Barcelona made it two wins from two to start their Champions League campaign with a narrow 1-0 victory over Porto, but were fortunate to come away with all three points.
First half substitute Ferran Torres scored the only goal of the game, arguably against the run of play, while Porto were denied a potential penalty, had another one awarded but overturned and tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen far more consistently than Barca tested Diogo Costa at the other end.
How the game unfolded
The Catalan visitors obviously controlled the lion’s share of the ball, yet it was a bright start from Porto at a packed-out Estadio do Dragao. The hosts worked hard to close the spaces and prevent Barca from playing through them, while they attacked with intent to create chances – although it was close to 20 minutes before Ter Stegen made the first save of either goalkeeper.
Barca survived a major penalty scare soon after when Jules Kounde had hold of a chunk of Mehdi Taremi’s shirt and then cleaned out the Porto striker as he attempted to turn and shoot. English referee Anthony Taylor waved away the appeals and VAR somehow didn’t intervene.
Xavi’s side were starting to make in-roads as the first half progressed, with Joao Felix starting to come alive. But the loss of Robert Lewandowski to injury in the 34th minute was a blow, while Ter Stegen had to have his wits about him to keep hold of a deflected low cross as Taremi closed in. At the other end, Costa could only make sure just to get his body in front of Torres’ swerving shot.
When Torres did break the deadlock in first half stoppage time, it was a sucker punch to Porto, having been the better side until that point. To make matters worse, it was the result of a mistake rather than Barca ingenuity as Romario’s short pass was picked off and played through to Torres, who kept his composure to finish underneath the onrushing Costa.
Barcelona were living dangerously early in the second half and had Kounde to thank when the merest of toe pokes took the ball off the foot of Porto’s Pepe when he was though on goal. Ter Stegen also saved well with an outstretched foot at his near post from left-back Wendell, before a big right hand as the German flew to the right denied Wenderson Galeno’s curling shot.
Into the final quarter and Barcelona breathed another huge sigh of relief when Joao Cancelo was let off the hook for handball in the penalty area by VAR. Taylor initially whistled for the spot-kick and there was no doubt about Cancelo’s handball, but the official changed his mind on a second look after deciding that, in trying to control the ball on his chest, Stephen Eustaquio handled it first.
If that seemed somewhat harsh on Porto, there was at least little to question the offside flag that ruled out a spectacular bicycle kick equaliser from Taremi moments later.
Gavi was sent off in stoppage time for an avoidable and cynical second yellow card, having been initially booked in the fist half. But it came too late for Porto to make the advantage count.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (c) – 8/10 – Made a number of saves throughout. Most were relatively routine rather than spectacular but all proved vital in the end.
RB: Joao Cancelo – 5/10 – Went into the book early and less effective than he has been. Got a bit lucky that the penalty he condeded was overturned.
CB: Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – Not as commanding as he would have hoped to be.
CB: Jules Kounde – 7/10 – Very fortunate not to be penalised for what appeared to be a blatant foul in the penalty area in the first half. But later denied a certain goal with a perfect last ditch sliding tackle and intervened in other key moments too.
LB: Alejandro Balde – 7/10 – Patrolled up and don the left flank to good effect. Porto created much more down the opposite side of the pitch and through the middle.
CM: Gavi – 4/10 – Covered a lot of ground all over the pitch but carried a yellow card for a long time that ultimately led to his cheap dismissal. Didn’t actually do that much with the ball.
CM: Oriol Romeu – 5/10 – Didn’t pass as carefully as he should and struggld to stop the Porto waves.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 7/10 – Picked out the perfect pass for Torres to open the scoring.
RW: Yamine Lamal – 6/10 – The 16-year-old is so unfazed he was prepared to let more senior players know exactly what he tought of poor execution.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 4/10 – Limped out of the action after only six touches in 34 minutes.
LW: Joao Felix – 7/10 – The ex-Benfica star was back at the home of his former club’s fiercest rivals. Seemed to thrive in the hostile atmosphere, but came off early to wrapped up for another day.
SUB: Ferran Torres (34′ for Lewandowski) – 7/10
SUB: Fermin Lopez (69′ for Felix) – 6/10
SUB: Sergi Roberto (69′ for Romeu) – 5/10
SUB: Marcos Alonso (80′ for Yamal) – 5/10
Subs not used: Pena (GK), Astralaga (GK), Martinez, Christensen, Casado
Xavi – 7/10 – It soon became apparent this was about getting the job done rather turning in a polished performance. Torres was the right replacement when Lewandowski couldn’t continue and there was a readiness to solidify defensively in the second half.