Barcelona's Thrilling 2-1 Comeback to Champions League Knockouts
|(L-R) Joao Felix of FC Barcelona, Joao Cancelo of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League match between FC Barcelona v FC Porto at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium on November 28, 2023 in Barcelona Spain(Image-Getty)
In a thrilling encounter, Barcelona secured a notable 2-1 comeback victory at home against Porto, thanks to goals from Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix in each half. This triumph not only marked Barcelona's return to the Champions League knockout rounds but also ended a three-season absence, following consecutive exits in the group stage.
Having clinched a top-two finish with one game to spare, Barcelona leads Group H with 12 points, three ahead of both Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, who will face off in the final matchday to determine the other team advancing to the knockout stage.
The journey to redemption wasn't easy, as Barcelona faced a resilient Porto side that dominated the first half. Barca's goalkeeper Inaki Pena, standing in for the injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen, displayed brilliance with crucial saves, denying a point-blank strike from Galeno and thwarting another effort from the Porto winger. However, Pepe capitalized on a rebound to give Porto the lead.
Barcelona responded swiftly, with Cancelo's skillful dribble past Joao Mario leading to an exquisite curling shot into the top corner, leveling the score. Despite Porto's near misses before halftime, Barcelona's resilience shone in the second half.
Joao Felix unleashed a powerful long-range strike, rattling the crossbar in the 47th minute, setting the stage for a rejuvenated Barcelona. The Portuguese duo of Cancelo and Felix, products of the Benfica academy and former rivals of Porto, wreaked havoc on the visitors' defense. Cancelo's dynamic run down the left channel set up Felix for a precise first-time finish in the 57th minute, sealing Barcelona's comeback win.
Reflecting on the crucial victory, Cancelo emphasized its significance, stating, "It was a final for us, we knew that and we won it, which is the most important thing." Acknowledging the challenges faced, he added, "When the results don't come, the confidence is not the same. I think we have a very mature, adult group that connect well with the others that are young, but we have a great team." In closing, Cancelo affirmed Barcelona's deserving place in the last 16 of the competition.