Advantage Juventus as pressure on ten-man Porto tells
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Second-half substitutes Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves both had an immediate impact as Juventus eventually made the most of Alex Telles's 27th-minute red card.
Article top media content
Substitutes Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves ended Porto's stubborn resistance as Juventus took a big step towards the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
The Portuguese hosts held out for 45 minutes after two bookings in the space of 73 seconds midway through the first half earned Alex Telles his marching orders. If anything, Juventus heads were beginning to drop until Massimiliano Allegri had his masterstrokes, resulting in two goals in three minutes.
First he brought on Pjaca, and five minutes later the Croatian made the breakthrough, exchanging passes with Paulo Dybala and firing an unstoppable shot past Iker Casillas. Allegri immediately repeated the trick, introducing Dani Alves who promptly controlled a cross with his first touch and lashed it in with his second.
Juve threatened to settle matters there and then as they laid siege to the Porto goal in the closing stages but the Dragons just about kept them at bay to give themselves a slender chance in Turin in three weeks.
Key player: Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Alex Sandro made 87 league appearances for Porto in little over four seasons at the Estádio do Dragão and returned to hurt his former side with an outstanding performance. If his presence on the left bolstered an assured visiting back line, the 26-year-old's forays forward also caused alarm. His assist for Dani Alves's goal was fitting reward for a good night's work.
The jury's out
The 4-2-3-1 system Allegri started to use earlier this season is paying dividends in Serie A but could Miralem Pjanić, Juan Cuadrado, Dybala, Mario Mandžukić and Gonzalo Higuaín all play together in Europe? The Bianconeri certainly remained solid at the back despite all the attacking players in their initial XI. Surprisingly, though, the problems came at the other end until the bench helped out.
Red card a killer
When Porto coach Nuno Espírito Santo assesses this one in the coming days, he won't be able to avoid seeing midfielder Alex Telles's sending-off as the turning point. Not only did the 24-year-old's absence leave the hosts short numerically and disrupt their early rhythm, his crucial set-piece accuracy was also badly missed. As, indeed, it will be for the return in Turin on 14 March.
Paul Bryan (@UEFAcomPaulB)
Juventus raced towards their fans in delight at the end of this round of 16 first leg, thrilled at having completed the first part of what promised to be a tricky tie. Yet Porto's players also drew applause for holding out for so long with ten men on a draining night for the team in blue and white. Sides have overcome big deficits to triumph in this tournament in the past, and it will take a similarly monumental effort for Porto to advance from here.
Paolo Menicucci (@UEFAcomPaoloM)
Coaches always say that it is the players who really make the difference in football. Allegri, however, was decisive against Porto with his substitutions. Pjaca has struggled to realise his potential this term, not helped by injury, but the Juventus coach has always talked about him as Juve's next big thing. His first goal in a Bianconeri shirt – five minutes after coming on – could not have come at a better time. Then Dani Alves made his mark even more quickly.