FC Porto 0-1 Estoril Praia
“Estoril are a much better team than their league position suggests and I’m sure they’ll end the season in mid-table.” Those were the words of warning uttered by Porto coach Sérgio Conceição in the pre-match press conference as his team prepared to host the side lying rock-bottom in the standings.
It proved to be a prophetic statement as Estoril pulled off a huge shock by coming away with all three points in Porto tonight thanks to Jordan Holsgrove’s superb goal direct from a free kick.
Conceição stuck with the same eleven that beat Vizela 2-0 last weekend, meaning another start on the wing for his son Francisco, in front of right-back Jorge Sánchez, with João Mário continuing his new role on the other side of the pitch at left-back.
For Estoril, Vasco Seabra made two changes from the 1-0 defeat at Portimonense, João Marques and Mateus Fernandes brought into the starting XI.
Carné saves Taremi penalty
Porto had the chance to get off to the perfect start when Estoril defender Volnei fouled Stephen Estáquio in the box in the 5th minute and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Mehdi Taremi hit the penalty low to Marcelo Carné’s right, but the Brazilian goalkeeper dived full length to pull off a fantastic save.
The miss seemed to knock Porto back with the home side falling into a lacklustre display that has been seen all too often in domestic play this season.
Livewire Francisco Conceição
The exception to the rule was Francisco Conceição, the winger justifying his selection with a number of dangerous incursions in and around the Estoril box, making life extremely uncomfortable for Estoril defender Tiago Araújo.
“Chico” released Pepê with an excellent through ball on 24 minutes, the Brazilian shooting wide. Conceição then had a shot of his own deflected narrowly wide, and soon afterwards crossed for Evanilson only for the striker to blaze over the bar.
On the stroke of half time Jorge Sánchez followed up on a Taremi effort and it needed a goal-line clearance from Pedro Álvaro to prevent Porto from going into the break in the lead.
Estoril’s only threat in the first 45 minutes had been a Rodrigo Gomes shot comfortably saved by Diogo Costa.
The expectation was for Porto to ramp up the pressure after the interval, and with Estoril’s entire three-man back line and two defensive-minded midfielders yellow-carded before the hour mark, the scene was apparently set for a Porto barrage in the final 30 minutes.
The siege never materialised however, with Estoril looking increasingly confident as the match went on, aided by Vasco Seabra’s bold and intelligent substitutions to keep his team fresh and not to rely on all-out defence.
In the 73rd minute Estoril were awarded a penalty when David Carmo clumsily brought down Guitane on the edge of the box, but after a VAR analysis the referee’s decision was changed to a free kick just outside the area.
If Porto fans thought they had had a let-off, they were mistaken as Holsgrove, not for the first time since he has been in Portugal, produced a sumptuous shot from the free kick, his left-foot execution sending the ball curling over the wall and into the top corner of the net beyond Diogo Costa’s desperate dive.
With the 90-minute mark approaching Porto substitute Toni Martínez headed a presentable chance from a João Mário cross straight at Carné, the Estoril goalkeeper gratefully pouching the ball.
When 8 minutes of stoppage time were awarded, thoughts turned back to Porto’s early season games in which late goals turned several losing positions into draws or wins, and drawing positions into victories.
Stoppage-time goals have earned Porto 8 of their 16 points in the Primeira Liga this season.— Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1) September 23, 2023
There were no heroics this time though, the sight of veteran captain Pepe having the hosts’ final efforts indicative of a night when Porto failed to function as a title contender.
Conceição’s team could fall 6 and 3 points behind title rivals Sporting and Benfica respectively in the next two days, ahead of a tough-looking assignment at in-form Vitória next weekend.
By Tom Kundert