Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dramatic justice in Turin

I just watched a fantastic last-16 drama in the Champions League between Juventus and FC Porto. The Portuguese side had won the 1st leg 2-1, so a 1-0 home victory for Juventus would be enough. But just as in the previous match FC Porto seemed to be more motivated and dynamic, and after 19 minutes went ahead 1-0 on a well-deserved penalty kick by Sergio Oliveira. FC Porto were the better side in the first half as Juventus retained a lot of possession, and the few chances they created were saved by a splendid Agustin Marchesin in the Porto goal.

Five minutes into the second half Federico Chiesa made it 1-1. It was in fact a beautiful attack where a sudden pass into the area was brilliantly taken down by Ronaldo, and served to Chiesa who splendidly kicked into the far corner, and one felt that there was now a match. But the referee Bjorn Kuipers thought differently: he gave Porto's Mehdi Taremi a red card at the most intense moment of the match. One observation here: the yellow card was correct, according to the rules, as Mehdi kicked the ball away after a referee call; however, it meant Taremi's second card, and in these intense matches I think that the referee has to give a call according to the intensity. It certainly felt, that at this moment, the referee was handing a gift to Juventus, and at least I went wholeheartedly into supporting Porto.

It was still half an hour from the end of the match when Federico Chiesa, with his second goal, made it 2-1. At this point it seemed that one man ahead, Juventus would bring victory home, but it was then that FC Porto became a heroic side fighting against the odds. They defended with everything until full time, and tired entered into extra time. Both teams were extremely tired, and extra time was more dramatic than well played, with many mistakes, fouls and chances, but also with drama and nerves. Only five minutes to the end Juventus conceded a clumsy free kick outside the area, and Sergio Oliveira shot hard, but with what appeared little plan. The defensive wall jumped and the ball sneaked into goal (and now one understands teams such as Atletico Madrid, who put a player lying down behind a defensive wall in such situations). Understandably, FC Porto celebrated like crazy, but maybe too early, as only one minute later Adrien Rabiot scored for Juventus, and the last few minutes were a nervous defending by the Portuguese side, but nevertheless enough to put them among the eight best teams in Europe.

A pity for Andrea Pirlo's Juventus, who may end the season without a title, but great for an FC Porto side who may be the side to watch in this season's Champions League.

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