well, with 3 assists in two games.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (4), João Mário (4), Pepe (3), Marcano (3), Zaidu (3), Uribe (3), Grujic (3), Pepê (2), Danny Loader (2), Taremi (5), Evanilson (4); Eustáquio (3), Galeno (3), Toni Martinez (3), Veron & Gonçalo Borges (n/a).

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