FC Porto took dramatic advantage of amateurish Bayern Munich defending Wednesday night, fashioning three goals directly from mistakes by Josep Guardiola’s men to build a 3-1 first leg lead in their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal tie.
Ricardo Quaresma (twice) and Jackson Martinez were the beneficiaries on a night when home-standing Porto looked perfectly capable of reaching the last four for the first time since 2004 when Jose Mourinho led them to the title.
On this night, Julen Lopetegui won the duel of two Spanish coaches. His decision to have Porto come out in a high-pressing fashion paid immediate rewards against a Bayern defense and midfield that looked both a step slower and well-befuddled by the challenge they were facing. Because Thiago Alcantara did collect a first half away goal for the Bundesliga leaders, Bayern will know that they are still in with a solid chance in the second leg next Tuesday, but they will need to patch up their leaky backline if they are to have any opportunity to move forward.
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”We are facing one of the strongest Bayern teams in history,” said Lopetegui. ”The hardest part will be in Munich.”
Porto will believe they can score in the Allianz Arena, but they first have to figure out how to keep Martinez and Co. under wraps. On this night it was Porto, so solid in the middle of the field, which exuded the European pedigree usually associated with the runaway Bundesliga leaders. And there will be many in the Portuguese camp who will believe that Bayern’s standout goalkeeper Manuel Neuer should never have finished the match and should not be available for any second leg fight-back.
Porto, unbeaten in the Champions League this season and in their last 10 home European matches, roared out of the gate when Martinez was passed fit to start and the immediately won a penalty. Bayern, which started the night unbeaten in 11 European trips onto Portuguese soil, was riddled by injury, with Bastian Schweinsteiger (flu) a late addition to those missing the match. The contrast in fortunes was dramatic.
”We have players who were out a long time with injuries … their legs don’t last very long,” Guardiola said. ”It’s a tough result to take into the second leg, but we’ll give it a go.”
The Neuer controversy came in the second minute when a terrible Xabi Alonso giveaway allowed Martinez to race in alone on the Bayern star. The world’s top-rated goalkeeper came off his line, spreading out as he slid. He missed the ball, took Martinez’ legs and one would have thought by the letter of the law that he denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. That interpretation would have been a red card, 88 minutes of 10-man football for Bayern and suspension for Neuer next week.
The Spanish referee, Carlos Velasco Carballo, decided otherwise, showing only yellow and awarding a penalty kick. Quaresma gave Neuer no chance from the spot, but the Spanish official kept them with eleven men to play the match and also kept Neuer available for the second leg.
The second Porto goal was just as bad from the point of view of Bayern’s defensive slackness, Dante the man who gave away possession this time when he failed to control a simple ball in the center of his own half of the field. Quaresma pounced, swept in alone on Neuer and finished with poise. Neuer, already on that yellow, did not come off his line to challenge this time.
The magic Porto start allowed them to dominate the match for nearly 30 minutes, Bayern unable to find its usual attacking space out wide, missing both Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben as they were. It was left to Jerome Boateng to get them a needed lifeline just before the half-hour when he beat Casemiro wide on the right, swept a raking cross to the far post and found Thiago Alcantara there to tap home a vital away goal.
The fact that Neuer was still on the field proved vital in the 57th minute when Porto probably should have gotten goal number three only for a majestic reaction save to deny Hector Herrera’s point-blank deflection. Neuer managed to get his hands up in time to turn the chance over the bar with the kind of save that made him a player of the year finalist.
Then Bayern’s shambolic central defending helped Martinez make it 3-1 eight minutes later when Boateng completely missed a long ball straight down the middle, failing to head the danger away and allowing Martinez a clear path to goal. Neuer came out to narrow the angle, but the Porto striker who has now collected 27 goals in all competitions this season, swept the ball home from wide on the left.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.