Dragons dominated a cautious Napoli, but couldn’t score in a night of full house
The Estádio do Dragão crammed 48, 109 Portistas on Saturday night as FC Porto presented a 27-man-strong squad. The Dragons controlled the match against a cautious Napoli side, but could not muster a goal as the party continued to roll on into the night.
The party atmosphere that was the Dragão bayed for blood and goals as Porto looked to oblige, but, as expected, Napoli came up with a defensive team determined not to concede, encapsulating the traditional Italian Catenaccio.
A firm test in the midst of a tough tie against Vitória de Guimarães at the same ground, Lopetegui’s charges will have to put on their shooting boots next time round as countless guilt-edged opportunities littered the first half and Reina’s goal, who kept the scoreboard intact.
Despite the lack of goals, the debut of Dani Pablo Osvaldo, and the return of Cissokho to the Dragons six years later, were both received with raucous applause. Nevertheless, the tie had its downsides, as the French defender on loan from Aston Villa and Yacine Brahimi both went out injured.
A strong start despite an early setback
Four days after the returning to his former club where he arguably played his best football, Cissokho deputized in the starting eleven at left-back, with Rúben Neves, Imbula and Herrera in the middle of the park. Up front, Varela, Aboubakar and Brahimi started, with Tello coming in for the Algerian after 18 minutes. Despite the early setback, the blue and whites still dominated the first-half, showing a clear intention to please the fans and take the game to the Italians.
Four minutes in, Herrera almost opened the scoreboard, with his just going over the top bar, and less than ten minutes after, Ivan Marcano headed just wide of the post following a cross from Varela. At the half-hour mark, Herrera was once again part of the action as he missed the target when it might have been easier to score after a Maxi pass from the right.
Varela was particularly active, both on the right and on the left, but a lack of proficiency was obvious, as Napoli continued to play on the counter, mustering only one opportunity in the first-half, an Insigne effort that forced Casillas into a difficult save.
Porto press on amidst second half overhaul
By the end of the first half, apart from the substitution of the injured Cissokho for José Ángel, Lopetegui changed five players at the break. Casillas, Marcano, Rúben Neves, Herrera and Varela were replaced by Helton, Martins Indi, Danilo, André André and Bueno, who took up a role an unaccustomed role on left flank, whereas he normally played as Porto’s No.10 in preseason.
With starting eleven berths still up for grabs, and competition still rife, five direct competitors were thrown into the fray in the hope of making a claim.
Contrastingly, the pace of the match did not let up, although its flair dissipated. Before another flurry of substitutions at both ends, Porto had a decent penalty shout after Maxi Pereira was pulled down in the box by Hysaj, only for the referee to wave away any appeals. The changes in personnel continued as not one single Porto player played for the full 90 minutes. As a result, Lopetegui’s side lost their stringent tactical organization, as the match began to favor the defensive football adopted by Napoli. Maggio would find himself isolated in Helton’s midst past the hour-mark, only to sky his effort over the bar; moments after Tello could not pick out Osvaldo who had found space in the Napoli box.
The last effort of note would fall to Os Dragões 15-minutes from time, as Ricardo forced Pepe Reina into a tight save, with José Ángel firing agonizingly wide on the follow up from outside the area.
Julen Lopetegui and his side will now shift their focus to a week from now and the start of the Primeira Liga at the Estádio do Dragão (20:45 Lisbon time) against Vitória de Guimarães.