Barcelona are through to the Champions League round of 16 for the first time under Xavi Hernández, and they need just one point to finish the group stage as Group H winners thanks to a hard-fought and well earned 2-1 win against FC Porto at the Montjuïc Olympic Stadium on Tuesday night.
Barcelona came from behind after Porto took the lead in the 30th minute, but the La Liga champions showed mental strength and played a very good all-around team game to earn three big points and move on to the Round of 16 with a game in hand.
The Xavi Hernández men were the better side to start the game, having enjoyed 20 minutes of strong possession work and moments of danger thanks to the aggressive play of Raphinha and João Cancelo, who were tasked with providing service from the wings and constant threats to defenders, firing shots from a distance and looking to test goalkeeper Diogo Costa.
To begin the game, Porto mostly defended but gradually began to hurt Barcelona with their pressing and counter-attack, and a goal by Mehdi Taremi was ruled out for offside before a killer counter-attack ended with a shot by Galeno that was saved by Iaki Pea and fell perfectly to Brazilian winger Pepê, who was quickest to the rebound and gave the Drages the lead in the 30th minute.
However, an instant and crucial response from Barcelona restored parity through a very good, quick passing sequence from one side of the pitch to the other, which ended with a sensational solo goal by Cancelo, who dribbled past João Mário with ease and fired a gorgeous curler into the bottom corner just 90 seconds after Porto’s opener.
The two quick goals opened up the game, and both teams fired haymakers at each other like a frenzied heavyweight boxing match.
Barcelona’s João Felix and Raphinha both wasted big chances, then Pea had to make a world-class stop to keep Evanilson from scoring.
The halfway whistle came to the end of a spectacular first half, and the score remained 1-1 even though both teams could have easily scored two or three goals.
The score was 1-1 at the stroke of halftime, even though both teams could have easily scored two or three goals.
Barca nearly scored a Goal of the Season contender 15 seconds after the restart when João Félix shot a rocket against the crossbar, and Félix wasted another wonderful chance just a few minutes later as Barça started the period aggressively and forced Porto to play deeper than they desired.
Félix and Cancelo continued to mount pressure on Porto’s right side, and the two combined to give the Blaugrana the lead near the hour mark: the two Portuguese teammates made a couple of one-two’s in a short space, and Félix used his right foot inside the box to flick the ball away from Costa and into the bottom corner for a stunning goal to complete the home team’s comeback.
Barca’s jitters were eased by the early goal in the second half, and the Blaugrana were immediately very comfortable controlling the ball and looking to score a third without taking needless risks.
Porto had very little joy on the counter, and Ronald Araujo was extremely essential in thwarting a couple of potentially serious visitors’ efforts, and the Catalans went into the final 15 minutes in an excellent position to finish the job and clinch the victory.
With 10 minutes remaining, they had a golden opportunity to seal the game, but Ferran Torres missed a reasonably easy chance from the edge of the box, and Porto began putting more and more bodies forward, hoping to take risks and earn a late equalizer.
They had a handful of threatening moments, but for the most part, Barcelona kept the ball and ran out of time.
The final whistle blew to formally clinch a spot in the Round of 16 for a Barcelona.
Now, Barcelona will travel to the worst team in the group, knowing that a point against Royal Antwerp will be enough to win the group.