It was not the night Adrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo expected at the Estadio do Darago. A team that boasts of quality players should have secured the most important away win – sadly, Goals by Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega propelled Porto to their first victory against Juventus in the Champions League.

The Bianconeri made three changes from the side that lost to Napoli over the weekend. Alex Sandro returned to the starting line-up after recovering from COVID-19, while Weston McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski were also handed starts.

Juventus, however, got off to the worst start possible.

A defensive mix-up between Rodrigo Bentancur and Wojciech Szczęsny allowed Mehdi Taremi to pounce on a short pass to put Porto one goal up.

The goal came with barely a minute gone on the clock, and it set the tone for the rest of the first half.

Matters were made worse for the Turin club when their captain, Giorgio Chiellini, limped off injured after 34 minutes. Porto were even quicker out of the blocks in the second half when Marega got on the end of a Wilson Manafá cut-back to score the second goal.

Despite the clear mishap, Juventus seemed intent on playing out from the back. Szczesny’s discomfort was evident early on, with the hosts deploying a very high press to put the goalkeeper and defenders under pressure.

Juventus started to regain their mojo and dominated their control over the ball, with over 65% possession registered in the first half-hour. Nevertheless, it was FC Porto who were asking all the questions in front of the goal.

The impressive Sergi Oliveira was all over the field to stop and launch attacks. Zaidu Sanusi steadily bombarded forward down the Porto left flank, while the ever-green Pepe tidied up effectively at the other end.

Some brilliant footwork by Wilson Manafa allowed him to skip across the Juventus defence with ease before setting up Moussa Marega, who took one brilliant first touch to get in between Demiral and Mathijs de Ligt before slotting a left-footed finish past Szczesny.

It was so easy to breach the Juve defence.

Porto manager Sergio Conceicao sought to protect his two-goal advantage, with goal scorer Marega coming off for Marko Grujic.

Nevertheless, the next best chance of the game fell to the hosts, with Szczesny forced to tip over an excellent overhead kick by Jesus Corona.

Pirlo made some attacking changes, with Alvaro Morata and Aaron Ramsey coming on. However, Porto continued to mount pressure on the Juventus goal.

Juventus were adamant that they should have received a penalty after Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled in the area, and replays showed that the Italians were well within their right to be furious.

Ronaldo excellently controlled the ball in the air and would have had a chance at goal had he not been fouled by Chancel Mbemba. The referee apparently did not see the incident and blew his final whistle not long after.

This is where the VAR should have come in to call the attention of the referee to the issue. It is not a matter of the final whistle having been blown, as there have been many cases where penalties were awarded after half-time or the full-time whistle. Manchester United against Brighton readily comes to mind.

Juventus eventually mustered a response when Chiesa fired home a precious away goal with eight minutes remaining. His strike ended Porto’s run of five consecutive clean sheets in the competition and leaves the tie wide open ahead of the return leg.

Szczesny was extremely shaky as a shot-stopper.

He was prone to frequent goalkeeping errors earlier in his career and failed to truly make a mark in his seven years at Arsenal. But he has become a more steady presence in goal since signing for Juventus in 2017. However, his old habits came to the fore against Porto.

Szczesny was constantly put under pressure by Porto’s high press and this, in turn, affected other areas of his game. He was not assured in the air, despite this being one of the strongest points of his game.

Having ridden out a storm in the first half, the Juventus goalkeeper once again conceded in the early moments of the second half.

He made amends with a series of fine saves later in the second half but by then, the damage had already been done.

The lack of composure on the ball by Juventus meant that Cristiano Ronaldo was starved off the ball, and he had to drop deep on several occasions to try and get involved. Ronaldo’s frustration was evident for most of the game, and the unsuccessful penalty appeal in the last minute only served to further incense him.

In total, Ronaldo had just one shot in the match and will be hoping for a more productive outing at Turin.

 

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