Portuguese League: FC Porto-SC Braga (Match Report)

FC Porto 4-1 SC Braga (Estádio do Dragão), 30 September 2022 – match report below

Line-up (4x3x3): Diogo Costa, Rodrigo Conceição, Pepe, David Carmo, Wendell; Uribe, Eustáquio, Bruno Costa; Pepê, Taremi, Evanilson

Also played: Zaidu, Grujic, Otávio, Galeno and Veron.

We’re back in business! After a series of bad results leading into the 2 week break, Porto really needed to win last night – it didn’t matter how, they just needed a win. And they got one. A convincing one at that. Porto weren’t as dominant as the final score may suggest, but they were the better team overall and deserved to win.

The final score was 4-1 and it could have been more based on the amount of clear cut chances that were missed in the last 15mins. However, taking into account how the game went up to the point where Matheus got sent off, the result is a little flattering. It reminded me of the game against Marítimo to start the season (you can read about that here). Porto weren’t 3 goals better than Braga, but were very efficient when it mattered and the opponent wasn’t .

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 positives and the negatives from this match. Starting with the positives:

  • Taremi was under pressure coming into this game. There’s the media campaign against him and also the volatile situation in his home country. Despite that, this was one of his best games for Porto in a while. He didn’t score, but was directly involved in the first three goals (including an exquisite assist for the 3rd goal). He gave the team exactly what it needed – a link between midfield and offense.
  • Pepê takes my (narrow) vote for man of the match though, with a goal and an assist. I wish he was allowed to play like this more often. When he’s not shackled to the centre of the pitch and has space to run at defenders down the wing, he can be really dangerous.
  • I was a little wary of the line-up and formation when it was first announced. But we actually saw a slightly different approach to the midfield diamond. It looked more like a awkwardly shaped 4x3x3 for the majority of the match. Something like the below. It allowed Porto to win most second balls in midfield in the first-half, whilst giving Pepê and Taremi freedom to roam and also allow Eustáquio to make deep runs into the box.
Sérgio threw in a new tactical wrinkle, which worked reasonably well.
  • I might get criticised for this, but I quite like Rodrigo Conceição. He’s not a great defender, but he works so hard for every ball. He attacks well and will run the length of the pitch for as long as he’s got the legs. For me, he’s ahead of João Mário in the pecking order at the moment. Wendell also played a clean game – he should be ahead of Zaidu right now.
  • Bruno Costa was competent throughout. I still don’t think he really adds much to the team, but I can’t really pinpoint any major issues with this performance last night. Evanilson played well in his role as the focal point of the offense. Uribe was everywhere in midfield, I’m glad he recovered on time for this one.
  • Galeno got another goal off the bench. He’s been directly involved in 5 goals in all League games this season, always coming off the bench. Otávio looked fit (unlike against Brugge), which bodes well for the upcoming Champions League encounter against Bayer Leverkusen (a must win).
Pepê takes my vote for man of the match. Very good all-around performance from him.

Not a lot to say on the negatives, but a couple of things stood out to me:

  • I thought Sérgio was a little slow to make changes, especially after Braga’s strong start and goal to open the second-half. Artur Jorge made 3 changes at half-time, which were all impactful. In particular, bringing on Racic allowed them to take control of the midfield. Grujic should have come on a lot sooner – we needed some physicality in midfield. Galeno should have also come on sooner once Braga switched to a back 3.
  • Unfortunately, David Carmo continues to underwhelm. He just looks nervous all the time and makes rash decisions (a silly yellow card and also a couple of giveaways due to bad passes). I don’t imagine he will get benched anytime soon (20m€ investment), but I’d be more comfortable with Fábio Cardoso right now.
I’ve not been impressed by David Carmo since he moved into the starting line-up.

Match Report

Sérgio made 3 changes to line-up that played at Estoril a couple of weeks ago. Promoting the returns of Pepe (he was out with an injury), Wendell (feels more reliable than Zaidu at the moment) and Bruno Costa (hadn’t started since the debacle at Rio Ave). I was concerned about the return of the midfield diamond, but that wasn’t the case (see the graphic above).

Porto came out with some renewed level of aggression and were suffocating Braga – dominating the midfield and winning most of the second balls. One of those could have resulted in the opening goal on the 11th minute; Bruno Costa had the chance to send either Evanilson or Taremi clean through on goal, but made a bad pass.

Braga started to get a bit more possession after the opening 15 minutes, but it was Porto that could have scored on the 21st minute; after a nice link-up play on the left, Eustáquio found Wendell deep into Braga’s territory. He whipped in a really good cross to the 6-yard box, but Evanilson narrowly missed it. This is the kind of play that Zaidu is incapable of making.

Porto continued to have the upper hand and opened the score on the 31st minute. On the counter-attack, a nice backheel from Evanilson found Pepê, who chested it down and lobbed it forward to Taremi running in behind the defense. He managed to withstand contact from Fabiano, but lost shooting angle as Matheus rushed out of goal. Taremi smartly turned back and passed it to Eustáquio on the edge of the box. He lobbed it to the far post for Evanilson to tap it in for the 1-0.

