Round-up: Ronaldo rocket, but Mourinho has last laugh
Portugal’s three representatives in European competition were unbeaten this week, although only FC Porto truly impressed. The Dragons thumped Lokomotiv Moscow 4-1 at the Estádio do Dragão to all but book their place in the knockout stage of the competition.
Barring a set of freak results, Benfica will not be joining them though, after Ajax held Rui Vitória’s side to a 1-1 draw in Lisbon. Sporting also drew as they played out a tame 0-0 in London against Arsenal.
Elsewhere, José Mourinho’s Manchester United came from behind to secure an impressive 2-1 victory over Juventus, who had taken the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo’s outstanding opener, while there were also goals for Daniel Candeias and Ricardo Quaresma in the Europa League.
Porto 4-1 Lokomotiv Moscow
Sergio Conceição’s Porto team are in a rich vein of form and had little trouble brushing aside the challenge posed by Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow for the second time in a fortnight. By the end of a rain-lashed night at the Estádio do the Blue and Whites had extended their winning run to six matches, during which they have scored 21 goals.
Captain Héctor Herrera got the ball rolling as early as the second minute, turning in from close range after a perfect assist by Moussa Marega. The roles were reversed later in the half as Herrera’s clever scooped pass set Marega up for a free run at goal, with the Malian striker powering forward and making no mistake to score for the third Champions League match in a row. Jesús Corona almost made it 3-0 before the break as his acrobatic header smashed against the post.
The Russians had shown little attacking intent in the first half, with Portugal striker Eder shanking one effort horribly wide from a promising position, and his compatriot Manuel Fernandes largely anonymous and failing to emerge for the second half.
After the interval it was a different story, initially, as the Russians came out with a renewed attitude and dominated the first 15 minutes. Lokomotiv were justly rewarded for their efforts when substitute Farfan headed in a corner to reduce the deficit on the hour mark and a comeback looked on.
But a mistake by Lokomotiv goalkeeper Guilherme dashed the visitors’ hopes. His loose clearance fell straight to Óliver, whose delightful throughball to Corona allowed the Mexican to restore Porto’s two-goal advantage. Porto substitute Otávio put the icing on the cake with a stunning 20-yard strike in stoppage time to keep the Dragons top of Group D, virtually guaranteeing their place in the last 16 of the competition.
Benfica 1-1 Ajax
Pressure is mounting on Benfica coach Rui Vitória after a 1-1 draw against Ajax all but ended their hopes of making progress to the Champions League knockout stages and increased their winless run to four games in all competitions.
Although both teams have a strong tradition of playing attractive football, it was a feisty and physical affair for the most part, with little in the way of cohesive football on view.
The fit-again Jonas showed how much he has been missed as he coordinated the home team’s attacking play and was a constant thorn in the side of the Dutch team. The Brazilian duly opened the scoring on 29 minutes, although he was given a helping hand from Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana who raced out of goal, horribly misjudged a cross and ended up in no-man’s land, leaving Jonas to fire into an open goal.
Ajax almost hit back just before the break, van de Beek somehow shooting wide when it seemed easier to score. The game continued to be fiercely contested after the break, Benfica losing both Salvio and Jonas to injury, but the hosts refused to sit on their lead, with Grimaldo lively when surging forward from left-back.
On the hour mark disaster struct for the Eagles as a wonderful pass by Ziyech over the top of the Benfica defence was latched onto by Dusan Tadic who squeezed the ball into the net at the second attempt from a tight angle.
Benfica threw everything at Ajax in an attempt to regain the lead, with Onana making amends for his earlier mistake with crucial saves from Grimaldo, Rafa twice and a miraculous stop to deny Gabriel in the final seconds of the game.
Arsenal 0-0 Sporting
Playing their second match under interim coach Tiago Fernandes, Sporting will be pleased with a point after a solid defensive display in a low-key Europa League match in London. Indeed, the highlight of the night was the terrifically vocal support provided by 5,000 Sporting fans at the Emirates.
