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Thursday, 27 February 2014 22:58

Europa League joy for Porto and Benfica

Dragons show their mettle in Germany, Eagles stroll past PAOK

gaitan-20140227.jpgBoth FC Porto and Benfica made it to the last 16 of the Europa League tonight, albeit in very different ways. There was finally some joy for Porto fans as Paulo Fonseca's men came back from 2-0 and 3-2 down at Eintracht Frankfurt. A late Ghilas goal saw the match end 3-3, with Porto going through on away goals. No such dramatics were required at the Estádio da Luz as Benfica strolled past PAOK 3-0 on the night (4-0 on aggregate) in a match that featured a sublime Nico Gaitán goal.

Eintracht Frankfurt 3-3 FC Porto (agg. 5-5)

Crisis-club Porto came into the match on the back of a string of poor performances and results, including last week's 2-2 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg. As such, the Dragons started the match losing the tie on away goals, and after the home defeat to Estoril on Sunday coach Paulo Fonseca's position was hanging by a thread.

And the forlorn Fonseca looked like he was facing another difficult night as the hosts were two goals up and seemingly out of sight by the 52nd minute. Save a Herrera header and a Jackson Martínez shot shortly after the break Porto failed to create significant danger up until that point, while two simple moves by Eintracht were finished by Aigner (37') and Meier (52') to the delight of the huge crowd in Frankfurt.

French centre-back Mangala had done a fine job as Porto's spokesman in the pre-match press conference, insisting it was up to the players to show up and to fight for the win. And it was Mangala who led the unlikely fight-back magnificently, using his extraordinary athleticism and prowess in the air to good effect by burying two headers in little over ten minutes to stun the Bundesliga outfit.

At that stage extra time was looking on the cards, but in the 76th minute Eintracht again cut through Porto's defence with Meier netting his second of the night to put the home team back in front.

As has so often been the case this season, Fonseca used Ghilas as a second-half substitute, offering support to regular number nine Jackson Martínez, and it was the Algerian who grabbed a dramatic equaliser in the 86th minute, smashing a rebound into the net after Licá had forced Trapp into the initial save.

A memorable night in a forgettable season (so far) for Porto. It sets up a mouth-watering tie against Italian side Napoli, the first game being played in Portugal.

E. Frankfurt:
Kevin Trapp, Alexander Madlung, Bastian Oczipka, Sebastian Jung, Carlos Zambrano, Stefan Aigner (Jan Rosenthal, 69), Pirmin Schwegler, Johannes Flum, Alexander Meier, Tranquillo Barnetta, Joselu (Martin Lanig, 85)

FC Porto:
Helton, Danilo, Maicon, Alex Sandro, Mangala, Fernando, Héctor Herrera (Nabil Ghilas, 54), Carlos Eduardo, Varela (Licá, 79), Jackson Martinez (Diego Reyes, 90), Ricardo Quaresma

[1-0] Aigner, 37'
[2-0] Meier, 52'
[2-1] Mangala, 58'
[2-2] Mangala, 71'
[3-2] Meier, 76'
[3-3] Ghilas, 86'

Benfica 3-0 PAOK (agg. 4-0)

As in the first leg, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus rotated his team, selecting eight different starters in relation to Monday's victory against Guimarães in the liga.

So it was perhaps unsurprising that Benfica looked disjointed and some way from their flowing best for the first hour of the match. The returning Nico Gaitán was lively, but Salvio, André Gomes, Cardozo and Djuricic clearly showed a lack of regular football had compromised their match sharpness.

Benfica did most of the attacking in the first half without creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. A Gaitán shot was deflected just wide, while Cardozo's deflected free kick brought a brilliant save out of Glykos. But it was PAOK who had had the first near sight on goal as Lucas's speculative shot from all of 30 yards was inexplicably spilled by Artur, with the Brazilian goalkeeper just managing to spin round and grab the ball before it crossed the line.

After the break it was PAOK again who were the first team to come close to scoring. A corner was headed towards goal by Katsouranis and Maduro sliding in on the second post just failed to get the finishing touch.

On the hour make Jesus decided to call on the big guns, bringing off Cardozo and Salvio and replacing them with Lima and Markovic. Benfica immediately stepped it up, with Garay, Djuricic and Luisão trying their luck in quick succession.

The tie was effectively decided in the the 70th minute, which proved fatal for PAOK. As Lima raced through on goal, ex Benfica player Katsouranis fouled him on the edge of the box. The Greek midfielder was shown a red card, and from the resulting free kick Gaitán produced a moment of genius. Running parallel to the goal-line he dinked a sublime shot over the wall and into the corner of the net with the precision of a Tiger Woods sand-wedge chip onto the green, leaving Glykos rooted to the spot.

Now two goals down on aggregate and playing with ten men, PAOK capitulated. Lima from the penalty spot and Markovic added further goals to extend Benfica's remarkable run of form to 15 wins and 1 draw in their last 16 matches.

