More wasteful finishing from Manchester City saw them draw 0-0 at the Estadio do Dragao, with the result confirming Porto and City their progression from the group stages in 2nd and 1st places respectively. VAR, again, provided the main turning point, ruling out a late Gabriel Jesus winner for City.
A dour first half of few chances gave little excitement. The closest either team came to scoring, and by some way, was when Raheem Sterling’s shot from a half-cleared corner was kicked off the line with Agustin Marchesin well beaten.
Porto, incidentally, had one first half shot, with Sergio Oliveira’s long range effort more of a danger to the stadium roof than Ederson in the Man City goal.
The half time whistle would have come as a relief to everyone watching.
Half time: Porto 0-0 Manchester City
The second half started much the same as the first, with City camped inside the Porto half but doing very little, and Porto happy to sit deep and absorb the pressure, while doing next to nothing in attack.
Suddenly, at the hour mark, City came to life.
A wonderful through ball by Foden, curled perfectly around Malang Sarr, found Sterling in on goal. Marchesin, in his first real involvement of the night, was instantly at the Englishman’s feet to smother the shot, with Ferran Torres hesitant with the loose ball and seeing it taken away from him by Mbemba. From 12 yards out, and only two defenders on the line to beat, he should have done better.
Ten minutes later saw a passage of play that would have left everyone, especially Ruben Dias, wondering just how City were not ahead. A cross from the right found Sterling unmarked at the front post. His clever flick on across goal saw Dias sliding in barely a yard out, with the goal at his mercy. Somehow, the ex-Benfica man only kicked the ball up and away rather than forward, with Torres’ overhead kick from 4 yards out then well pushed away by Marchesin.
Unexpectedly, City were experiencing a lot of joy from corners, despite only Rodri and Dias being true aerial presences inside the box. Jesus had also replaced Torres in the 71st minute, and City were looking a lot more potent in attack as Porto began to tire.
A headed pass down the line by Joao Cancelo to Bernardo seemed to pose little threat. However, the City playmaker beat his man with a Messi-esque piece of dribbling, before driving into the box and unleashing a powerful shot inside the near post. Marchesin, again, saved well.
If City were wondering if today wouldn’t be their day, two minutes of play confirmed it. In the 80th minute, a corner was headed back into the six yard box by Dias to Eric Garcia, who had a seemingly simple finish. His tentative prod was, however, brilliantly clawed away by Marchesin.
City recycled the ball, and Bernardo whipped a perfect cross between two static defenders to Jesus, whose powerful header was somehow tipped onto the bar by Marchesin. The ball then unluckily hit the shot stopper and broke for Jesus to tap into an empty net.
Unfortunately for City, VAR was in operation. Rodri, involved earlier in the move with Bernardo, was offside when City resumed their attack following the corner. Despite arguably being a separate phase of play, the ‘goal’ was ruled out.
Further City chances followed, with Jesus heading over and Garcia again failing to find the net from close range, this time from Fernandinho’s flick-on from a Foden freekick. Despite their familiar failings, City yet again top their group, and can now rest players for the upcoming visit of Marseille.
Full time: Porto 0-0 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Agustin Marchesin
Bernardo Silva produced his best performance for some time in a City shirt, but it was Porto’s Argentinian goalkeeper who deserves the plaudits for an outstanding performance, one which earned his team their place in the last 16.