Porto produced an immaculate display to knock out Juventus in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg with 10 men in extra-time. The Portuguese champions progress in a UCL knockout tie after winning the first leg for the first time since winning the competition in 2003/04 under José Mourinho.

Sérgio Oliveira was the hero in front of goal for Porto as they stunned the Serie A champions, but it was veteran centre-back Pepe who won the plaudits after the final whistle.

Porto booked their fifth Champions League quarter-finals via away goals despite going down 3-2 and drawing 4-4 on aggregate after Oliveira netted an extra-time free-kick which sealed qualification for the visitors.

But as the Bianconeri desperately looked to land the knockout blow throughout the 90 minutes and extra-time, it was Pepe who stood tallest for the Portuguese outfit – producing a world-class defensive display.

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Porto’s lineup on Tuesday night was the second-oldest in their Champions League history (29 years and 16 days). And the experienced defender was a rock at the heart of the defence with Chancel Mbemba alongside him as they repelled every attack that came into their box.

Pepe like Fine Wine 

Pepe is one of the best centre-backs of his generation and has been around for many of these crunch Champions League nights to deliver another defensive masterclass.

In particular, the 38-year-old shackled his longtime Portugal teammate and ex-Real Madrid ally Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been directly involved in 82 goals in his last 78 Champions League knockout appearances (67 goals, 15 assists).

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s decisive contribution was seeing the winning freekick roll under him while Pepe was inspirational.

Ex-Man United defender Rio Ferdinand was full of praise for the Portuguese and claimed that aspiring young centre-halves should watch Pepe’s performance against Juventus for the perfect lesson in how to play at the back.

Ferdinand added: ‘If I am coaching at a football club now, I’d get these clips, and give them to every young centre-half at the club to watch – in terms of positional, desire, communication, awareness, sensing and smelling danger of where to be and using your body, as well in terms of defending the box. 

‘What we normally see with young defenders nowadays is are they good on the ball, but how about defending your box. And far too often we see these young defenders, and defenders of maturity still in the game today, they get their feet muddled up, their body positions are wrong. 

‘That was an almost perfect performance in terms of defending your box and that is something that should be sent around to all the young centre halves.’

Per Squawka, Pepe won 100% of his aerial duels, made 18 clearances (12 with his head), made eight ball recoveries, blocked two shots, and completed two tackles.

Ronaldo the big loser on the night

Juventus made two costly errors with both Porto goals in the away leg, then conceded a fatal penalty early on before failing to defend Oliveira’s 115th-minute freekick which squirmed under the wall and beat Wojciech Szczęsny’s palm to creep in. Pepe made the difference for his side who stayed disciplined under extreme Juventus pressure.

On the night of nights for Porto, the famously hot-headed defender was his team’s pillar at the back. A vintage captain’s performance.

Pepe rolled back the years to stop Juve’s array of attacking players.

Pepe praised of the character of his teammates in an amazing team effort:

“The work of the whole team was important to go through in a passage that was fully deserved. It’s hard to explain by words the way we managed to react [playing with ten men]. Today we showed lots of character: the players were focused and that made it easy for us.”

The Dragons are certainly breathing fire and many teams would want to avoid them in the quarterfinals. For Pepe, it would be another episode of masterclass defending.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.


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