Barcelona defeated Porto 2-1 at home on Tuesday, earning a berth in the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in three seasons thanks to goals from João Cancelo and João Félix in each half.
Five-time champions Barcelona are back in the round of sixteen after finishing in the top two with one game left, after exiting the tournament in the group stage two years in a row.
With 12 points, Barcelona leads Group H. Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, who will square off on the last matchday to determine who will advance with the Spanish team to the knockout round, are three points behind Barcelona.
In two weeks, Barca must at least draw with bottom-place Antwerp in order to secure the top position in the group.
They had to exert a great deal of effort against a courageous Porto team that was superior in the first half, but they were let down by a brilliant display of goalkeeping from Barca’s Iñaki Peña, who came in for the injured Marc-André ter Stegen and made several key saves to keep the home team in the contest.
In the 28th minute, Pena produced a reaction save to save a clear shot from Galeno. Two minutes later, the Porto winger attempted another shot, but Pepê was well-positioned inside the box to finish the rebound and put them ahead.
But two minutes later, Cancelo, having dribbled past João Mário, struck a beautiful curling shot into the top corner to give Barca a response.
Never giving up, Porto came dangerously close to taking the lead in the forty-third minute when, just before halftime, Pena produced an incredible one-handed stop to push another long-range effort from Galeno around the post.
However, in the second half, Cancelo and Felix really showed their mettle, and Barcelona underwent a complete metamorphosis as the Portuguese pair caused endless problems for the visiting defense.
Felix connected nicely with Cancelo, who began his career at Benfica’s academy, Porto’s rivals in Portugal, and unleashed a tremendous effort from range in the 47th minute that smashed against the crossbar.
In the 57th minute, Cancelo secured the victory with a superb move down the left channel, setting Felix up for a clean first-time strike just beyond the reach of the goalie.
Cancelo said to Movistar Plus, “We knew it was a final for us, and we won it, which is the most important thing.” “The confidence changes when the expected outcomes are not met. We have a fantastic team, but I believe that our group is quite mature and grownup, and they get along well with the younger members.
“We have put Barca back in the last 16, which is where this club deserves to be.”