The Bianconeri comfortably defeated the Portuguese side this evening with a 2-0 away victory in front of over 50,000 at the Estadio do Dragao.
After much anticipation, Juventus were able to score two goals in a span of two minutes mid way through the second half to carry a comfortable 2-0 aggregate lead back to Juventus Stadium. Being the favorites leading into the match, it was still widely expected to be a tough tie for the Old Lady as Porto had gone five months unbeaten in all competitions. Substitutes Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves proved to be the difference scoring goals in the 72 and 74th minute to secure the victory. An interesting match to say the least, there is plenty to analyze following the conclusion of today’s result.
From the first minute on, Porto never really looked a threat to Juventus. While they were energetic early on, they simply struggled to put passes together in the final third. An early free kick from Yacin Brahimi would be the closest the Portuguese side came to threatening Gianluigi Buffon who made his 100th Champions League appearance on the evening. Although Juventus held possession with ease, they also struggled to really threaten Iker Casillas at the other end. Porto often forced Pjanic and Khedira to push the ball wide to the flanks and Juve were unable to produce any threatening deliveries. While both Alex Sandro and Stephan Lichtsteiner played excellent matches, Porto were well organized in their own half and allowed little to no space for potential aerial attempts from either Gonzalo Higuain or Mario Mandzukic in the 18 yard box.
The match all changed in a span of two minuted for both sides. After receiving a yellow card for a hard clip on Juan Cuadrado, former Inter fullback Alex Telles made an inexcusable tackle on Lichsteiner only two minutes later and was sent off. Had Telles kept his head and stayed on for the entirety of the match, we could be having a whole different discussion. However, despite the protest of the Porto players, fans, and coaches, it was an absurd move by the Brazilian and he was rightfully dismissed. Following his departure, Juventus dominated from there on and almost took the lead through a Paolo Dybala strike that hit the post a few minutes before halftime.
After a static start to the second half, Allegri made the critical change that can be pointed to as the change that won Juventus this match. He inserted Marko Pjaca for Juan Cuadrado who simply was not on his game. Pjaca seemed to inject new life into a side that could not seem to break down Porto’s defense. His brilliant skill and vision created opportunities for the Biacnoneri and eventually Pjaca was rewarded with a kindly deflection that he rifled into the bottom corner. Following the goal, Allegri inserted Dani Alves for Lichsteiner, and less than two minutes later Alves found himself on the end of an Alex Sandro cross which he finished off brilliantly.
There were many talking points heading into the match, specifically the fact that Leonardo Bonucci had been left out of the squad due to a row with his coach. However, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini had probably one of their easiest matches in recent memory and were rarely ever put to test by the Porto attack. It was clear that Bonucci was not missed at all in the Juventus back line this evening. In the midfield, Pjanic and Khedira worked hard on and off the ball and were smart in possession, never gifting the Portuguese side any long spells of possession. Up front, it was a mediocre performance from the likes of Dybala, Higuain, and Mandzukic. While Dybala slowly grew into the game, Higuain and Mandzukic often disappeared for long spurts throughout the match. Higuain only had one real attempt on goal where he hooked a shot just wide in the second half.
The man of the match for Juventus on this evening was non other than the ex Porto man himself Alex Sandro. The left back was seemingly everywhere tonight. He never missed a beat defensively and was always looking to get forward when possible to help in attack. His work rate and composure on the ball made him a a viable outlet for Juventus. Going forward, Juventus will need more performances like this one from the Brazilian.
Ultimately, it was job well done from Juventus. They notched two crucial away goals and have gave themselves an excellent opportunity at advancing to the last eight of the knockout stages. Going forward, there is plenty to work on for Allegri’s men, but for now they can smile at the fact they gutted out a major victory even when they were not at their best. Juventus will face Porto in the return leg on March 14th at Juventus Stadium.