Paulo Dybala’s first-half penalty ensured Juventus reached the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the third time in five seasons, seeing off a Porto side who again played more than half the game with ten men.
Two-nil up from their trip to Portugal three weeks ago, Juventus initially looked set to seize the initiative once again, with Dybala twice trying his luck in the opening ten minutes. The Italian champions then opted to sit back, however, and sought to hit Porto on the break, leading to a slow-paced first period of few real opportunities.
That all changed five minutes before half-time as Dani Alves’s right-wing corner found its way to Gonzalo Higuaín at the far post. The Argentinian’s shot was blocked by the hand of Maxi Pereira, who was duly dismissed, and Dybala stepped up to send Iker Casillas the wrong way from the spot. It was his fourth successful penalty in four matches – and his 15th conversion in a row.
That left Porto needing to score three, and they might have had one of them within moments of the restart when a swift counterattack led to Francisco Soares breaking clear. With only Gianluigi Buffon to beat, he curled his shot a metre wide of the far post.
Substitute Marko Pjaca then dragged an attempt past the upright as Juventus continued to dictate the tempo, Higuaín also forcing his way through moments later and firing a metre wide. Juventus, however, had already done enough to secure a comfortable overall win.
Key player: Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Dybala’s hunger for European glory with Juventus was gloriously apparent from the Argentinian’s formidable first-half efforts. The 23-year-old tirelessly dropped deep to win possession time and again, and his forward thrusts, intricate movement and fine crossing had home fans regularly on their feet in appreciation of his raw talent.
Juve’s four musketeers
Can Juve really afford to field all four of Juan Cuadrado, Dybala, Mario Mandžukić and Higuaín on big European nights? The answer is yes, if the attacking quartet are as willing to work and help out defensively as they were here against Porto. Mandžukić covered every blade of grass, while the Juventus Stadium exploded with esteem when Dybala made a timely sliding tackle on the edge of his own area soon after scoring the opener. With an ‘All for One and One for All’ spirit, these four Juve musketeers can certainly combine to lethal effect.
Red cards cost Porto
Porto will never know whether they could have changed the outcome of this round of 16 tie had they finished both legs with 11 men. For coach Nuno Espírito Santo, Alex Telles’s first-leg dismissal “marked” that encounter and while they were struggling to truly trouble Juventus with a full contingent tonight, any chances of making inroads into their 2-0 deficit disappeared completely once Maxi Pereira saw red for the deliberate handball that allowed Dybala to settle matters.
Paolo Menicucci, Juventus (@UEFAcomPaoloM)
Qualification never really seemed in doubt for Juventus after the important 2-0 first-leg success in Portugal. The Bianconeri played with authority in the first half despite labouring to create actual chances. Juve dropped their focus a bit after the interval, with Porto down to ten men, yet they still managed to earn their 119th win in 150 games at the Juventus Stadium since moving here in 2011. There was also a sixth UEFA Champions League clean sheet of the season, so I guess not many teams will want to land Juve in Friday’s draw.