After a slow start, two goals just before and after half-time ensured the home side a comfortable 2-0 victory in the Porto derby. The result continued a miserable run for Lito Vidigal’s Boavista side, who have not won in the local derby since 2007.
Porto dealt well with the pressure of kicking off first in this weekend’s round of Primeira Liga games, as they went into the game level on points at the top of the table with Benfica. Kicking off on Friday evening, the Dragons needed to ensure the three points so they could then get back to preparing for their Champions League tie with Liverpool on Tuesday evening.
The home side lined in their usual 4-4-2 formation, though they had to shuffle things around at the back due to left-back Alex Telles (injured) and centre-back Felipe (suspended) being unavailable. Porto manager Sérgio Conceição opted for the centre-back pairing of ex-Real Madrid man Pepe and future Real Madrid player Éder Militão for the first time this season. Right-back Wilson Manafá filled in at left-back in Telles’ absence, whilst right winger Jesús Corona took over Manafá’s usual spot at right-back.
Boavista manager Vidigal made a major tactical shift by switching to a back five especially for this game. Surprisingly winger Gustavo Sauer found himself with the unusual role of filling in at left-back, as Boavista looked to minimise the space for Porto’s wide men to get in behind.
Both managers were suspended for this game and were forced to watch from the stands with assistants Vítor Bruno (Porto) and Neca (Boavista) directing proceedings from the touchline.
The home side were very much on top in the first half, enjoying 74% of possession. But to Boavista’s credit, they defended well and limited the reigning champions to only three shots on target, none of which were particularly threatening.
The away side, playing in their fluorescent orange change strip, kept it very tight at the back and didn’t allow Porto to penetrate them in central areas. In the image below, Porto’s Danilo (circled) had all his forward passing options blocked due to Boavista’s compact shape and Porto were forced to focus their attack down the wide areas.
Forced down the flanks
In the graphic above we see that 75% of Porto’s attacks did indeed come down the flanks. They favoured the right-hand side particularly in this game due to the personnel available.
Normally Porto would be more reliant on their first-choice left-back Alex Telles and would funnel much of their attacking play through him down the left-hand side. But in the Brazilian’s absence it was Jesús Corona, playing further back than usual at right back, who would be tasked with making driving runs forward to support the attack.
This can be appreciated in the graphic below, where Corona (#17) is positioned extremely high, so high in fact that he is in line with Porto’s forwards, Moussa Marega (#11) and Tiquinho Soares (#29).
In the next image we see an example of one of these runs as Danilo, who has dropped in between the centre-backs, plays a lofted ball in the direction of Corona.
This wasn’t a strategy that worked particularly well for Porto, however. They put in 21 crosses over the course of the game, of which only four were successful. Boavista’s numerical superiority at the back meant they were able to cope with most of what Porto threw at them.
A challenge for any side facing Porto is how to deal with the movement of their forward, Moussa Marega. The Mali international likes to run into the channels and drag defenders out of position as he gets into wide areas. This game was no different and it was Boavista’s centre back Neris who was charged with tracking the powerful striker.
The duel between the two was one of the match’s entertaining individual battles, and overall Neris can be proud of his display in keeping the Malian quiet, despite some mistakes such as the one in the image below.
In the next image Marega makes another run behind Neris, but the Brazilian is aware to the danger on this occasion and gets there first.
Incidentally, Marega subsequently managed to outmuscle Neris to win the ball and get a cross into the box, though this was to be his only cross of the game.
As the stats below show, besides limiting his opportunities to cross the ball, Neris and his teammates managed to limit Marega to just two shots in the entire game. It is also a credit to Boavista that Marega was only successful in one of his six duels against them.
Boavista caught in transition
Considering Boavista’s compact shape and defensive organisation, it is perhaps not surprising that Porto achieved their breakthrough not by breaking them down, but by catching them in transition.
In the 39th minute a Boavista attack came to nothing as an over-hit ball to their full-back Carraça was easily gathered by Casillas. Sensing that they had an opportunity to catch Boavista off guard, Porto launched a swift attack with Casillas quickly distributing the ball to midfielder Héctor Herrera.
In the image above, we see how Herrera is able to pick out striker Soares in the large gap that has opened up between the lines. Soares in turn supplies Brahimi who has made a run down the left, taking advantage of the gap left by right-back Carraça (circled left of picture) who is still jogging back after Boavista’s failed attack. Brahimi was subsequently fouled as he entered the box, winning the penalty from which Soares would put the home side in front.
Boavista assistant manager Neca claimed it would have been a different story had his side made it to the break at 0-0. And whilst it is true that his side were unlucky not to still be level at that stage, their defensive-minded strategy meant that they were never likely to score against this strong Porto side.
The away side’s game plan was to stop Porto from scoring and once that came unstuck, they found themselves 2-0 down and out of the game. That said, they did prove very difficult to break down and manager Lito Vidigal can be proud of his team’s disciplined display.
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