Forgotten man Quaresma helps Porto pounce on Bayern in CL quarters
Look into the eyes of the dragon and despair! That famous movie line must have encapsulated how Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola felt after 10 minutes of his side’s 3-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg defeat at Porto.
Ricardo Quaresma, derided as a flop by fans of Europe’s elite from far-ranging Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter Milan, struck at the double early, punishing costly errors from the German giants.
Bayern, who were 2/1 Champions League favourites before kick-off but now 7/2 chances with Coral, fell behind inside four minutes.
First Xabi Alonso, on the edge of the area, and then Manuel Neuer in the box brought down Dragons danger-man Jackson Martinez, declared fit after calf and groin problems, leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty.
Winger Quaresma converted from 12 yards, and later profited personally from a dawdling Dante in defence to race clear and slot under Neuer, thus doubling Porto’s lead. Munich’s much-maligned Brazilian centre back may find the stain of his World Cup shame bleeds deeper with every error he makes in similarly magnified spotlights.
Before half an hour, however, Bayern pulled one back with recently returned midfielder Thiago Alcantara tapping home Jerome Boateng’s right-wing cross unmarked at the back post. Real Madrid loanee Casemiro really should have cut out this delivery, and this route back into the tie dented the Dragons’ dominance.
Neuer still needed to be on hand to tip a looping Alex Sandro cross onto his own bar before the break, and Porto retained a direct threat on the counter, despite failing to maintain the blistering start they made.
After the interval, Munich made more mistakes with ex-Manchester City man Boateng turning from hero to villain. He almost put past his own keeper when under pressure from Hector Herrera at a first-time Danilo cross, but Neuer superbly tipped over.
Boateng left Bayern’s number one horribly exposed, however, when he failed to win an Alex Sandro punt upfield in the air and Martinez nipped in behind him. Porto’s Colombian hitman then duly rounded Neuer to restore a two-goal cushion.
Guardiola’s German giants rarely worked Dragons keeper Fabiano, though substitute Sebastian Rode drew one stop after replacing a tepid Mario Gotze. Criticising a frontline, largely starved of service and mainly made up of Borussia Dortmund’s best and brightest bought or lured on a bosman, should not shield shoddy Munich centre backs Boateng and Dante from fans’ wrath, though.
At this elite level, all previous success counts for nothing when such high standards are fallen way short of. Strengthening the heart of their defence should be a clear summer priority at Bayern, whether Guardiola remains at the Allianz or not.
Dragons delight may be somewhat tempered by Brazil full back pair Danilo and Alex Sandro picking up bookings that force them to sit out of the second leg through suspension, but nothing should detract from a famous win.
Former Spain Under-21 boss Julen Lopetegui, a European youth championship winner in two age categories, continues to see his stock rise. His Porto side really are dark horses at 6/1 to reach the Champions League final, and could yet catch Benfica on the domestic front.
If ever there was a warning for Lopetegui though, then he should heed how Shakhtar Donetsk held the Bundesliga champions at home in the last round only to be mauled in Munich.
A 2-0 win is all Guardiola needs at the Allianz to escape from being burned by the Dragons, and in their previous European outing there his Bayern side reached seventh heaven.