Paulo Fonseca’s reputation soars; Benfica embarrassed; another Ronaldo record

FC Porto confidently strode into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 5-2 hammering of Monaco at the Estádio do Dragão last night. As has often been the case this season, striker Vincent Aboubakar was the catalyst behind an impressive display.

Elsewhere, Paulo Fonseca closed out a sensational group phase by his Shakhtar Donetsk team by becoming the first coach to get the better of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side this season, winning 2-1 in Ukraine. Fonseca had said that should his team qualify for the knockout stage he would give his post-match press conference dressed in a Zorro outfit… and was as good as his word!

Cristiano Ronaldo may be struggling for form domestically, but in the Champions League he is unstoppable, scoring a brilliant goal against Dortmund to set a new record as the only player to hit the net in each of the six group games.


Porto 5-2 Monaco

Given how each team performed last season, when the Champions League group stage draw was made Porto fans could have been forgiven for viewing their meetings with Leonardo Jardim’s team with some trepidation. However, the Dragons followed up their excellent 3-0 win in the principality in September with an equally comprehensive victory last night to seal second spot in Group G.

Vincent Aboubakar made it five goals in five CL matches in 2017/18 with a first-half double, while Yacine Brahimi and Alex Telles crowned fine individual displays with a goal apiece, and late substitute Tiquinho Soares scored Porto’s fifth. A second-string Monaco managed to score two goals in the second half, the second of which was headed in by former Porto favourite Radamel Falcao, and which was warmly applauded by the home supporters, but Porto’s victory was never in doubt. The match was ten vs. ten for almost one hour after Porto centre-back Felipe and Monaco’s Rachid Ghezzal were sent off after getting into an ugly tussle in the first half.

“We’re the only Portuguese team into the last 16. Very few people believed we would do what we’ve done in this competition. Our first goal was to get through the group phase, now we can dream,” said Porto coach Sérgio Conceição.

Benfica embarrassed, Sporting fall at Camp Nou

On Tuesday night Portugal’s other two clubs in this season’s Champions League waved goodbye to the competition, albeit in very different circumstances. Sporting were unable to counter the favouritism of Barcelona, losing to two second-half goals in Spain, but overall Jorge Jesus’s side gave a good account of themselves in a group containing the Spanish giants and Juventus – two teams with legitimate ambitions of winning the tournament – and Olympiakos. The Lions accumulated 7 points to book their place in the Europa League and will be a seeded team in Monday’s draw.

Benfica’s disastrous Champions League campaign came to an inglorious end with a 2-0 defeat in Lisbon against Basel. The Eagles lost all six of their matches, scoring just one goal and conceding 14 in the process – the worst ever record by a Portuguese club in the competition. “Our adversaries were not that much superior to us,” claimed Benfica coach Rui Vitória, but the numbers suggest otherwise and if the 4-time Liga NOS champions fail to react domestically, the manager’s position will start to come under intense scrutiny.

Shakhtar tame City

Few gave Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk much of a chance when they were drawn in the same group as Manchester City and Napoli, but a brilliant group phase, including two victories against what many say are currently the strongest sides in England and Italy, saw the Ukrainian team qualify with ease, accumulating 12 points from their 6 matches, double the number of 3rd-placed Napoli.

Fonseca had promised back in November that he would appear in the press conference in a Zorro outfit following his last match if Shakhtar got through, and the former Paços, Porto and Braga coach duly donned a black mask, cape and hat when facing the journalists after a 2-1 victory. “Do you want me to speak with or without my mask,” quipped Fonseca, before saying: “I think not only the Shakhtar supporters, but all Ukrainians should be proud of this team. Getting 12 points in this group is fantastic.”

