Barcelona took a significant step towards the round of 16 in the Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Porto at Do Dragao. The win, though not a masterpiece, could prove to be pivotal for the fortunes of Xavi’s team in the competition.
In a rough and closely contested match, Barcelona struggled to find their rhythm against a defensively disciplined Porto side. The Portuguese team applied suffocating pressure when trying to regain possession, and their quick counterattacks often tested Barcelona’s defense, which was not always up to the task. However, fortune favored Barcelona on this occasion, a welcome change from their recent European endeavors.
Xavi, celebrating his 100th game as Barcelona’s manager, might not remember this match for its brilliance, but it did signal a shift from the club’s recent struggles. Despite the lackluster performance on the field, the victory offered a glimmer of hope.
The absence of Frenkie de Jong in the midfield posed a challenge for Barcelona, and Oriol Romeu took some time to settle into the game, with early mistakes that frustrated Xavi. The coach urged his players to combine more quickly but found himself facing Porto’s relentless pressure. Gundogan’s struggles in midfield left the center vulnerable, making it difficult for Gavi to take control.
Barcelona’s first shot on goal didn’t come until the 22nd minute, with Joao Félix forcing a save from Diogo Costa. Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski had to leave the pitch due to injury after a tough tackle on Carmo’s ankle, which went unpunished.
With a lack of effective build-up play, Barcelona turned to quick transitions. Lamine Yamal, Joao Félix, and Balde were key players in these rapid attacks.
Just before halftime, Barcelona’s luck changed when Gundogan seized an opportunity in midfield and set up Ferran Torres for a goal, taking advantage of the Porto goalkeeper’s hesitation.
Despite the halftime lead, Barcelona struggled to adapt their approach in the second half. Porto continued to press aggressively, and Barcelona found themselves on the defensive once more.
Key interventions from defenders like Koundé and Araújo prevented Porto from capitalizing on their pressure. Barcelona had their share of challenges, especially when Lamine Yamal suffered an injury, leaving the team fragmented.
A contentious penalty decision was overturned by VAR, offering Barcelona some respite. The final minutes of the match were tense and nerve-wracking, with Barcelona unable to maintain possession and Porto pushing forward desperately but ultimately falling short in the final third.
Barcelona’s victory, though not a display of dominance, puts them in a favorable position to advance in the Champions League, thanks to a crucial away win in a challenging match against Porto.