Porto fall glaringly short as Sevilla march on into the semi-final
Written by Chris Winterburn
FC Porto headed to Andalusia this evening holding a slender 1-0 lead from last week’s first leg in Portugal however with the important duo of holding midfielder Fernando and top scorer Jackson Martinez both missing through suspension it was always going to be a difficult evening for Luis Castro’s side.
Right from the off Sevilla flew out of the traps. Unai Emery’s side looked hungry and pressed high up the pitch using Ivan Rakitic as a reference point in the middle of midfield, every single player knew where they should be in relation to the Croatian and it made for a very fluid opening half hour performance from the hosts. Porto looked weak through the middle without Fernando and despite the best efforts of Steven Defour the Belgian is simply not as effective a holding midfielder. Without Fernando, Sevilla were able to flood the middle of the pitch and were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty inside four minutes.
Carlos Bacca went down rather easily, even a couple of steps after the initial challenge from Danilo however the former Santos defender’s challenge was clumsy and gave the Colombian an opportunity to go to ground. Ivan Rakitic converted the penalty with ease and the Sanchez Pizjuan was set for a historic European evening.
Eliaquim Mangala is reportedly moving closer and closer to a summer switch to Manchester City however the French defender didn’t cover himself in glory with his display this evening. In fairness Mangala is given a lot of work to do, he is playing in what is probably the weakest Porto side since early this millennium and it shows. This evening however, particularly in the first half Mangala was given the work of two defenders courtesy of Alex Sandro’s incredibly short sighted approach to the match. The Brazilian full-back looked to go forward at every given opportunity but was so slow in tracking back to his position that Mangala had to then cover the left-back position as well as his own area through the centre.
It seemed as if Benfica’s performance at White Hart Lane was the model for Porto this evening with the fluidity in movement between defensive positions essential the Jorge Jesus’ team’s success in London. The two full-backs surged forward whilst Garay and Luisao the two central defenders moved into wider positions to cover the space, holding midfielder Fejsa then filled in at centre half. For Porto it was an incredibly poor imitation with a lack of balance and discipline. Mangala moved to the left to cover Alex Sandro whilst right sided full-back Danilo didn’t go forward which left fellow defender Diego Reyes rather unsure of his position. Had Fernando been in the side to offer a bit more protection ahead of the defence then perhaps Sevilla wouldn’t have been able to take such advantage of Porto’s defensive lapses.
Sevilla after taking a 3-0 lead into the half-time break were given a setback when right sided full-back Coke was needlessly sent off for a second yellow card after a clumsy challenge on Ricardo Quaresma. What was most disappointing about Coke’s dismissal was just how the Spaniard picked up his initial yellow card in the midst of a melee in the first half. This red card changed the game, giving Porto a lot more time on the ball and a spare man to always pass to however the Portuguese side just didn’t have enough up front without Jackson Martinez.
Quaresma looked the most likely to make something happen however the former Chelsea and Barcelona winger was far too inconsistent in his decisions when on the ball which has been an unfortunate theme of his entire career. With Sevilla down to ten men and Porto without a manager after Luis Castro was sent to the stands early in the second half, it was certainly a gamble to throw on Juan Fernando Quintero, the starlet of Pescara’s Serie A campaign last term. Heralded as the next big thing, Quintero was sizably hugely disappointing this evening with the Colombian barely looking interested.
On too many occasions Quintero received the ball then played a pass only to not bother making a run to look for the return ball, it made Porto’s late attacking moves look rather laboured and ineffective with Sevilla seeing the final stages of the tie out with ease despite Quaresma’s late consolation strike.
As Chelsea did at times last year, FC Porto looked like a team with an ‘interim’ first team manager in that there was no direction about their play. The lack of defensive stability in the first half followed by Ricardo Quaresma’s all too common willingness to try and play the game on his own showed Porto in a really poor light without the discipline of Fernando.
Ivan Rakitic did his market value absolutely no harm this evening with the Croatian captain putting on a masterclass from the middle of midfield. When you look at teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool who are perhaps lacking a driving force in the middle of midfield Ivan Rakitic would fit the bill perfectly. The Croatian was always willing to receive the ball in the middle of the pitch and then turn and look to run at Porto’s midfield before playing in either Bacca or one of Sevilla’s wide players. He was constantly involved in the match and really drove his team on from the start, he was also a calming influence following Coke’s dismissal when the tie looked to be swinging in the favour of Porto.
The Europa League semi-final draw takes place tomorrow and it is a very Iberian dominated affair with Benfica and Valencia joining Sevilla and Juventus in the hat. Sevilla would welcome domestic rivals Valencia whilst all teams would hope to avoid the outright favourites for the competition Juventus. Whilst Sevilla fully deserved their victory tonight the lack of quality within Porto’s squad was highlighted and it will take a significant rebuilding job to take the Portuguese giants back to Europe’s top table any time soon.
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4