Cancelo & Felix Shine As Barcelona Secure Champions League Knockout Soccer For The First Time Since Lionel Messi’s Departure

Barcelona Have Qualified For Champions League RO16
Barcelona Have Qualified For Champions League RO16

Five-time European champions Barcelona hosted FC Porto at the Olimpic Lluis Companys Stadium in Gameweek 5 of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League season on Tuesday night (November 28). Following a shock 1-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday 4, the Blaugrana needed maximum points on the board to book a place in the Round of 16. Porto did not make it easy for the hosts, but two former Benfica stars came to Barca’s aid to propel them to a 2-1 victory.

Portuguese Duo Ensures Champions League RO16 Soccer For Barcelona

Barcelona had not qualified for the Last 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League since Lionel Messi left the club as a free agent in the summer of 2021. The onus was on player-turned-manager Xavi to put an end to that tragic streak this season. After three consecutive wins in the first three games, Barcelona’s perfect streak came to an end against Shakhtar, making fans wary of their chances of qualification.

Barcelona struggled a bit against Porto on Tuesday, but they ultimately found their bearings and landed on the right side of a 2-1 scoreline.

Brazilian right midfielder Pepe Aquino scored Porto’s only goal of the game in the 30th minute, turning in the rebound after his countryman Wenderson Galeno draw a top save from Inaki Pena. Barca, however, were not behind for long, with Portuguese full-back Joao Cancelo netting the equalizer in the 32nd minute. Receiving the ball from Pedri, the Manchester City loanee dashed into the box from the left flank before dispatching a thunderous shot that found its way into the far corner.

In the 57th minute, Cancelo turned provider for his countryman Joao Felix, setting him up with an inch-perfect pass into the box. Felix played a little one-two with Cancelo before drilling the ball into the far corner. It was the Atletico Madrid loanee’s first goal for Barcelona since September.

FC Porto’s Francisco Conceicao had a great opportunity to level the game in the closing passages, but he fluffed his effort and sent it straight to Pena.

Cancelo Was The Player Of The Match Against Porto

Cancelo, 29, was easily the best player on the Barcelona pitch on Tuesday night. He covered every blade of grass, moved the ball around superbly, held his ground well, and played a part in both goals, scoring the first and assisting the second.

Over the course of the Champions League encounter, Cancelo completed 90% of his passes (27/30), created a game-high five chances, and completed six dribbles. He was also rock solid on the defensive front, winning 14 duels and attempting four tackles (3 won).

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