Portuguese League: Sporting CP-FC Porto (Key Takeaways)

Sporting CP 1-2 FC Porto (Estádio José Alvalade), 12 February 2023 – key takeaways below

Line-up (4x4x2): Diogo Costa, João Mário, Pepe, Marcano, Zaidu; Grujic, Uribe, André Franco, Galeno; Pepê, Taremi

Also played: David Carmo, Manafá, Eustáquio and Toni Martinez.

Huge win! This match was not always easy on the eye and had some stretches of bad football. But it was extremely intense from start to finish. Porto were the better team and deserved to win. We had three clear cut chances and scored twice. Sporting had a bunch of half chances and only managed a goal at the end. The score reflects what happened on the pitch – Sporting were a formidable opponent, but Porto were better.

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

Key Takeaways

  • Porto lined-up in a sort of hybrid 4-4-2 / 5-3-2; Pepê was essentially positionless, supporting Taremi but also appearing on either wing. Galeno had a dual role of giving us width down the left flank, but also dropping deep to play left wing-back whenever Sporting were on the ball. Zaidu was more left central defender than full-back. João Mário had the whole flank for himself, whilst Franco would generally stay back and help move the ball. Uribe had a lot of freedom to go forward, whilst Grujic mostly sat back.
  • Sérgio surprised me with the inclusion of André Franco in the starting line-up. I guess it was a reward for scoring the winning goal against Vizeu (and having a pretty decent game overall). But I don’t think he’s suited for the ‘Otávio-role’ – he is miles away from Otávio in terms of work rate and aggression in midfield.
  • Sporting were much better in the opening 15-20mins, having more of the ball and creating a few decent chances. They were loading up the left side with Trincão, Fatawu and Pedro Gonçalves often creating superiority vs João Mário and Franco. Grujic would mostly stay central, as would Uribe, so we often had 2 men marking Ugarte and no one was chasing Pedro Gonçalves.
  • Grujic adjusted and Porto had managed to stabilise the midfield around the hour mark. We were then aided further by Ruben Amorim bizarrely replacing Trincão with Paulinho. I really didn’t understand this one. It played right into the hands of Porto’s defenders, as Sporting’s offense lost a lot of its ability to run into space and create double-teams.

    EDIT: I’ve read since that Trincão went off due to injury. Fair enough, but then bring on Nuno Santos or even Arthur Gomes, so you can keep the shape of the offense.
Trincão coming off in the first-half was a negative for Sporting’s offense.
  • Despite some issues to keep the ball on offense, Porto could have made it 1-0 just before the break. Taremi first (hit the bar) and then Marcano on the rebound (missed an open net header) should have scored. However, a draw was the correct score going into half-time.
  • No changes from Porto after the break, whilst Amorim corrected one of his earlier mistakes, bringing on Nuno Santos and replacing Fatawu (this ‘surprise’ didn’t really work). Porto started the second-half with the upper hand, dominating possession and looking more threatening. This might have been the catalyst for Amorim to replace Bellerin (who had started to struggle with Galeno a bit more) with Esgaio, but I thought that was mistake #3. He wasted a substitution.
  • Soon after that, Uribe made it 1-0. Galeno passed it inside from the left to Grujic who served Uribe at the edge of the box. He got lucky with the rebound and went past Gonçalo Inácio, to make it 1-0. Excellent finish. I thought the game pretty much ended there, because Porto just sat back and defended, whilst Sporting tried to get close, but didn’t do a lot.
Uribe played a great game last night and was my man of the match.
  • I didn’t like how much we defended though, we basically gave up playing and built a wall in front of the goal. Even if you’re confident the opponent’s offense is not better than your defence, you shouldn’t make it so easy. All that is needed is for a loose rebound to go against you and you concede a goal (see Chermiti’s equaliser that was disallowed for a marginal offside).
  • There was still time for Pepê to make it 2-0 near the end, and for Chermiti to pull one back on the last minute of the game. I thought 2-1 was a fair result – Sporting deserved to get a goal, but we deserved to win.
  • It was concerning to see Galeno come off injured. He seemed distraught on the bench. Added to Wendell, Fábio Cardoso, Otávio, Veron and Evanilson, we currently have a bunch of players out due to injury. It’s very problematic, especially when the first leg of the tie against Inter Milan is just around the corner.
I prefer not to talk about referees, but I have to give credit where credit is due – Artur Soares Dias was in complete control of this game and didn’t make any big mistakes. A nice change, given the recent Porto-Sporting matches have been mired in refereeing controversy.

Onto Rio Ave. They beat us away from home in categorical fashion at the beginning of the season (see post match review here), so there is a score to settle there. It could be a good idea to give a run to guys like Bernardo Folha, Loader or Gonçalo Borges. We need everyone to be match fit, given all of the current injuries.

Match ratings (1-5):

Diogo Costa (4), J Mário (3), Pepe (3), Marcano (3), Zaidu (3), Grujic (3), Uribe (4), A Franco (2), Pepê (4), Galeno (3), Taremi (2).
Eustáquio (3), T Martinez (3), Manafá & D Carmo (n/a).

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