- Copy link
FC Barcelona have taken a monster step in the right direction of the last sixteen of the Champions League with a 1-0 win at the home of what, at least on paper, is the biggest threat in Group H.
And FC Porto certainly showed why that is. The Portuguese side gave Barça one of the toughest tests of the season so far, dominating several phases in which the Catalans were frequently pegged back in their own half, with their defenders often seeing a lot more of the ball than the forwards.
But it’s all about putting the ball in the back of the net, and in this case just once was enough. Ferran Torres did what the Barça backline made sure nobody wearing blue and white could do too, and the upshot of it all is that the blaugrana are sitting pretty at the top of the table with two wins out of two.
Also, while the Estádio do Dragão already had its place in Barça folklore as the place where Leo Messi made his first team debut, it now has another motive to be dear in Culer hearts. It was here that Yamal Lamine became the youngest person ever to start a game in the Champions League, although he failed to complete the game with what appears to have been a stomach upset.
Barça scored at what the experts say is the perfect time, on the stroke of half-time.
İlkay Gündoğan latched onto a howler from Romário Baró and threaded the most exquisite of passes to Torres, who did an equally elegant job finishing off the move.
Until then, it was hard to say which side was on top. Barça, and despite the loss of Robert Lewandowski to a shin problem, were creating plenty of chances, with João Félix particularly active.
Porto were defending well. And in a fast-moving, end-to-end encounter, they were attacking well too. Their crosses into the box were giving Barça plenty to worry about at the back. It was the kind of game that could go either way, making it all the more of a relief when Torres finally edged Barça into the lead.
Suffering but surviving
But Porto refused to be subdued. The bulk of the second half was played with the home side on the front foot. Had it not been for an extraordinary last-ditch tackle from Jules Kounde, as well as the gloves of Ter Stegen on multiple occasions, Porto could have been right back in it.
Not to mention a couple of very close penalty calls that fortunately went Barça’s way, as well as a stunning overhead kick from Mehdi Taremi that would have been a candidate for goal of the season had it not been offside.
Barça were living dangerously, and also had to see out the final minutes a man down after Gavi was yellow carded for the second time.
Shakthar win in Belgium
Ultimately, rather than a brilliant all-round performance, it was more of a defensive masterclass from FC Barcelona. But it got Xavi what he wanted from his 100th game in charge. Three more points are flying back to Catalonia, and the next challenge will be Shakhtar Donetsk at the Estadi Olímpic on October 25.
Earlier in the evening, the Ukrainians had come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at the home of Royal Antwerp in the other game in the group.
- Copy link