Portuguese League: Gil Vicente FC-FC Porto (Match Report)

Gil Vicente 0-2 FC Porto (Estádio Cidade de Barcelos), 3 September 2022 – match report below

Line-up (4x4x2): Diogo Costa, Pepê, Pepe, David Carmo, Wendell; Otávio, Uribe, Eustáquio, Galeno; Taremi, Toni Martinez

Also played: J Mário, Veron, Go Borges, D Loader, Evanilson.

After the horrible loss at Rio Ave, Porto needed to show something different. A different game plan, with different players and hopefully a different outcome. For the most part, last night we got exactly that. A very competent first-half effectively ended the game, with two goals before half-time. A good performance overall and a sign that there is a way forward for this team.

Gil Vicente weren’t a very difficult opponent – a far cry from the team that finished 5th last season. It’s crazy to me how Ivo Vieira keeps getting opportunities, his teams are generally always average – the recycling of the same coaches in the top flight of Portuguese football is baffling to me. But still, Porto were dominant for large stretches of the match and fully deserved the three points.

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

Positives & Negatives

I’ve written the full match report below, but here I’ll focus on the positives and negatives from this match. Starting with the positives:

  • The midfield diamond appears to be gone. It took a full month, but we finally played in a formation that favours the players at our disposal. Sérgio Conceição is known for being very stubborn, but he is smart and I’m sure he’ll realise how ‘freer’ this team played when everyone is (mostly) where they’re supposed to be.
  • I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was Uribe’s best performance of the season. With the midfield entirely up to him and Eustáquio, it seemed like he was everywhere! Coming deep to get the ball, pressing high up the pitch, making runs into the box, you name it. He was excellent.
  • I may have been very wrong about Eustáquio. I had noted here that he just seemed like a more technical Bruno Costa. And, to be fair, he hadn’t shown much up to this point. But last night he played very well, and really complemented Uribe. He bagged two assists (the second one was exquisite) and was important in keeping the ball moving. Perhaps that’s all we needed. Maybe there is life after Vitinha.
  • Toni Martinez played well. He was unlucky not to score in the first half (two goals ruled out for offside) and missed a good chance in the second-half, but the level of aggression and intensity was key for us in this game. The Gil Vicente defenders could never rest, because Toni was constantly hounding them. After last night, I think he moves ahead of Evanilson (who has been struggling recently) in the pecking order.
  • Galeno scored another one, but he wasn’t as sharp today. There were a few occasions where some heavy touches let him down. However, his willingness to make runs off the ball and take defenders on really helps the offense. I think he is a strong candidate to start on Wednesday in Madrid.
  • A solid debut for David Carmo. Missed a few passes, but defensively nothing went through him. Wendell was also solid. Didn’t add a lot of attacking impetus, but also didn’t make mistakes on defence. Diogo Costa was again important in making a few saves in key moments. I liked the look of Gonçalo Borges in his 10min cameo – he is fast, strong and technically gift. Just needs to learn how to harness all of that talent.
There was no individual stand-out performance, but with 2 assists, Eustáquio takes my vote for man of the match.

Now looking at some of the negatives:

  • Pepê at right-back is such a waste. I’m concerned that he’ll become that player that just plugs whatever hole exists at any given moment and never has the chance to really develop into a top class winger. He was more competent than João Mário was last week, but I’m not convinced this is a good use of his ability.
  • I think Sérgio took too long to make substitutions and nearly allowed Gil Vicente to get back into the game. The team shutdown after the 55th minute and needed someone who could help make better decisions with the ball, especially in the final third. I would have given André Franco a run, the second-half seemed tailormade for him.
  • Otávio hasn’t looked right all season. Not very decisive on the ball, not as a aggressive off the ball. Perhaps it’s just a run of bad form, but he is so key to how this team operates that when he’s not at the top of his game, you can feel it. Hopefully he snaps out of it on Wednesday.
Galeno was on the scoresheet once more. An impressive start to the season so far.

Match Report

Following the debacle at Rio Ave last week (which you can read about here), it was expected that Sérgio Conceição would make wholesale changes. And he did. Five different players started this match compared to last week. But most importantly, the narrow midfield diamond was put to bed and we saw the return of the classic 4x4x2.

