Champions League wrap

It was a positive Champions League week for Portugal’s two representatives in the world’s greatest club competition as Benfica and Porto both tasted victory. Ten-man Benfica got the better of AEK Athens in Greece in a wild 5-goal thriller, while Porto beat Turkish champions Galatasaray at the Dragão thanks to a Moussa Marega header.

Elsewhere, dark clouds continue to hover for Portuguese coaches José Mourinho and Leonardo Jardim, but it was a positive matchday for Bernardo Silva, Nelson Semedo and Mário Rui. PortuGOAL reports on all the Portuguese participation in the latest round of Champions League matches.


AEK Athens 2-3 Benfica

Benfica went into the match in the Greek capital on the back of a horrendous recent record in the Champions League – 8 successive group stage defeats – and without defensive rock Jardel, out injured. Argentine centre-back Germán Conti deputised for the Brazilian.

But with just 15 minutes gone the Portuguese side looked to be heading for a comfortable victory. The rejuvenated Seferovic opened the scoring in the 6th minute, following up on a Gedson shot that AEK goalkeeper Barkas couldn’t hold, and ten minutes later the lead was doubled as Grimaldo headed in a Pizzi cross.

Rui Vitória’s men looked in complete control until a collective loss of concentration shortly before half time changed the complexion of the game. First the defence switched off, allowing AEK several chances, the best of which forced Benfica goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos into a sharp diving save. Then a clumsy and violent tackle by Portugal centre-back Rúben Dias resulted in a second yellow card and consequent red to leave the Eagles having to play the second 45 minutes with ten men.

Infused with new belief and spurred on by the raucous crowd, the Greeks duly turned it around in the second half, with their Portuguese midfielder André Simões impressing as Klonaridis scored twice to level the scores. At this point Benfica’s defence was at sixes and sevens and only another brilliant save by Vlachodimos prevented the home team from taking the lead, which proved a pivotal moment.

Soon afterwards substitute Alfa Semedo surged forward and tried his luck from 25 yards out, his shot angling into the corner of the net to put Benfica back in front. This time Benfica defended their lead well to take home three vital points ahead of the double header with Ajax, two matches that will probably decide who joins Bayern Munich is qualifying for the knockout stages.


Tuesday round-up

In the other match in Group E, Ajax surprisingly held Bayern to a 1-1 draw in Munich and were unlucky not to win all three points. Renato Sanches remained on the bench for the Germans.

Elsewhere Bernardo Silva started on the bench for Manchester City at Hoffenheim, but he was brought on by Pep Guardiola for the final minutes and was involved in the move that led to a late winner for City by his Spanish namesake David. Also in Group F, Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk earned a creditable 2-2 draw in France against Lyon, although the Portuguese coach will feel frustrated after his side let slip a two-goal advantage. Anthony Lopes kept goal for the hosts.

José Mourinho’s troubles intensified as Manchester United, without Diogo Dalot, could only draw 0-0 at Old Trafford with Valencia, with Gonçalo Guedes peppering the United goal with a string of efforts for the Spanish team. It is now four matches without victory for an increasingly beleaguered Mourinho.

In the same group Cristiano Ronaldo (suspended) and João Cancelo (rested) watched from the side-lines as Juventus saw off Young Boys 3-0 in Turin thanks to a Paulo Dybala hat-trick.


Porto 1-0 Galatasaray

Porto followed up their point at Schalke on matchday one with a hard-earned victory against Turkish champions Galatasaray at the Estádio do Dragão to go joint top of Group D alongside the Germans.

With Aboubakar out for the season and Tiquinho Soares not registered for the Champions League, coach Sérgio Conceição selected Marega as the lone striker up top, with André Pereira on the bench.

The Turks came close to opening the scoring in the 14th minute as only a miraculous last-ditch intervention by Maxi Pereira prevented Gumus from giving Gala the lead. Porto hit back, and some superb wing play by Corona led to a chance for Brahimi, whose spectacular scissor-kick was kept out by an outstanding save by Muslera.

Not to be outdone, Porto’s veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas made two fantastic saves as half time approached as the visitors enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes.

Things were different in the second half, however. Porto took the lead soon after the restart as Marega was left inexplicably unmarked from an Alex Telles corner and duly nodded into the net from point-blank range.

The goal settled Porto, who controlled the game far better, albeit without finding much penetration until André Pereira gave a fine ten-minute cameo off the bench. First the young striker released Marega one-on-one with a delightful through ball, but the Malian could not beat Muslera, and then Pereira himself forced the Uruguayan goalkeeper into another sharp save.

A deserved win for Porto which sets them up nicely ahead of the double header against Lokomotiv Moscow. Thoughts now turn to the clássico against Benfica on Sunday in Lisbon.


Wednesday round-up

In the other match in Porto’s group there was disappointment for Portuguese pair Eder and Manuel Fernandes as the Russian champions fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Schalke.

Leonardo Jardim’s nightmare start to 2018/19 did not get any better tonight as Monaco were well beaten by Borussia Dortmund in Germany, losing 3-0. Raphael Guerreiro was an unused substitute for the home team, while Rony Lopes is still out injured for the French outfit. Also in Group A, Gelson Martins was nowhere to be seen as Atlético Madrid beat Club Brugge 3-1.

Elsewhere there was better news for Portuguese players as right-back Nelson Semedo and left-back Mário Rui both played the full ninety minutes in impressive wins for their respective teams against English opposition. Semedo’s Barcelona beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in London, while a last-gasp goal gave Mário Rui and Napoli a 1-0 home win over Liverpool.

By Tom Kundert


Comments (1)

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Important victory and 3 points for Porto. Still not playing 100% but improving by the week. The second half was noticeable straight away in that Herrera/Porto started moving the ball longer distances and with more speed. Herrera has spent far too...

Important victory and 3 points for Porto. Still not playing 100% but improving by the week. The second half was noticeable straight away in that Herrera/Porto started moving the ball longer distances and with more speed. Herrera has spent far too much time digging in midfield instead of dictating the play this season - whether this is because teams have worked Porto out or Herrera has dropped his performance levels (or both) I don't know but when he's not on the ball the team suffers. If/when he goes in summer he will be a huge loss. Andre Pereira did well as did Otavio once he was allowed to wander around more. Felipe seems a little slow to start games and needs a mistake to wake up.
Glad the Gala away match is last as hopefully we'll be through by then because I cant see us winning there.


Benfica will have taken strength and faith from winning v 10 men at AEK so the Clasico this weekend will be tough BUT they did show they could be got at.

Good to see the overrated English teams losing. It would appear obscene dirty riches cant win everything!

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“After the final whistle, I saw what I most wanted to see - the joy of our fans and our players.”

Bruno Lage
(Benfica coach after title-clinching victory against Santa Clara)