Porto’s UEFA Champions League campaign is over after a 0-0 draw against Inter Milan in the Round of 16 second leg.
Down 1-0 following the first leg in Italy, the Dragons were unable to break though a disciplined and resolute side that were determined to leave Portugal with a clean sheet.
Clear cut chances were hard to come by at Estádio do Dragão, Porto doing their best work in added time where Iván Marcano, Mehdi Taremi and Marko Grujić all went close to squaring the tie.
Sérgio Conceição’s side immediately turn their attention to the Primeira Liga, the only competition remaining where they face a tough trip to Braga on Sunday.
Mateus Uribe fired an early shot that flashed past the post but Porto were finding it hard to break the Italian club down. Stephen Eustáquio’s shot was comfortably saved by André Onana before Mehdi Taremi curled his effort wide.
Inter were finding a lot of open space down the left wing, Federico Dimarco isolating Pepê Aquino and sending plenty of crosses into the box.
Simone Inzaghi’s side were sticking to the game plan, patiently waiting to launch counter attacks from inside their own half. Nicolò Barella burst clear and released Edin Džeko who couldn’t beat Diogo Costa.
Barella’s loose pass left Matteo Darmian is a dangerous predicament in the 33rd minute, the defender booked for preventing Galeno racing away.
Crucial block from Dimarco
Porto created their best opportunity of the half in the 40th minute. A well worked move featuring a rapid exchange of passes resulted in Evanilson’s shot being blocked by Dimarco, the chance bringing the home crowd back to life.
Pepê’s cross was turned wide by Eustáquio as the Dragons started the second half the same as the first, Uribe’s long range strike missing the target. Pepê was trying hard to break through down the right wing but he kept running into brick walls.
Managers make changes
The substitutions started to flow in the 70th minute, Simone Inzaghi replacing Dimarco and Džeko with Danilo D'Ambrosio and Romelu Lukaku, Sérgio Conceição bringing on André Franco and Toni Martínez for Eustáquio and Evanilson.
Grujić fired through traffic with Onana getting down to make the save but the Cameroonian goalkeeper was having a comfortable evening in Portugal.
Pepê was robbed by D'Ambrosio and booked trying to prevent the defender racing clear, the right-back in the action again minutes later when he cleared the ball with Lautaro Martínez ready to pounce.
Porto go for broke
Porto had nothing to lose with Conceição introducing Danny Namaso and Wendell for Zaidu Sanusi and Uribe, the Dragons throwing players forward in attempt to square the tie.
Galeno’s shot was saved, Namaso heading Cardoso’s cross over the bar and Toni Martínez unable to steer a difficult chance on target.
The drama intensified in added time when Iván Marcano’s effort was cleared off the line by Denzel Dumfries. The chances kept coming, Taremi’s header from close range was pushed off the post by Onana, the ball eventually coming back into the box where Grujić headed off the bar.
If there was any further proof required that this wasn’t going to be Porto’s night, the game ended with Pepê receiving a second booking alongside a yellow card for Conceição.
Predictable pattern and predictable result
Inter Milan lived up to the Italian stereotype, defending well and limiting Porto’s chances to secure the 0-0 draw they came to Portugal to achieve. Who can blame them after Romelu Lukaku’s late strike in Italy gave them the advantage in the tie?
Sérgio Conceição’s side battled hard and more than matched a club with a superior budget, both legs decided by fine margins.
Looking back on the campaign, it will be impossible to forget Otávio's red card at San Siro. The playmaker had been booked in the 41st minute, was struggling to keep his emotions in check and was walking a tightrope before receiving a second yellow card in the 78th minute. Sérgio Conceição might regret leaving Otávio in the firing line for so long.
Lukaku scored eight minutes later and the rest is history, Inter back in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2011.
By Matthew Marshall at Estádio do Dragão
🇮🇹⚽️🇵🇹 FT Porto 0-0 Inter Milan. The Italian club did what they had to do, kept it tight and got the draw that takes them to the quarter-finals. The game came alive late on, Marcano and Taremi seeing their efforts cleared off the line, Grujić heading against the bar. pic.twitter.com/lczdx5nULy— Matthew Marshall (@noobzcorp) March 14, 2023