Ronaldo sets another record

Cristiano Ronaldo has had an unusually barren spell so far this season in La Liga, but it’s been very much ‘business as usual’ in the Champions League. Early in yesterday’s match at home to Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu Ronaldo called for the ball on the corner of the 18-yard-box, received the pass, cut inside and struck a delicious shot into the far top corner. It was Ronaldo’s 9th goal in this season’s competition and makes him the first player to score in all six group games in Champions League history. Save some of those for Russia Ron…

By Tom Kundert your social media marketing partner

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well done to Porto for qualifying from their tricky group, especially after making such a bad start in their first game. At least we will have one Portuguese representative in the KO stages (even if it is our bitter rivals lol!). Sporting did quite well to flirt with qualification from such a tough group, and then at least ensure a Europa league spot (the very bare minimum each of our top 3 must ensure each season). Good luck to both of them!

    As for my SLB, one word: VERGONHA!!!! Absolutely no excuses whatsoever for getting 0 points in that group (in any group at all for that matter) for a club like Benfica, who have so much history in the competition. One thing is losing home and away to Man United, but to lose at home to both CSKA and Basel is just pitiful.

    I've made it crystal clear on this sight for years now regarding my opinion on the club president and his sell, sell, sell policy, but I also think Rui Vitoria takes a lot of the blame for this catastrophic European campaign (surely the worst in the club's history). Yes this is definitely the weakest Benfica squad this decade, but it's still not that weak a squad to get 0 points. Player for player, we have a stronger squad than both Basel and CSKA, without any doubt, so to finish 12 and 9 points behind them is simply inexcusable. And that's down to the coach in the end. Last night we were absolutely obliged to finish this miserable campaign on a high with a win in front of our own fans. Vitoria should have played our strongest team to make sure we got the win. Instead he tinkered with the team and paid for it.

    For me, Rui Vitoria has to win the Liga now this season to make up for this disaster in Europe. He has no excuses now, we're only 3 points off top spot and we will have only one game a week now until May (we can play the B team in both domestic cups for all I care!). I still think we can win the Liga, but there has to be a major and quick improvement in the way the team has been playing, and I also think we need at least two quality reinforcements in January. All is not lost yet for this season and I always prefer to be optimistic.

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  • To be fair both performances against Man Utd deserved better than the results but losing to Basel/CSKA was poor.

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  • 1 blatant penalty denied Porto then 1 given to Monaco for the ball hitting Marcano's armpit. Jose Sa's suicidal keeping costing the second goal but classy response by the crown to applaud Falcao. Ok so Porto scored 5 and could have had more but poor performance by the refs team. The red cards could have been a final warning instead also.
    Good work by Aboubakar and Marcano looked better than he has done recently. Herrera was up and down but always working. If they get a good draw progression is possible.

    Saw the second half and thought Sporting did well. Barcelona were bereft of ideas/impetus until Messi came on. Andre Gomes – what has happened? Sporting were well organised (though sat a little deep at times) and for me Bruno Fernandes looked at home on that pitch and wasn’t outclassed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barca made a bid for him in summer. Lovely cross for Dost’s miss.
    I was hoping Sporting would go through and wish them well in the Europa. Enjoy those Thursday nights!

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Ah Peppy G.

    If there ever was a trust fund baby version of managers, he would be it. Handed the best Barcelona side ever (and possibly the best team of all time) then he had to struggle with a polished and already done squad made by Jupp Heynckes (to which Pep just rode the wagon to victory).

    THEN in what can only be referred to as “slumming” he went to Manchester Saudi City with unlimited funds and a stacked squad, to which he bought Bernardo Silva (because he destroyed City in Champions League), Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, Danilo, Ederson, Gabriel Jesus.

    I for one find his achievements outstanding, neh my friends, an absolute MIRACLE that he is able to work with such a limited budget and bereft of talent….

    Yah so as you can tell not a fan of silver spoon Guardiola and Paulo Fonseca should be given a medal for shutting that clown up! NICELY DONE PAULO!!

    P.S. Nicely done Porto! :)

    from Pyongyang, North Korea
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