Next up for the Eagles in the Europa League is English club Tottenham Hotspur in what has the makings of an enthralling couple of encounters. The first leg will be played at White Hart Lane.

by Tom Kundert, at the Estádio da Luz
Artur Moraes, Maxi Pereira, Ezequiel Garay, Luisão, Silvio, André Gomes, Salvio (Lazar Markovic, 60), Nicolas Gaitán, Rubén Amorim, Filip Djuricic (Rodrigo, 79), Cardozo (Lima, 60)

PAOK Salonika:
Panagiotis Glykos, Lino, Stelios Kitsiou, Konstantinos Katsouranis, Juan Insaurralde, Ergys Kace, Hedwiges Maduro, Costin Lazar, Lucas (Zvonimir Vukic, 74), Stefanos Athanasiadis, Sekou Jabateh Oliseh (Miroslav Stoch, 45)

[1-0] Gaitán, 70'
[2-0] Lima (pen), 78'
[3-0] Markovic, 79'

Comments (12)
The game
12 Saturday, 01 March 2014 12:40
Jorge London
I think people are confusing playing bad defensively with playing bad as a whole. Yes, defensively we were poor, yet that does not mean to say we played badly. We showed determination, resilience to come back after we were 2-0 down, and you need only look at our shot count to see that "Porto played bad" is a false statement. Yes, as I said, defensively we were sub-par, but that should not take credit from the way we played. I'm proud of the way we played, and although the chances of us winning the league is slim, if we keep playing like we did in that game, we could do better than we have been doing this season.
Some Thoughts
11 Friday, 28 February 2014 19:42
I got to watch Porto, and I'm sorry I sat through it. If you ask me it was another anemic performance.
I was happy to hear Mangala's pre-match comments, which I happened to agree with. But truth be told, Porto look as bad as it has all season. Martinez hasn't been going well for a while now, I wonder if he expected to leave in January?
At half time, the announcer mentioned how it was up to the manager to get his troops back in the right frame of mind and go after it, because until then there was nothing.
By looking at the scoreline, you might think that Fonseca had them fired up for the second half. I disagree, because Porto actually went down 2-0 before making the stirring comeback. It's tough to take this team seriously, if Mangala and Maicon headlined the teams highlights.
I'm hoping this doesn't fire up Porto domestically, and frankly I don't see it.
I'm happy that they got through, for the coefficient. Napoli also had a difficult time verse Swansea. That third goal came at the whistle.

As for Benfica, how long before more players attempt a Paneka free-kick? This scoreline was flattering, and it could have been very different if Artur let the frango in.
Happy that Gaitan scored and Salvio and Cardozo got a runout. As for the Spurs, they haven't been anything great. I've never been a big AVB fan, but Sherwood hasn't shown much. Ade is motivated, he won't be next campaign, which has helped tremendously. But Sherwood's tactic tends to be to put all attacking players on the field. That should play into our hands.

Since someone brought it up, the reason JJ plays the starters verse "top clubs", is for showcasing purposes. It's great for our brand if we win, and we are showcasing those players for transfers. Even if we lost, the players(s) in question could have still had a good game.
As always, a smorgasboard of items
10 Friday, 28 February 2014 14:00
Chris (Canada)
Andre, correction: Porto also beat Austria Vienna in the CL back in September.

Aaron, thanks for all the good vibes pal. I think Porto are capable of beating Napoli, just based on talent. Outside of Higuain and Hamsik, the squad is a bit thin. They are top-heavy in attack, but lacking elsewhere. However, their strength plays to Porto's current weakness (defence) so it will be an interesting matchup.

Bring Jesualdo back? I like him, but at this point, it would be like stepping back into 2007. I think if they replace Fonseca, they need to have a long-term guy in there, and since Jesualdo would be short-term at best, he is not the man for the job.

If Porto was at full psychological strength, as they were when they beat Napoli back in August at the Emirates cup, I'd say this would be a pretty easy pick. Oh, by the way, that win came as the result of one of Porto's most hated players at the moment (Lica), and a sub (Ghilas). But the biggest issue for this team right now is mental fortitude, which favours Napoli.

Hopefully, this result in Frankfurt gave the team and coach the jolt they needed to get back on track. Fonseca needs to make tactical adjustments, but he seems to be really holding onto his 4-2-3-1. Porto is not built for that, so I still don't know how things will pan out.

Congrats to Benfica. A convincing win and some great play. The tie against Tottenham will be interesting for sure, but we shall see what happens. JJ has been at his tactical best this season, by Tottenham have been surging lately. These 2 teams are very similar to me, in that they are both constructed of some very expensive young talent. However, Benfica has gelled for much longer, which should be an advantage.

Also key for me is who JJ starts against Tottenham. If he starts Oblak, all will be well. If he starts Artur, there will be trouble, as Adebayor is a great poacher. That is to me, the biggest factor, since I think Benfica's "weakest" attack set-up would easily obliterate Tottenham's defence. It depens on JJ keeping the defense solid.

