“Tomorrow we will show the greatness of FC Porto”, Sérgio Conceição promised, at the press conference before the match in Monaco, which the Dragons won, this Tuesday night, by clear 3-0, just as in the final in Gelsenkirchen, exactly 13 years and four months ago. The coach's words were a premonition, one that few gave importance to, especially after the defeat in the first matchday of group G, against Besiktas. Aboubakar deserved the title of honorary prince of the Principality, after scoring the first two goals of the match, sealed with a goal from Layún. The Dragons are now second in the group, with three points, and well in the fight for the qualification to the round of 16.
This was the first ever victory of a Portuguese team at Stade Louis II, where there was great support for the blue and whites, and where, since May, no one has been able to win (Juventus was the last one to do it). In fact, this is only the second Portuguese victory in France for the UEFA Champions League, with the first coming on the way to Gelsenkirchen (3-2 against Marseille), in October, 2003. The French champions hadn’t lost at home in the group stage of the competition since 2000/01, and, with all this data, the bitter taste of the previous three defeats at the stadium is lost a bit, always fighting for European Supercups.
Sérgio Oliveira was the surprise that Sérgio Conceição sent in for the starting team, replacing Corona, in comparison to the match on Friday, at home, against Portimonense. The inclusion of the Portuguese midfielder, who played his first minutes of the season in official matches, allowed Herrera to play a few meters ahead of what has been usual, going up to put pressure on the ball when Monaco tried to attack or offer solutions to the blue and white attack. The blue and whites did well in closing the line when they didn’t have the ball, leaving only Aboubakar upfront, and putting on intense pressure, which prevented Monaco from launching quick attacks, and from feeling comfortable in building supported attacks.
In the first-half, Monaco only managed to create danger in the fourth minute - Falcao shot at Casillas, after a bad pass from Brahimi - and FC Porto, without creating great finishing moments, had an easier time in reaching the opposing area. And it was in one of those moments, following a throw in, that Danilo shot, only to have Benaglio save it, and, on the loose ball, Aboubakar made it 1-0. The Cameroonian, who had already celebrated a goal at the Stade Louis II, at the service of Lorient, in 2014, shortly before signing for the Dragons, still saw Brahimi lose the 2-0 on minute 42, right in the heart of the area.
A strong pressure from the home team was expected in the beginning of the second-half (Carrillo replaced Diakhaby) and the home team tried to take control of the match, but couldn’t. FC Porto maintained a perfect balance on the pitch, stopped the opponent’s means of attacking (the fullbacks, usually very offensive, couldn’t create imbalances) and looked for the counterattack, now that Monaco moved up on the pitch. The first warning of this exploit of the back of the home defence came 59 minutes, with Marega, alone in front of the keeper, shooting straight at Benaglio. Ten minutes later, a perfect play meant the 2-0: Brahimi was superb in the pass to Marega on the right wing and the Malian passed the ball perfectly to Aboubakar, who finished right in front of goal - eighth goal in the season for the Cameroonian.
There was also a moment of happiness in the big blue and white European night: on minute 71, Falcao hit the bar, in the only time he ran from Marcano and Felipe, who were pretty much insurmountable. Leonardo Jardim was looking for solutions in the bench, but it was the Dragons who made it 3-0, by Layún, in a play that had Marega and Herrera trying to shoot for goal. This season, FC Porto hasn’t lost away yet and there is exactly a trip to Sporting CP (Sunday, 19h15), which will test the team's unbeaten status in the Portuguese League.