Porto mostly dominated the first-half, but Gil Vicente could have opened the scoresheet on the 7th minute. Pepê’s bad pass was cut out by Boselli and the ball landed at the feat of Fujimoto in a dangerous area (eerily similar to Rio Ave’s third goal last week). He carried it forward and put Bilel through on goal, but his shot went straight at Diogo Costa. That seemed to be the wake-up call for Porto, because Gil Vicente didn’t get close again until the second-half.

On the 17th minute, from the right-back position, Uribe sent Toni Martinez through on goal with a great pass. Toni scored but the goal was ruled out for offside. A mere 9cm. Unlucky. Just a couple of minutes after, Toni muscled a defender off the ball and from the left edge of the 6-yard box, he crossed it to Otávio at the far post. The ball was slightly too high and Otávio didn’t manage to tap it in with an open net.

Porto continued to press and on the 34th minute, Toni Martinez saw another goal ruled out for offside. A nice through ball from Eustáquio to Galeno, who passed it first time to Taremi. He released Toni on goal and the spaniard scored, but he was 45cm offside. It looked closer than that in real time. What a shame. On the 38th minute, Otávio took a corner from the right to the near post, where Uribe appeared unmarked and headed the ball slightly wide off the far post. It was very close.

You could sense a goal was coming and on the 41st minute, Porto finally broke the deadlock. Otávio lobbed it into the box for Galeno, but Lucas Cunha headed it away. Eustáquio won the second ball by outjumping Vitor Carvalho and it landed perfectly to Taremi’s right foot. Without letting the ball drop, Taremi volleyed it home for the 1-0. Excellent technique on the strike, no chance for the goalkeeper.

Porto continued to press and on the 44th minute made it 2-0. A really well designed play. Taremi came deep to get the ball and played a nice one-two with Pepê on the right. He then carried it forward to just outside the Gil Vicente box and put Eustáquio through on goal, who had made a run from deep. As the goalkeeper rushed out to try and close him down, Eustáquio nicked the ball right to Galeno, who tapped it into an open net. Perfect pass in the right moment from Taremi and superbly done by Eustáquio to get his second assist.

Taremi’s finish for the first goal was sublime.

Gil Vicente came out looking very different in the second-half, after Ivo Vieira made 4 subs at half-time. Yet, it was Porto that nearly scored on the 47th minute. Uribe won the ball back high up the pitch and left it to Otávio, who sent Toni Martinez through on goal. The spaniard didn’t finish it well this time, as he went for full power and hit it straight at Andrew. He should have passed it back inside to Otávio for an easy finish.

After that however, Porto just seemed to shutdown and almost allowed Gil Vicente back into the game. Pedro Tiba hit a thunderous shot outside the box on the 61st minute, but the ball went just a whisker too high. Diogo Costa would have had no chance. On the 74th minute, a nice cross from the right found Fran Navarro inside the penalty box for a free header, but he hit it straight at Diogo Costa. Porto were let off the hook there – a Gil Vicente goal with 15mins to go would have changed the whole complexity of the game.

Sérgio finally made his first subs after that, sending on Gabriel Veron and Evanilson for Toni Martinez and Mehdi Taremi on the 75th minute. Porto switched to a 4x2x3x1, with Veron and Galeno on the wings, and Otávio playing behind Evanilson. Gonçalo Borges and Danny Loader were about to come in on the 82nd minute, but João Mário came on instead to replace an injured Pepê (didn’t look serious) and Gonçalo replaced Galeno (looked tired by that point). Still time for Loader to get a few minutes at the end, in place of Otávio.

Not Pepê’s most inspired performance last night, but he was competent.

This was a good win to alleviate the dark cloud that had set over this team after last week’s loss. The new game plan and strong individual performances sets the team well for this run of 5 games in 15 days. Next up is Atlético Madrid away, in the first match of the Champions League group stage (you can read my initial thoughts here). It is key to start off on the right foot, in what will be our toughest match so far this season.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (4), Pepê (3), Pepe (3), D Carmo (3), Wendell (3), Otávio (3), Uribe (4), Eustáquio (4), Galeno (3), Taremi (4), T Martinez (3); Veron (2), Evanilson (2), G Borges, J Mário & D Loader (n/a).

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