Champions League: Bayer Leverkusen-FC Porto (Key Takeaways)

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0-3 FC Porto (BayArena), 12 October 2022 – key takeaways below

Line-up (4x4x2): Diogo Costa, João Mário, Fábio Cardoso, David Carmo, Zaidu; Uribe, Eustáquio, Otávio, Galeno; Pepê, Taremi

Also played: Bernardo Folha, Gonçalo Borges, Danny Loader, Evanilson and Toni Martinez.

A super important win last night! Coming into this fixture, Bruges were first with 9pts and all the other teams had 3pts. Just before kick-off, we learned Bruges managed a 0-0 draw in Madrid, which guarantees they will qualify out of this group (against all odds!). This made it even more pressing for Porto to win this game. It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.

This was only the 4th time Porto has ever won a match in Germany for European competitions. It really showed, because this was an incredibly difficult match. I’ve described some of our past wins this season as ‘flattering’ – they were nothing like this one. I’ve noted this as part of my key takeaways below:

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

Key Takeaways

  • Sérgio made three changes to the team that won in Portimão on the weekend, with Zaidu and João Mário returning to the line-up (not surprised), and Galeno replacing Evanilson (this one I didn’t expect). I would have kept Wendell in the line-up, he’s earned it following recent performances.
  • Xabi Alonso also made a few changes to their line-up, setting the team up in a 3x4x2x1. That worked quite well, especially down their left side with Bakker and Odoi often managing to double-team João Mário and create a lot of issues for our defence. Diaby on the other side played quite well and was really dangerous throughout. Hopefully they can beat Atlético in two weeks to help us qualify.
Diaby was their best player and created a lot of issues for our defenders.
  • Overall, I thought this was a pretty poor performance. Bayer completely dominated and, quite frankly, should have won this game by two goals. We have to thank Diogo Costa for his heroics in goal and, for once, our extreme efficiency to score 3 goals in the 3 chances we had.
  • I often feel like Porto, and Portuguese teams in general, tend to be unlucky in European competitions (or perhaps incompetent is the right word). They often dominate games and create a bunch of chances, but then fail to convert them and lose. Last night it was the exact opposite – Porto got every advantage possible:
    • Got an early goal (beautiful pass from Diogo Costa and fantastic run and finish by Galeno)
    • Demirbay missed a penalty soon after (Diogo Costa came through once more)
    • They had a goal disallowed for handball just before the break (good decision)
    • Bayer missed a flurry of clear cut chances through the match
    • We got two penalties (one soft, one clear) in the space of 10mins to put the game beyond reach
  • Galeno takes my vote for man of the match, given he scored and won the two penalties. I thought the first one was very soft – I was surprised VAR didn’t over turn it. I don’t know if that was possible, given the initial call was a foul outside of the box and VAR was only asked to confirm if it happened inside or outside. The second penalty was clear, nice run from him. He worked extremely hard for the team as well.
  • Diogo Costa is a very close second. He was an absolute monster in goal, saving another penalty and made a few more good saves throughout. He is radiating confidence right now and is elevating the level of our defence. He is the kind of goalkeeper that can win you games. I’m getting increasingly more concerned about someone signing him in January.
Diogo Costa saved yet another penalty against Bayer.
  • Uribe has been one of our best players this season, but he was awful yesterday. Lots of giveaways (especially in the first-half) and an incredibly stupid penalty. Luckily Diogo was there again to save it. He never managed to assert himself in midfield, and Eustáquio followed suit.
  • Taremi scored twice from the spot (credit to him for that, it’s not easy), but I didn’t think he had a great game overall. Pepê was terrible yesterday – I continue to struggle with the notion of playing him through the middle. Why not move him to the right-wing and have Otávio play as #10? He would have helped us keep possession better.
  • I would have liked if Sérgio had made some subs earlier than the 85th minute. After the 3-0, it was a great opportunity to give some minutes to other players, because the game was over. It was nice to give Bernardo Folha his Champions League debut though. I hear he’s been playing really well for our B-team since last year.
  • The centre-back duo was solid. Fábio Cardoso in particular, played an absolute blinder. David Carmo was shaky a couple of times when he was under pressure, but he didn’t make any big mistakes. At this stage, that’s enough for me.
Taremi with a brace from the penalty spot sealed the win in the second-half.

Onto Anadia on Sunday night for the Portuguese Cup – this should be an easy win and I expect a lot of back-ups (like Grujic, Veron, Loader or Toni Martinez) to get a start. Next up will be Benfica at home next Friday. That game will be absolutely key to determine whether we are true contenders, or if we’re just pretenders. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result, but a win (which would also be Benfica’s first loss of the season), would be a huge momentum shifter. Let’s hope for that.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (5), J Mário (2), F Cardoso (4), D Carmo (3), Zaidu (3), Uribe (2), Eustáquio (2), Otávio (3), Galeno (5), Pepê (2), Taremi (3).
Evanilson (3), B Folha, G Borges, D Loader & T Martinez (n/a).

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