Portuguese League: FC Vizela-FC Porto (Match Report)

FC Vizela 0-1 FC Porto (Estádio do Clube de Vizela), 14 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, Otávio, Galeno, Veron and Toni Martinez.

Another win for Porto, but this one was really tough. Vizela was a formidable opponent who created a lot of problems, on offense and on defence. Some of the issues I had identified in previous games really came to light in this game. I hope this was an eye opener for Sérgio ahead of the match against Sporting, because if we play this way next week it won’t end well.

Positives & Negatives

This diamond formation in midfield needs to be put to bed – it’s not working, at least not with the players that Sérgio is using. It might have a bit more success once Otávio gets into the starting line-up, but I still don’t see it being a long-term success. It’s not difficult to guess that our game was much more threatening once we opened up the formation and had players on the wings.

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

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:

  • It wasn’t difficult to decide on the man of the match, because there weren’t many highlights. Galeno takes the nod. He only played 30mins, but made us all wish he had played longer. Before he got on the pitch we didn’t have a proper winger to stretch the defence and Vizela had blocked the centre of the midfield. He got the assist for the goal and was really close to getting a goal before that.
  • Kudos to Marcano for getting the goal. It wasn’t easy – Galeno’s cross was quite strong and difficult to handle. He did well score from there. Defensively he played well and seems to be rounding out to form. Decent cameo from Veron playing ‘in the hole’, who could have scored right at the start of the second-half.
  • I don’t really have many other positives to highlight; most players didn’t play well. I’ll give Sérgio credit for not waiting too long to make changes and really trying everything. But he has to take the blame for the team’s dynamics and for insisting in this style of play. It’s a waste of Pepê to play him as a centre midfielder – it hurts him by limiting his play and hurts the team by having a ‘fish out of water’ in a key position.
  • The defence was a little shaky today, trying to deal with Vizela’s counter-attacks. They didn’t create a lot of chances, but they got too close a couple of times. In particular, Nuno Moreira from the left, who had a huge chance at the start of the second-half. Sporting next week won’t be as forgiving.
Galeno was the sole bright spot in this game.

Match Report

Porto lined-up with the exact same formation and starting XI that played against Marítimo. This was midly surprising to me, given Otávio was available to start, but he was on the bench. The midfield diamond seems to be here to stay, for better or worse (mostly worse).

The first-half was quite dull. I can’t really identify any chances worth noting, outside of a half chance from Uribe on the 8th minute. Grujic won a header at the near post on a corner from the right and the ball landed at the feet of Uribe – he controlled it to his left and hit it strong but the ball went too high. That was the main highlight, which is pretty bad.

The key issue continued to be how the midfield is really struggling to operate on offence and create chances. Vizela prepared the game really well, playing in a 4x3x3 that would often transform into a 4x1x2x1x2, as Kiko Bondoso (the false nine) would fall back to press Uribe, whilst the midfield three would man-mark Porto’s midfield three. Vizela’s wingers also defended Porto’s full-backs quite well, and completely blocked the game. Álvaro Pacheco is a very smart coach.

Sérgio was clearly very unhappy with Porto’s mediocre first-half.

Sérgio made two changes at half-time, taking off Uribe (Sérgio said in the press conference that he was carrying a knock during the week) and Loader (barely got involved) and bringing on Otávio and Gabriel Veron. I thought the formation would change to a 4x4x2, but no. Veron played as a #10 (direct replacement for Loader), and Otávio played as the left centre mid, moving Pepê to right centre mid and Grujic to the #6 role.

This almost immediately resulted in a goal, as Otávio sent through João Mário on the right, who hit a first time cross to the middle of the penalty box. Veron controlled it well but his tame shot was parried by Buntic. He should have done better from there. Just a minute later however, on the counter-attack, Kiko Bondoso left Marcano in the dust and passed it to Nuno Moreira in heart of the penalty box, but fortunately the Vizela winger miss-kicked it.

Despite the bright-ish start, the same issues continued, as Porto just couldn’t get through. If anything, the issue might have gotten worse, as Grujic couldn’t deal with playing as the midfield anchor. He’s too slow and not agile enough to play there. Sérgio made another pair of changes on the 62nd minute, bringing on Eustáquio and Toni Martinez, replacing Grujic and Evanilson (poor game from him). I figured the formation would finally change, but it didn’t.

A few minutes later, on the 68th minute, Galeno came on for João Mário and Pepê moved to right-back. The formation finally changed and Porto opened up the offense; a fully fledged 4x4x2, with two midfielders (Eustáquio and Otávio), two wingers (Veron and Galeno) and two strikers (Toni Martinez and Taremi). Porto finally started to look like they could perhaps get a goal.

On the 84th minute, Galeno took on three defenders as he cut inside from the left and played a one-two with Toni Martinez. The ball was placed perfectly on his right foot to hit a shot to the goalkeeper’s top left corner, but the ball went just wide. It would have been an incredible goal.

I had started to lose hope that we would win this game, because Vizela was defending very well (their centre-back duo was sublime all game long), but Marcano finally broke the deadlock on the 90th minute. Following a free-kick on the left edge of the box, Eustáquio played it short to Galeno, who controlled it well and placed a strong in-swinger to the middle of the penalty box, where Marcano appeared alone to head it home. Nice goal. Porto controlled the rest of the match, not allowing Vizela to sniff our goal.

Evanilson was completely out of it in this match.

It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. A rather uninspiring performance still ended in three points. I can’t say it was underserved, but if the match had ended in a draw, I don’t think we could have complained too much. Next up is Sporting at home on Saturday – this is going to be a huge game.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (3), João Mário (2), Pepe (3), Marcano (3), Zaidu (3), Uribe (2), Grujic (2), Pepê (2), Danny Loader (2), Taremi (3), Evanilson (2); Eustáquio (3), Otávio (3), Galeno (4), Toni Martinez (2), Veron (3).

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