Winner goes atop group H for the time being.
Enough said, let’s see how Barca fared.
The first half was mostly….cagey for Barca.
Porto came out knowing that Barca were going to control most of possession. But they weren’t going to let Barca be comfortable while having possession.
What Porto did was blitz Barca with a bit of a high press. Usually you don’t see teams do that, since Barca normally has the players capable of beating high presses or their distinct passing structure helps them combat these situations.
But that wasn’t the case, as the usual tempo controllers in Pedri and Frenkie De Jong are both out, so now you’re left with a midfield with talent yes, but one that’= lacks the superior press beating talent both Pedri and De Jong have.
As a result, Barca really struggled to find and create space in the middle of the field, leaving them to pass the ball around or rely on flank play to give them a threat going forward. This method really helped Porto control Barca’s progressiveness, but it also led to some turnovers, which led to some transitional opportunities for Porto.
Eventually, these transitional periods led to some chances for Porto. But fortunately for Barca, these were missed and put to the wayside.
As the first half was winding down, it seemed like Barca would need to dig deep to find a goal.
Or maybe even get a bit lucky. And that’s exactly what happened as we approached halftime.
Ferran Torres scores an important goal
In the end, it was a poor own half error from Porto, of which led to Barca regaining possession in Porto’s half with loads of space. Ilkay Gundogan was the one who pounced on the mistake first, then he laid a beautifully weighted ball to Ferran Torres, who had came on earlier in the half due to a Robert Lewandowski injury.
Ferran then skipped the ball ahead, took his time, then slid a left footed finish just past the outstretched foot of Diogo Costa and into the back of the net.
It was a gorgeous finish from Torres and a very timely one too. Barca looked sluggish and clanky on the ball, thus leading to virtually zero chances in the first 45 minutes. But Torres came to the resuce and gave Barca a much need lift going into halftime.
Supersubs, you gotta love them.
This goal led to halftime, as Barca held a undeserved 1-0 lead. They needed to be much better in the second half, if they wanted to walk out of Porto with a tough win. So how did Barca do in the second half?
Well, let’s just say there was some controversy.
The second half was more of the same for Barca, without the goal that is.
Porto made life difficult for Barca on the ball, as well as whenever Barca found the ball in Porto’s final third. Porto also continued their transitional game, ultimately finding more chances, but failing to convert on any of them.
As we got to the 77th minute, there was a moment of pause for Barca. Joao Cancelo was whistled for handball in Barca’s penalty area and at that moment, all seemed kind of lost.
But VAR came to the rescue of Barca again, as referee Anthony Taylor ruled that a Porto attacker played the ball off his own arm before Cancelo’s eventual handball. On replay, it looked like the Porto attacker played it off his shoulder/kit sleeve area, which by rule is acceptable. But apparently the VAR referee saw it differently, so the penalty was wiped off.
After this, Barca continued their cagey battle, with it going down to the final whistle.
There was some additional worry in second half stoppage time, as Gavi was sent off after picking up his second yellow card. A foolish error by Gavi, but one Barca hopes he learns from nonetheless.
The game then proceeded, only for Barca to eventually win via a 1-0 war.
Sweaty, sweaty moments there.
That was an uncomfortable match.
Barca struggled to progress through the middle of the field due to Porto’s overwhelming number advantage and intensity. Which led to an reliance on wing play. Barca created chances there too, but it just felt clunky and sloppy.
No middle field positivity was mostly due to the fact that Barca opted not to combat with a numbers advantage. They’ve done this was inverting Cancelo and working him as more of an additional midfielder. But Xavi opted against that, probably due to the fact that Porto’s transitional game would’ve found a lot more success due to the lack of set numbers in Barca’s backline.
Which would’ve been a disaster if it came to be.
Either way, this is the type of game that you’re going to have to accept, simply because Barca doesn’t have the midfield talent available — Pedri and Frenkie De Jong out due to injury — to combat these types of setups.
Onward and upward
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Sunday night away against Granada.
See you all then!