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In the Zone: Porto 1-3 Atlético performance analysis

UEFA's Technical Observer panel pores over the must-win contest that sent the Spanish side through to the round of 16.

In the Zone: Atlético's wide overloads
In the Zone: Atlético's wide overloads

Atlético de Madrid secured their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion on Tuesday, leapfrogging Porto into second place in Group B thanks to their 3-1 victory at the Estádio do Dragão.

Here UEFA's technical observers' panel dissect how the Spanish champions did it, notably the second-half tactical switch by coach Diego Simeone which helped swing the contest their way against a Porto side who had only needed a point to progress.

As it happened: Porto 1-3 Atlético


Goals

Highlights: Porto 1-3 Atlético
Highlights: Porto 1-3 Atlético

0-1: Antoine Griezmann (56)
Unmarked, the Frenchman tapped the ball in at the back post after a corner by Thomas Lemar was flicked on, unwittingly, by Porto forward Mehdi Taremi.

0-2: Joaquín Correa (90)
The visitors punished Porto on the counterattack with Griezmann's pass sending Correa racing clear down the middle. Entering the penalty box, he angled a low shot beyond Diogo Costa and inside the far post for his first Champions League goal since September 2015.

0-3: Rodrigo de Paul (90+2)
Atlético's main ball-winner ended the game with his first Champions League goal following another breakaway. Getting the better of Chancel Mbemba out on the right, he headed into the box where he teed up Griezmann for a shot which was blocked, leaving him to prod the ball in on the rebound.

1-3: Sérgio Oliveira (90+6)
Jan Oblak dived the right way but the Porto substitute still beat him with the game's last kick, a penalty rolled inside the goalkeeper's right-hand post after Evanilson had gone down under Mario Hermoso's challenge.

Best player: Antoine Griezmann

Griezmann struck his side's opening goal, provided the through ball for the second, and was involved in the third too. Yet his performance involved much more besides. In the second half he played a key role in maintaining the pressure going forward, while adapting to more than one change of position. After Yannick Carrasco's red card, he was initially moved out to the left wing; then, when Simeone replaced forward Mateus Cunha (an early replacement for the injured Luis Suárez) with a defender in Renan Lodi, Griezmann took on the central attacking role in a 5-3-1, and from there played his part in Atlético's two late goals.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates his opener
Antoine Griezmann celebrates his openerAFP via Getty Images

Features

Porto were the stronger team in the first half, pressing quickly and not letting Atlético get close to their goal. Defensively, the home side had the benefit of Pepe providing leadership in the backline and Vitinha and Grujić anchoring in front of the defence. Offensively with Taremi dropping deep, they created an overload in midfield, which meant they were first to the loose balls. With the visitors outnumbered in the middle third of the field, they could not get enough pressure on Porto as they built the play, albeit Sérgio Conceição's side failed to take full advantage as they were unable to not convert their chances.

During the first period, Pepe dominated his area and Atlético only threatened seriously through the individual brilliance of Carrasco when he weaved his way to the byline and pulled the ball back for Lemar, whose goalward flick was saved by Diogo Costa. The second half was a different story. Simeone pushed both Griezmann and Llorente further forward and Atlético began asking different questions; they now had a threat on both wings, where the strikers found spaces, supported by the wing-backs.

It was not the only effect of Simeone's tweaks. In the first half, Atlético had their defensive line well manned but were short in the middle; now they played further forward as team, meaning less space for Porto to construct moves. The home side did have space behind the Atlético wing-backs – space that Luis Díaz exploited early in the second half with a break down the left, but Taremi could not find the finish, Oblak blocking his low shot with a foot.

That was one of two significant misses by the Iranian international soon after the restart and Porto, who had seen Grujić and Vitinha go close in the first period, gradually lost their way as their frustration took over. Atlético for their part, played it smart, kept their defensive lines closed and counterattacked to clinical effect at the finish.

Team formations

Porto

Porto started the game in a 4-4-2 formation
Porto started the game in a 4-4-2 formation

The hosts set up in their customary 4-4-2 before switching their shape to a 3-2-3-1 after the sending-off of substitute Wendell with 20 minutes remaining. In their build-up play, Taremi (9) played a link role, dropping between the lines with Evanilson (30) the most forward player. Taremi’s positioning helped Porto create an overload in midfield in the first half, when Atlético did not step up.

The work of Porto's central midfield duo caught the eye of UEFA's observers as Vitinha (20) dropped in between central defenders Pepe (3) and Mbemba (19) to start the build-up against the two Atlético front men – a ploy which also gave the home full-backs options to play higher. Then, as Porto progressed the play, he would move into midfield and become the free player. The other midfielder Marko Grujić (16) moved centrally in between the attacking and midfield lines of Atlético and was especially effective in the first half, barely losing the ball and providing security. In the second half this set-up became less effective though, as Atlético started to press rather than drop back.

Atlético

Atlético played in a 5-3-2 set-up at the start of the game
Atlético played in a 5-3-2 set-up at the start of the game

Atlético began the match in a 5-3-2 set-up, with injuries meaning starting roles in defence for makeshift centre-backs Šime Vrsaljko (24) and Geoffrey Kondogbia (4). When they won the ball, their shape morphed to a 4-4-2 as wing-back Carrasco (21) pushed up on the left with De Paul (5) covering for the Belgian. On the other side Thomas Lemar (11) played inside and, in the first half at least, right wing-back Marcos Llorente (14) played conservatively rather than getting forward.

After the break (and until Carrasco's 67th-minute dismissal), this changed as both wing-backs got forward and pressed immediately in the Porto half. With ten men, the Atlético players showed their tactical maturity as they responded to Simeone's tweaks, switching between a 4-4-1 in possession and a 5-3-1 when defending, before ending the night in the 5-3-1 set-up in which they scored twice.

Atlético's wing-backs pushed further forwards after half-time
Atlético's wing-backs pushed further forwards after half-time

Coaches' assessments

Sérgio Conceição, Porto coach
"This match illustrates a bit what happened in our other group matches. We created several chances but missed all of them in crucial moments of the game. And then we go behind following a corner. We did our best after that to try to win but Wendell's sending off was a huge blow. In added time we played more with our heart than with our heads and that explains the result."

Diego Simeone, Atlético coach
"I'm proud of my players. Today they showed their character and class, their ability to suffer, to get over the difficulties we were facing. Of four centre-backs we were missing three. It was a great game from Vrsaljko and Kondogbia too, and working together we were able to come out of a very intense game with some great interventions from Oblak. Our opponents only needed to draw to go through and they competed very well but we put in some great performances and worked as a team."