The second goal followed shortly after. On the 33rd minute, Taremi cut out a bad pass from Vitinha and found Pepê behind the defence. Pepê carried the ball all the way inside the box and, as Matheus rushed out of goal, he passed it right to Eustáquio. It wasn’t a great pass but the Canadian controlled it very well and finished it calmly for the 2-0.

Braga almost got a goal before the break. A through ball from André Horta found Iuri Medeiros running behind the defence. David Carmo had it under control, but Diogo Costa rushed out of goal and Carmo stopped running. But Diogo was too late to get there and Iuri got to the ball first. He had an open net, but from a tough angle he hit it wide.

On the 45th minute, Porto could have made it 3-0. Rodrigo Conceição with a nice run on the right flank, crossed it to Taremi on the far post. He squared it to Bruno Costa inside the box, who hit first time with his left foot. But the ball went straight at Matheus who made a good save. The referee blew his whilst shortly after.

Eustáquio with a goal (his first in 2 years) and an assist in the first-half.

Porto came out with the same line-up in the second-half (as expected), whilst Braga made 3 changes during the break (not unexpected). These had immediate impact on the game, as Braga retched up their level of pressure in midfield. Ricardo Horta almost scored on the 52nd minute, but his long range shot rattled against the crossbar.

Just a couple of minutes later though, Braga made it 2-1. Porto lost the ball on the counter-attack (led by Uribe), which left a lot of space behind for Braga to operate. Ricardo Horta found Victor Gomez (one of the substitutes) on the right side of the box and he crossed it to the 6 yard box for Abel Ruiz. Pepe saw it coming and tried to clear it, but scored an own goal instead.

Braga’s pressure waned after their goal and allowed Porto to get back into the game. On the 62nd minute, Porto made it 3-1. Rodrigo found Taremi inside the box, he nutmegged Tormena beautifully and, as Matheus rushed out of goal, he passed it left to Pepê who tapped it in with an open net. A really important goal. Shortly after, Bruno Costa made way for Otávio.

On the 72nd minute, Grujic and Galeno came on for Evanilson and Rodrigo Conceição (he looked spent). The sort of hybrid 4x3x3 continued, as Galeno played on the left and Pepê dropped to right-back. Grujic slotted into the midfield trio with Uribe and Eustáquio, and Otávio played on the right.

Porto were in control and could have made it 4-1 on the 80th minute. Galeno was sent through on goal by Taremi. He carried the ball too far instead of shooting it earlier, allowing Victor Gomez to catch-up. As Galeno started feeling the pressure from the defender, he rushed the his shot and it went wide. A couple of minutes later, from a corner, Galeno found David Carmo on the far post but he headed it against the post.

Porto were now in complete control and on the 83rd minute, Eustáquio sent Taremi through on goal and he was brought down by Matheus. The Brazilian goalkeeper was rightly sent off and Braga were down to 10-men for the last 10 minutes of the match. Sérgio made his last two substitutions, bringing on Zaidu for Wendell (he was exhausted) and Veron for Eustáquio.

There was a barrage of goal scoring chances in the ensuing 8 minutes, as Taremi (89th minute), Zaidu (92nd minute) and Carmo (93rd minute) all missed clear cut chances. But there was still time for the fourth goal on the 95th minute. A nice one-two between Otávio and Veron, found the winger inside the box in a good position. His shot was saved, but the rebounded landed at the feet of Galeno, who tapped it in to make it 4-1. The match ended soon after that.

Galeno got his third goal of the season, again coming off the bench.

This was a hugely important win; Braga is a direct rival and were 3pts ahead in the standings. Porto were coming off a run of poor results and a crucial Champions League match is just around the corner. I would be very concerned for the future of this team if yesterday’s result had been anything less than a win.

Bayer Leverkusen travel to Porto on Tuesday for the 3rd matchday of the Champions League group stage. They beat Atlético Madrid at home in the second match, following a defeat at Brugge. But internally, they have been awful. They sit in 16th place in the Bundesliga and are coming off a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Bayern München.

This is Porto’s last chance to mount a comeback in group B. A win is an absolute necessity. This is going to be a very tough game, despite Leverkusen’s current run of form. We always seem to struggle against German teams, due to their superior physicality and intensity. It’s not how I would play, but I expect the following starting line-up: Diogo Costa, J Mário, Pepe, D Carmo, Zaidu, Uribe, Eustáquio, B Costa, Pepê, Taremi and Evanilson.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (2), R Conceição (3), Pepe (3), D Carmo (2), Wendell (3), Uribe (4), Eustáquio (4), B Costa (3), Pepê (4), Taremi (4), Evanilson (3).
Otávio (3), Galeno (3), Grujic (2), Zaidu & Veron (n/a).

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