Porto punishes Club Brugge, moves into CL knockout stage

BRUGGE, Belgium (AP) — Porto punished Club Brugge’s defensive mistakes to hand the Belgian champion its first defeat in the Champions League this season and reach the knockout stage with a 4-0 win Wednesday.

Porto avenged its 4-0 home loss when the teams first met in Group B last month and advanced to the round of 16 after Atletico was held 2-2 by Leverkusen.

With one match left to play in the group phase, Porto moved one point behind group leader Brugge, which had already secured advancement before kickoff. Atletico stood third, five points off the pace, with Leverkusen lagging one point further back.

Brugge had not conceded a single goal in its four previous matches but was far from its best at Jan Breydelstadion, where Porto striker Medhi Taremi completed a brace.

“We had a collective off-day. It’s unfortunate because we wanted to become group winners,” Brugge midfielder Hans Vanaken said. “We should put our heads together and analyze what happened. And then next week we have to make sure we’ve learned from this.”

The Belgian side was overwhelmed from the start and Porto had its first chance in the sixth minute when Stephen Eustaquio found himself unmarked in the box but fluffed his shot over the bar.

Under pressure, Brugge lost almost all duels and struggled to clear its lines but Porto missed two more big chances within the opening 15 minutes through Taremi.

Brugge finally cracked in the 33rd minute after Brandon Mechele gave the ball away with a poor pass near the midfield line. Porto captain Otavio recovered it and picked out Taremi with a through ball, with the Iranian striker coolly converting from outside the box with a curled finish.

Brugge failed to produce a single shot on target in the first half. And when the hosts finally had a chance to get back in the match, they squandered it.

Porto conceded a penalty in the 49th but Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa parried away Vanaken’s attempt, only for the referee to order the kick to be taken again for an encroachment.

Noah Lang took it this time, and Costa made another save, screaming in delight.

That was a turning point, with Porto scoring three goals in 14 minutes afterwards.

Brazilian forward Evanilson doubled Porto’s lead in the 57th after another spell of naïve defending from the hosts, who failed to clear their box and were punished from close range. Eustaquio then made it 3-0 at the hour mark and Taremi completed a brace from Otavio’s assist in the 70th.

“In an important game, we didn’t shy away from our responsibilities,” Porto coach Sergio Conceicão said. “There were some fantastic individual performances.”

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