Juventus Succumb to Porto but Chiesa Late Goal Keeps Hope Alive

Oh, no. Not again. But yes, Juventus’ pale, frightened, confused Champions League version is back as the Bianconeri succumbed 1-2 to Porto in the first leg of their Round of 16 match-up in the top continental competition.

Juventus were punished by two-lightning fast goals scored by the Dragoes at the beginning of both halves of the game and were lucky to scrape a Federico Chiesa late goal that still keeps them fully in contention to progress to the Quarter Finals.

Beating Porto 1-0 in the second leg match will still be enough for Juventus to qualify but, based on what seen tonight at the Estadio do Dragao, Andrea Pirlo has much to think about as he collect his second loss in a row.

The young coach chose Dejan Kulusevski as Cristiano Ronaldo’s attacking partner, leaving Alvaro Morata on the bench. With Juan Cuadrado and Leonardo Bonucci unavailable, the back four was made up of full backs Danilo and Alex Sandro, with captain Giorgio Chiellini partnering with Matthijs De Ligt at the center.

Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie were Pirlo’s wing-backs, with Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot covering the double pivot spots.

Porto were led on the pitch by veteran defender Pepe and could feature a few old Italian acquaintances among their lines – with former Lazio man Felipe Anderson among the substitutes and, moreover, coach Sergio Coinceicao having  six seasons in Serie A as a player under his belt.

The start was a nightmare for the Bianconeri as overconfidence played Juventus a nasty trick. The Old Lady held the ball a bit too much in their defensive third and, when Rodrigo Bentancur attempted a reckless back pass to his goalkeeper, he didn’t realize that Mehdi Taremi was lurking in the area. The Iran international promptly anticipated Wojciech Szczesny to put the ball into the back of the net. 1-0 Porto. And that was just 90 seconds after kick off.

Juventus were shocked and their ball possession didn’t help putting them back on track. Porto continued to be the more aggressive side for most of the first half, trying to punish Andrea Pirlo’s side again on the counter.

Concentration seemed to be lacking among the white-and-blacks and, on 23 minutes, there were more problems for them as Szczesny failed an easy pass and saw the ball intercepted by Sérgio Oliveira. It was up to Matthijs De Ligt to block the Portuguese’s attempt and spare his goalie’s blushes.

As it that wasn’t enough, Giorgio Chiellini picked up an injury and had to leave the pitch on 33 minutes, with his spot taken by Merih Demiral.

Only after 41 minutes did Juventus manage to call the opposition goalkeeper to action as Adrien Rabiot tested Agustìn Marchesìn with a fine overhead effort – which would have been disallowed in any case due to offside.

The Bianconeri didn’t do their homework during the half time break and were caught unprepared once again right after the second kick off. This time, it was Moussa Marega to receive a pass from Wilson Manafà, sneak between Rabiot and Demiral, and pierce Szczesny at the near post to make it 2-0 for Porto.

On 52 minutes, the Polish goalie got a chance to redeem himself as he prevented Sérgio Oliveira from bagging his brace as he saved from his effort despite being caught wrong-footed.

With Juventus still not giving any sign of life, Andrea Pirlo resorted to extreme measures and sent in Alvaro Morata for Weston McKennie on 63 minutes. The Spaniard took his usual place next to CR7 on the front line as Dejan Kulusevski moved to the right wing. The Swede didn’t last long in that position, however, as Aaron Ramsey took his place in last quarter of the game.

Porto’s Marchesìn did a good job on 70 minutes to defuse a Cristiano Ronaldo shot deflected by two Porto defenders to keep his side’s two-goal lead unchanged. For a few minutes, at least.

With eight minutes to go, Juventus finally breached into the Dragoes‘ defense as Adrien Rabiot run along the left flank and whipped the ball to the other side of the pitch, where Federico Chiesa could turn it into a clumsy, yet effective shot that found the back of the net.

It was a goal of massive importance for the Old Lady, which can face the return match at the Allianz Stadium with an away goal under their belt. Considering how they played tonight, they should be more than happy with that. 



February 17, 2021 – Champions League 2020-21 Round of 16

SCORERS: 2′ Taremi (P), 46′ Marega (P), 82′ Chiesa (J)

PORTO (4-4-2): Marchesin; Manafà, Mbemba, Pepe, Zaidu; Sérgio Oliveira (89′ Francisco Conceicao), Otàvio (57′ Dìaz), Uribe, Tecatito (89′ Loum); Taremi, Marega (65′ Grujic) (Diogo Costa, Felipe Anderson, Toni Martìnez, Evanilson, Nanu, Sarr, Barò, Joao Mario) Coach: Sérgio Conceicao
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Danilo, De Ligt, Chiellini (33′ Demiral), Alex Sandro; Chiesa, Bentancur, Rabiot, McKennie (63′ Morata); Kulusevski (76′ Ramsey), Cristiano Ronaldo (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Frabotta, Bonucci, Di Pardo, Fagioli, Dybala, Bernardeschi) Coach: Pirlo
REFEREE: Del Cerro Grande (Spain)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: De Ligt, Danilo (J); Extra Time: First Half 1′, Second Half 4′