Fernandes gave a high-profile full debut to 19-year-old midfielder Miguel Luís, who acquitted himself reasonably well.
Defences were on top throughout, with Sporting managing not a single shot on target all game, while Arsenal were limited to just two efforts, goalkeeper Renan Ribeiro dealing comfortably with weak efforts from Wellbeck and Mkhitaryan.
Sporting’s centre-backs were impressive as a series of crosses were kept from finding their intended targets, with Mathieu arguably even getting it right when “taking one for the team” by bringing down Aubameyang in full flight as he was about to race clear in the box. The French defender received a deserved red card but prevented an almost certain goal and the Portuguese team left the Emirates with a point.
The result means Arsenal have booked their place in the knockout stage of the competition, while Sporting are well placed to join them.
Portuguese Abroad Champions League round-up: Mourinho revels in United win
Perhaps the most high-profile match in Europe this week was in Italy, where José Mourinho’s Manchester United travelled to meet Juventus, led by Cristiano Ronaldo. As has been the case with United of late, there was late drama on the field and controversy involving the Portuguese boss off it, as United came from behind to win 2-1.
Ronaldo gave the Bianconeri the lead midway through the second half with a sensational strike. The Portugal captain’s run was found by a pinpoint long pass from Leonardo Bonucci, and Ronaldo connected first time with the ball as it dropped over his shoulder, firing past a helpless David De Gea and sending the home fans into wild celebrations.
Mourinho made changes following the goal, and once again his substitutions made a difference. Juan Mata came off the bench to level the score with five minutes remaining with a free-kick, with United appearing to earn a late draw. However, fellow substitute Marouane Fellaini caused havoc in the Juventus defence and an excellent free-kick delivery from wide by Ashley Young ultimately led to Bonucci and ex-Porto full-back Alex Sandro both helping the ball into their own net in the final minute.
The end of the game brought more drama, as Mourinho strode onto the pitch cupping his ear in provocation towards the home fans, leading to tussles with the Juventus players. “I was insulted for 90 minutes,” Mourinho said. “I do my work and nothing more. At the end I didn’t insult anyone, I just did the gesture that I wanted to hear them more. I wouldn’t do it again. But I came here as a professional that does his work and people insulted my family, this is why I reacted this way.
“It is a fantastic victory for us, a victory that is not just about the points we lost at home [but] is about the feeling of how well we played. And I think even if this game doesn’t end with victory I would have the same feeling that the team played really, really well from the first minute against – I repeat – a super team.”
"United did nothing to win" - Ronaldo
Ronaldo was less happy, telling the Italian media that United scarcely deserved the victory. “The Champions League is a special competition, where you could be winning, but can’t relax, as anything can happen,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “We dominated the game for 90 minutes, had so many chances, could’ve killed it off three or four times, but we relaxed and were punished.
“Manchester United did nothing to win the game. You can’t even talk about luck, because you have to find your own luck and in this case we just gifted it to them. My goal? I saw the replay in the dressing room. I didn’t realise it was a fantastic goal, but I did a good movement and I kick the ball strong.
“I was happy with the goal, but of course I’m a little bit disappointed because we should win the game with three or four goals. Manchester didn’t do much, they had two chances on set pieces. I know English teams are always looking for set pieces. We will learn from our mistakes and we are still top of the group, so it’s all good.”
The result was a hammer blow to Spaniards Valencia, who must now beat Juventus in Turin to have any chance of qualification if United, as expected, see off Swiss outfit Young Boys at Old Trafford. Valencia had beaten Young Boys 3-1 at home earlier in the evening, with Gonçalo Guedes starting the match and Rúben Vezo playing the final few minutes.
Fonseca upbeat despite City thrashing
United’s local rivals Manchester City are many peoples’ favourites for the competition, and Pep Guardiola’s side added weight to such beliefs with a resounding 6-0 win over Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk at the Etihad Stadium. Bernardo Silva played 90 minutes in what was a painful evening for Fonseca, but the ex-Porto boss insists his team can still qualify for the next round.