Good luck to both Portuguese teams. Hopefully next year we can have some other Portuguese teams like Braga and Sporting to help with some of the heavy lifting, so that it's not all Porto and Benfica boosting our coefficient points.

Porto vs Napoli and Jesualdo as new coach?
9 Friday, 28 February 2014 10:33
During the pre-season, we have defeated Napoli 3-1 them having their main squad. This time we won't win for sure because we do not have a strong midfielder. Having to lose Iturbe and Quintero was put us in defeat because we beat Napoli with those two players. Knowing we barely beat Eintracht Frankfurt, we have no chance against Napoli with our current squad. My option is to bring in Jesualdo Ferriera in and out goes Fonesca.
EL thoughts
8 Friday, 28 February 2014 10:09
I only saw the Benfica match in patches because I was busy with other things, but was very pleased to see us rotate so many players again and still finish with a comfortable win again. Nice gesture from the crowd to salute Katsouranis. And what a sublime free-kick from Gaitan. Yes Cardozo and Salvio looked out of sorts and are clearly not totally fit yet, nevertheless it's great to have both of them back as options.

Didn't see anything of the Porto match so can't comment on it. Well done to them for making it through, but I still have to say, very unconvincing. Failing to beat Frankfurt in 2 attempts and conceding 5 goals to them, and just the one win in 8 European matches this season, is clearly not good enough. Fonseca's total lack of European experience has really shown.

As for the next round matches for both clubs: Benfica vs Spurs is an exciting tie. They are a tough draw for us but I feel we are the favourites to advance. They conceded 5 goals at home against both Man City and Liverpool recently and lost to Norwich the other day, so their defence is clearly vulnerable and we must take advantage of that. However Spurs' attack is strong so although I still want to see a lot of rotation, perhaps in defence at least we must play our first-teamers. Porto will have to improve wholesale if they will advance against Napoli, who have a strong squad and a shrewd manager. However if Porto can find their best form over the 2 legs then they do have a good chance to advance also. Both look like cracking ties!
Europa League
7 Friday, 28 February 2014 09:52
Manny B \ Kearny \ FCP
Great determination by Mangala and a wild finish by Ghillas. We are playing at our worse but at least this game can give Porto some motivation that anything can happen even when your at your worse.
spurs reserves v benfica reserves?
6 Friday, 28 February 2014 09:44
Tottenham are still in contention for the champions league and are playing arsenal less than 72 hours after benfica. Will they field a weakened side? Benfica are playing nacional away from home... probably one of our toughest remaining league fixtures. So I can see us rotating the lineup too. Will be interesting to see who takes to the field!
Exciting game, but...
5 Friday, 28 February 2014 08:09
The game yesterday was thrilling, an emotionl roller coaster for a Portista, and I'm glad of the end result, Ghilas coming on made such big difference, even more so given how badly Jackson was playing. But despite the end result, lest we forget that over the two legs we conceded 5 goals to a bottom half German team, if our defence plays like that against Napoli we'll be destroyed
Gaitan's Goal Was Disgusting Executed
4 Friday, 28 February 2014 03:35
Well having watched Porto's game they certainly need to be playing their best against Napoli the slightly superior side as things stand. Jackson was so bad in this game maybe he'll continue this in the league and give Montero a chance to become top scorer? ;)

Porto need to give their manager a chance they are still in Europe and have a realistic chance of getting 2nd place in the Liga as long as they don't lose against Sporting (seems probable) and are still in both domestic cups. Porto may be playing quite badly at times but surely getting rid of the main man wouldn't help? now at least...

Benfica have more of a chance going through against Tottenham mostly because the manager is still new and has non-existence European experience and Benfica are on a monster streak... Tottenham aren't bad either should be a great open game to watch. I will buying tickets to watch the game (1st leg) even though I support Sporting I hope both teams go through for Portugal's coefficients points and for Sporting's chances in the league too :)
Great News
3 Friday, 28 February 2014 02:14
I didn't expect Porto to go through but they showed some resilience and made it through. However, I agree with Aaron that Porto will unfortunately fall to Napoli.

Benfica, on the other hand, i feel have a great chance to defeat Tottenham on the form they are in. Kudos to them for a fantastic match in which everyone but Artur played well (facepalm)
Europa League
2 Friday, 28 February 2014 01:57
It'll be interesting to see how JJ approaches the Tottenham match. In the past, JJ has been tempted to field his strongest 11 in the Europa League against "high profile" opponents. While I'd obviously love to see us make another deep run in the competition, we must not let it distract us from our primary objective, the league title.
Porto going through
1 Thursday, 27 February 2014 23:36
Porto was so lucky to go pass through. I wont be surprise that they get defeated by Napoli. Jackson Martinez played horrible in this match. Actually the whole team played bad but they had luck on their side. Fonesca needs to be fired!

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