Champions League: FC Porto-Atletico Madrid (Key Takeaways)

FC Porto 2-1 Atlético de Madrid (Estádio do Dragão), 1 November 2022 – key takeaways below

Line-up (4x4x2): Diogo Costa, Pepê, Fábio Cardoso, Marcano, Zaidu; Grujic, Eustáquio, Otávio, Galeno; Evanilson, Taremi

Also played: Rodrigo Conceição, Wendell, Bernardo Folha, Gonçalo Borges and Toni Martinez.

Revenge complete! After Atlético knocked us out of the Champions League last season and beat us (undeservedly) on the 97th minute of the opening match of the group stage, we had a very large score to settle. Not only did we win, but we also knocked them out of European competitions altogether and finished in first place in group B. Couldn’t have scripted it any better.

The score doesn’t show it, because it looks like it may have been a close game. But in reality, Porto absolutely dominated Atlético and the final score should have been something like 4-1. It was a combination of a poor Atlético, but, more importantly, a very good Porto. Hopefully this is a performance that galvanises the team for the games to come before the break.

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

Key Takeaways

  • After losing the first two games, few people expected us to qualify, let alone finish in first place. I was one of those people. But full credit to the players and the coaching staff. Very rarely does a Portuguese team manage to win their Champions League group. It’s a great achievement!
  • As I mentioned above, I thought Porto played one of their best games of the season. It’s really amazing to me how we can absolutely dominate Bruges and Atlético, but then concede bad draws against Santa Clara or Estoril. It’s almost like a different set of players are out there in Champions League games.
  • The first-half was some of the best Champions League football we’ve seen under Sérgio’s stewardship. We should have gone to the break winning by at least 3 goals. The second-half was a little disjointed at times, and we allowed Atlético to kind of comeback into the game a bit. But I understand – it’s hard to play so many high intensity games in such a short amount of time.
  • It’s hard to tell who the man of the match was given there was no true stand-out performer. There were lots of good individual performances. But if I have to pick one, I’ll go with Taremi. He scored a goal and was, again, instrumental in the build-up of the offense, serving as the link between midfield and attack.
Taremi scored his 5th goal in the Champions League this season.
  • I also have to give credit to Galeno for another assist. He should have done a lot better with his first-half chance though. But his willingness to run on and off the ball really helps with stretching the defence and he also provides a lot of defensive support. I saw him mostly as an off the bench kind of player, to run at tired defenders, but he has been one of our top players in the last month.
  • He will not show up in the highlights, but I thought Grujic was sensational. He owned that midfield, especially in the first-half. His presence allowed Eustáquio to play almost in line with Otávio and Galeno, to press really high up the pitch. I don’t know why he doesn’t play more.
  • I’m glad Eustáquio got another goal. After the inexcusable sending off against Benfica, he has bounced back with two goals in two consecutive Champions League games. He’s earned his place in the starting line-up. Whilst I’d like to see Grujic get more minutes, it should be at the expense of Bruno Costa and not of Eustáquio.
Eustáquio has redeemed himself since the sending off against Benfica.
  • Pepê was also really good at right-back, especially defensively. It’s quite surprising to me how far he’s come on that front. From a liability to a fairly safe option at that position. I would still like to see him play further up the pitch, but I guess Sérgio feels he’s our best option at right-back at the moment.
  • Diogo Costa didn’t save a penalty last night, but he was again very good in goal. He didn’t make any splashy saves, but when called upon, he was there. It’s a shame for that own goal, because he deserved a clean sheet. Speaking of which, I actually thought Marcano had a very solid game – no worse than David Carmo. But that own goal was pretty bad. I will say though, in terms of passing ability, he’s probably our best centre-back.
  • One thing to note is that Atlético were really poor. If not for Oblak, this would have been ugly. They showed a bit of fight in the second-half, but in the first-half they were awful – no aggression, no pressing, no intensity. It didn’t look like a Simeone-led team. I think his time is up, the squad appears to be tuning him out. I heavily criticised their negative football after the last game (you can read about that here), so a change in leadership could be a good thing.

As I was just about to post this, I saw the final scores in the other groups. So Porto can draw the following opponents in the knock-out stages: Liverpool, Inter Milan, Frankfurt, AC Milan, Leipzig, Dortmund and PSG. Other than the first and last of that list, I think we can beat anyone.

My preference would be Frankfurt; on paper, Dortmund and Leipzig could be the next ‘easier’ opponents, but I would actually prefer either of the Milan teams. The draw is taking place on Monday, so I’ll comment on it as part of the post-match against Mafra.

Onto Paços de Ferreira on Saturday (6pm kick-off), a must win game after dropping points in Açores last weekend. Uribe and David Carmo are back, so I expect they will start. Zaidu left the game injured, so Wendell is likely to start as well. We may also see Toni Martinez get a game, after Evanilson’s okay performance.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (3), Pepê (4), F Cardoso (3), Marcano (3), Zaidu (3), Grujic (4), Eustáquio (3), Otávio (3), Galeno (4), Taremi (4), Evanilson (3).
Wendell (3), T Martinez (3), R Conceição, B Folha & G Borges (n/a).

PS: you will note that I haven’t written about the draw against Santa Clara. I was away for the weekend and didn’t have a chance to watch the replay. Given it’s a little old news now, I’ll probably not write about it. But from the bits I’ve seen and read, it wasn’t hugely surprising. An early goal led to a progressive decrease in intensity, culminating in conceding the equaliser near the end. Unfortunately, it’s been the story of some of our away games – an inexplicable lack of focus and winning mindset. It can’t happen again; Benfica have already built an 8 point lead and are cruising towards victory. We have to win out until the end of the season, if we want to have a chance at winning the League. It’s looking increasingly harder to see us coming back.

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