“We’ve still got every chance of securing the second spot,” he said. “Clearly, it will be very difficult, but mathematically possible. It just remains to win two games, at the same time realising that it will be tough. City? They are a powerhouse. Netting so many goals isn’t easy. City are an amazing team. And I believe that they can win the Champions League.”
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid gained revenge for their 4-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund in the last round of matches, beating the Germans 2-0 in the Spanish capital. Gelson Martins came off the bench to play the last half hour for the home side, while Raphaël Guerreiro was introduced at a similar stage for Dortmund.
Full-back Mário Rui played all ninety minutes for Napoli in their intriguing 1-1 draw with French champions Paris Saint-Germain in Italy on Tuesday. Bayern Munich beat AEK Athens 2-0 in Group E, with Renato Sanches playing the last few minutes for Bayern and André Simões completing the game in midfield for AEK. Anthony Lopes kept goal for Lyon as the French side lost a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Hoffenheim, while Nélson Semedo was an unused substitute when Barcelona were held 1-1 at Inter.
Portuguese Abroad Europa League round-up: Quaresma, Candeias on-target
Ricardo Quaresma scored his first goal of this season’s Europa League on Thursday evening against Genk in Belgium, but a late goal conceded three minutes from time means his Besiktas side remain bottom of Group I after a 1-1 draw. Quaresma found himself through on goal after 16 minutes to finish calmly for his team, which also included Pepe, but the draw means Besiktas will need positive results in both their final games.
“I can say we deserved to win, “ said Quaresma after the match. “But we missed our chances. We played very well as a team and I think we will make our fans happy if we continue to play like that."
There was also a goal for Rangers winger Daniel Candeias for Rangers in their dramatic 4-3 defeat to Spartak Moscow. The Scottish side took the lead three times in the Russian capital, with the Portuguese putting his team 2-1 up during the first half with a superb piece of control and finishing, scoring his first European goal for the club in what ultimately proved a frustrating evening for the visitors.
Martins hitting form with Olympiakos
Meanwhile, Olympiakos coach Pedro Martins appears to be building some momentum with the Greek giants after a 5-1 victory over Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange. Daniel Podence assisted one of the home team’s goals, while Roderick Miranda and José Sá also played for Olympiakos, who have now won five matches in a row in all competitions ahead of a weekend match with rivals Panathinaikos.
“The difference today was we were clinical, “ said Martins. “We opened the scoring early and the chances turned into goals. We want to continue like this because we have had a lack of efficiency in front of goal in many games. We want to show our quality as we have done and continue to show improvements.”
Martins’ side are involved in a three-way battle for qualification in Group F, with one point separating them in third place from group leaders Real Betis. The Spanish team selected William Carvalho in midfield for their 1-1 draw with Italians AC Milan in Sevilla.
Experienced Portugal defender Rolando was named in Marseille’s matchday squad for the first time this season as he nears a return from long-term injury. The ex-Porto stopper watched from the bench as the French side were beaten 2-0 at Lazio to crash out of the competition with two matches left to play in Group H. Also eliminated are bottom-placed Apollon, as the Cypriots were beaten 3-2 at home by Frankfurt with former Naval midfielder João Pedro coming off the bench.
Sevilla are in position to qualify from Group J after a 3-2 win over Akhisar Belediyespor in Turkey. Daniel Carriço was required to play the final few minutes for ten-man Sevilla in order to protect their advantage, while the home side – who are eliminated from the competition – started with Portuguese trio Miguel Lopes, Josué and Hélder Barbosa. In the same group, Orlando Sá played the final few minutes as his Standard Liege team relinquished a first-half lead to lose 2-1 at Russians Krasnodar.
Bruma is gaining more involvement in the RB Leipzig team, with the Portugal winger playing 90 minutes for the second time this week for the German side in their 2-1 defeat at Celtic in Glasgow. Also playing the full match was experienced defender Luís Neto who helped Zenit Saint-Petersburg to a 1-1 draw at Bordeaux which leaves them in control at the top of Group C.
By Sean Gillen & Tom Kundert