Porto 3-1 Roma (a.e.t. Porto win 4-3 on aggregate)
It was a memorable Champions League night at the Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday evening as Porto completed a 3-1 extra time victory over Roma to progress to the quarter-finals of this season’s competition.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, goals from Tiquinho Soares, Moussa Marega and a penalty from Alex Telles sent the Dragons into the last eight and sparked wild scenes of celebration among the home players, coaching staff and fans.
Porto coach Sérgio Conceição restored Éder Militão, Danilo and Tiquinho Soares to the starting line-up after all three had been somewhat surprisingly left out of Saturday’s Liga NOS defeat to Benfica, but the coach pulled a surprise by dropping the club’s two most creative players Yacine Brahimi and Óliver Torres to the bench.
The hosts started like a team on a mission though, ferociously pushing Roma back towards their own goal. The left flank was proving especially productive, with Corona giving the Roma defenders problems galore with his incisive and skilful dribbling, well supported as ever by the marauding Alex Telles. Both players threatened to break the deadlock early on, but that honour fell to Soares in the 26th minute.
Marega to the fore
Malian striker Moussa Marega was the architect of the goal, winning the ball in midfield and feeding Corona. The Mexican drove into the box, and passed back to Marega, who duly squared the ball across the six-yard box for Soares to tap-in from point-blank range.
Now leading on away goals, Porto seemed to have done the hard work, but a rash challenge by Militão on Perotti led to a clear penalty, with De Rossi expertly tucked past Casillas to make it 1-1 on the night. The goal acted as a fillip to Italians, who for the first and only time in the match exerted a spell of control, keeping possession of the ball well to go into the break leading 3-2 on aggregate and looking comfortable.
Porto started the second half in similar fashion to how they’d started the first, with Soares and Marega desperately close to scoring soon after the restart, the former heading into the ground and over the bar and the latter denied by a fingertip save by Roma goalkeeper Olsen.
It was only a temporary reprieve for the visitors however, as Corona produced another wonderful moment of wing play to dribble into space and swing over the most inviting of crosses for Marega to score and level the tie on aggregate and away goals.
Porto pressed hard for the winner throughout the rest of the second half, with Otávio coming into his own and Brahimi making his entrance from the substitutes’ bench, and the two players combined to good effect in the 77th minute, the Brazilian’s delightful dinked pass volleyed towards goal by Brahimi, but the Algerian failed to catch the ball cleanly and Olsen kept it out.
The Swedish goalkeeper then saved from Otávio as the one-way traffic continued with Roma non-existent as an attacking force in the second half, in no small measure owing to a masterful performance from Danilo at the base of midfield.
But Porto could not find the winner and after continuing their domination in the first period of extra time, the enormous physical and mental efforts of continually making the running began to tell on the home side. Roma enjoyed a strong spell and twice came desperately close to scoring what would surely have been the goal to win them the tie through Dzeko.
The Bosnian striker, who fought an intense battle with Pepe all night, turned Felipe smartly to leave himself in front of goal, but blasted his shot over from ten yard out, and soon afterwards he was clean through, chipped over Casillas, but saw the retreating Pepe get back in the nick of time to hack the ball away as it was about to enter the net.
With a penalty shootout looming Porto were handed the perfect opportunity to score the all-important goal to take the lead in the tie as Florenzi tugged substitute Fernando Andrade’s shirt in the box. The referee initially missed the foul, but gave it after consulting VAR, and Telles showed nerves of steel to crash home the spot kick.
Porto were now just a few minutes from victory, but there was a nervy moment when Roma’s players alleged Marega had tripped Schick in the box. After consulting VAR, the referee waved away the penalty appeals. Moments later the final whistle sounded and the party started in earnest at the Dragão.
By Tom Kundert
FC Porto: Casillas, Militão (Maxi, 103′), Felipe, Pepe, Telles, Corona (Brahimi, 69′), Danilo, Herrera, Otávio (Hernâni, 94′), Soares (Fernando Andrade, 78′), Marega
AS Roma: Olsen, Karsdorp (Florenzi, 55′), Manolas, Juan Jesus, Marcano (Cristante, 76′), Kolarov, De Rossi (Pellegrini, 45+3′, Schick, 96′), Nzonzi, Perotti, Dzeko, Zaniolo
[1-0] Soares, 26′
[1-1] De Rossi (pen), 37′
[2-1] Marega, 52′
[3-1] Alex Telles (pen), 117′