Down but not out was the prevailing feeling in the Porto camp after the Dragons’ 2-0 defeat by Juventus in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.
Nuno Espírto Santo will search for inspiration to impart to his players, who must now produce the game of their careers in north-west Italy on 14 March in order to progress at the expense of their Serie A opponents.
Highlights: Juventus substitutes topple Porto
“We go to Turin, where we must compete,” Espírito Santo said after Porto’s first home loss since 30 April 2016. “It’s true that the tie looks very, very difficult, but it’s not yet done. Football has shown over the years that everything is possible and that attitude will carry our spirit to the last.”
Porto’s travails started with full-back Alex Telles’s dismissal in the 27th minute of a hitherto evenly-matched encounter. Juventus then began to dominate but nevertheless had to wait until the 72nd minute to take the lead through Marko Pjaca, who drove in Miguel Layún’s loose clearance.
Dani Alves swiftly added a second to leave Juventus with one foot, and a little more, in the quarter-finals. “Playing against a team with the quality Juventus have is hard enough with 11 men – imagine trying to do it with ten?” said Iker Casillas. “We waited two and a half months for that game and suddenly everything is influenced by the sending off.”
Porto’s Alex Telles is sent off©AFP/Getty Images
The reverse represented a real blow to Porto’s morale. However, citing his side’s success in Italy this season – a 3-0 victory against Roma in the UEFA Champions League play-offs – Porto defender Felipe said there was reason to believe ahead of the return at the Juventus Stadium.
“The onus is on us now to chase a result,” he explained. “It will be complicated, but it’s not impossible. We showed against Roma what we are capable of and against Juventus it can’t be any different.”
Left-back Telles spoke of his regret when apologising to fans via Instagram for his part in the result. “The only reason a Portista drops his head is to kiss the club’s badge,” the 24-year-old wrote.
“We have to show, as a team, that we are able to stand up after such an adverse result,” Espírito Santo added. Even midfielder Danilo dared to dream, saying: “The scoreline makes things difficult, but nothing is impossible.”