After a pulsating affair at the Estadio do Dragao Porto knocked out Roma with a 3-1 win and reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
Porto set the tempo for play early on, piling the pressure from the off and immediately reaping the rewards after Tiquinho broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, but Roma swung the pendulum back in their favour just 10 minutes later after Daniele De Rossi tucked home a penalty.
Sergio Conceicao’s men refused to yield and they soon brought the aggregate score level at 3-3 after Moussa Marega netted with 52 minutes on the clock. They won the match in extra-time after VAR worked in their favour, awarding a penalty which Alex Telles subsequently converted.
And so, after an exhilarating encounter on the Iberian Peninsula, who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Moussa Marega
From minute one Marega was up for this fixture, relentlessly chasing down an often dysfunctional Roma back-three and harrying them at every opportunity.
Only six players have scored in six consecutive #UCL appearances:
✅ Ruud van Nistelrooy
✅ Cristiano Ronaldo
✅ Marouane Chamakh
✅ Burak Yılmaz
✅ Edinson Cavani
🆕 Moussa Marega
Welcome to the club. pic.twitter.com/4pKl7vO3sk
— Coral (@Coral) March 6, 2019
His intensity and persistent pressing put Di Francesco’s backline on the edge, and it was here the Dragons took full advantage after Marega hunted down Kostas Manolas and timed a precise challenge before Porto broke with breakneck speed and netted the opener.
And the 27-year-old would soon be rewarded for his determination and drive shortly after the interval, restoring equilibrium to this fixture after timing his run to perfection before a delectable Corona delivery found his path which he calmly slotted past Robin Olsen.
In doing so he joined an illustrious club of only six players to have scored in six consecutive Champions Leagues matches.
Loser: Eusebio Di Francesco
Amidst a growing dissatisfaction from the Roma board regarding Di Francesco’s capacity to keep the club fighting in the upper echelons of domestic and European football, the coach got his tactics completely wrong.
The Italian coach shifted from the effective 4-3-3 formation deployed in the Eternal City during the first leg to a more conservative 3-4-3, opting for a five-man defence which simply invited pressure from Porto.
Instead of taking the match to the Portuguese outfit, Di Francesco shuffled the pack and decided to sit deep, perhaps as a reaction from the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of bitter adversaries Lazio at the weekend.
Winner: Daniele De Rossi
The elder statesman in the heart of Roma’s midfield, De Rossi demonstrated an indomitable resolution, self-command and iron nerve to confidently stroke the ball past Iker Casillas when I Giallorossi were awarded a penalty just before half-time.
De Rossi’s spot-kick brought his side back into the match just when Porto were increasingly building pressure and asserting authority on proceedings. When the capital club needed their captain, stalwart and midfield general, he duly stepped up.
At 35, the Italian veteran was a composed figure in the middle of the park during the first half, instructing his teammates when under the strain of Porto’s press, while rallying his troops in a trademark fashion.
Roma’s midfield lost all tenacity and energy when De Rossi parted the field through injury, showing just how important he was, and still is, to Di Francesco.
Loser: Eder Militao
Much has been made of the emerging 21-year-old Brazilian defender this season, with many believing his tenure at the Estadio do Dragao will be but a transient pit stop en route to one of Europe’s elite footballing aristocrats, such has been his impact since arriving in the summer.
And while there is much reason to be excited about the Sao Paulo native, against Roma he demonstrated an inexperience and naivety on the grandest of stages after getting drawn into a late challenge, which ultimately cost his side a penalty.
Diego Perotti was streetwise, jinking the ball past his South American counterpart and tempting him into a lunge, which ultimately paid dividends as the Argentine went to ground under contact before referee Cuneyt Cakir showed little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
This will serve as a huge learning curve for the versatile defender, but under the circumstances – with Porto firmly in the ascendancy – it was an unnecessary and almost costly foul.
That said Militao went on to have a strong game – there’s no denying that – but Porto probably would have won the match in regulation time were it not for the Brazilian’s foul – Roma offered very little from open play.
The Brazilian worked well in tandem with Marega, causing a myriad of problems for the Roma defence, and he took his goal expertly in the opening exchanges.
Tiquinho has been in fine Primeira Liga form this season, netting 10 goals in just 18 appearances, but he managed to notch his first Champions League goal this evening, and what an important one it was at the time.
The 28-year-old was as ruthless as his strike partner Marega, and the Roma defence – which included experienced heads in the mould of Juan Jesus, Kostas Manolas and Ivan Marcano – struggled to cope under their seismic press.
Tiquinho’s rise to the top has been quite extraordinary considering he was only plying his trade for Centro Sportivo Paraibano in Brazilian obscurity just three years ago; at 28, he is now scoring in Europe’s premier knockout tournament against one of the great footballing nobilities.
Loser: Edin Dzeko
The 32-year-old had a moment to forget after collapsing to the ground under a slight clash of heads with Pepe; it was a comical moment, reminiscent of, well…Pepe.
That said, a player of the Bosnian’s size and stature should not be capitulating under those circumstances, even Pepe – a master in the art of deception – found it quite ridiculous.
As soon as night follows day, Pepe clashes with an opposition forward.
Embarrassing from Head-in Dzeko.. 🙈 pic.twitter.com/u3RFd1M12y
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 6, 2019
During the 90 minutes no player mustered fewer passes than Dzeko who often posed an isolated figure in the final third, failing to really stamp his authority on the match, though his teammates hardly gave him the service.
Dzeko was solid defensively, but Di Francesco needed a man to spearhead the attack, and the seasoned striker came up short in that department, missing two glorious chances in extra-time.
Winner: Sergio Conceicao
A masterclass from Conceicao, he set his side up brilliantly, attacking with vim and vigour and really bringing the match to Roma. The Portuguese tactician was not afraid to throw the kitchen sink at the Serie A giants even when the scores were level on aggregate.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
His substitutions were not as effective as the first leg, but they injected a fresh impetus and went on to book his side a ticket in the quarter-finals when it looked unlikely before a ball was kicked.
This result will certainly alleviate the current frustrations after his side lost O Classico against Benfica at the weekend, losing their spot at the top of the league, but victory against Roma has been a significant reaction.