Porto hit 4 world class finishes past Basel, advance to UCL quarterfinals

I made the unfortunate mistake of assuming Real Madrid vs. Schalke was a done deal and watched Porto vs. Basel, too stubborn to switch back over as I saw the wild fluctuating scoreline from Madrid. The quality of Porto's 4 goals in their commanding win offered some consolation however; each came from genuinely world class strikes.

Yacine Brahimi's opener came from a free kick just outside the 18 yard box and was remarkable for how quickly he was able to get his shot up over the wall and then to drop back down again under the crossbar. From such a close distance it's so difficult to get a strike up and down quickly enough but Brahimi's effort dipped comfortably under the bar leaving Tomas Vaclik rooted to his starting position.

Hector Herrera and Vincent Aboubakar, who replaced injured star man Jackson Martinez up top, scored the second and fourth respectively from live play. Herrera tucked inside from the left at the edge of the box and curled a right-footed strike past Vaclik just inside of the far post. Aboubakar bullied both Basel center backs Walter Samuel and Fabian Schar before smashing in a strike inside Vaclik's left post.

Real Madrid loanee Casemiro scored the pick of the bunch with a thunderous free kick from 30 yards out. The Brazilian was excellent throughout and will be key in defensive midfield if Porto are to have any chance at advancing through to the semifinal.

Tactically this penned Basel's 4-2-3-1 versus Porto's 4-3-3.  The midfield matchups were therefore straightforward- Casemiro versus Basel central attacking midfielder Luca Zuffi, Herrera versus Fabian Frei and Evandro Goebel versus Mohamed Elneny. Both sides man marked in these match ups throughout. Porto pressed the Basel deep lying midfielders Frei and Elneny higher up the pitch and for the opening half hour Basel struggled to get any sort of link into the attacking third.

There was about a 10-15 minute spell at the end of the first half when Basel came into the game. Porto's right back Alex Sandro (who had switched sides from left back after starting right back Danilo was knocked unconscious) was playing very narrow. Basel looked to play long diagonal balls into the left channel outside of Sandro. A decent chance fell for Shkelzen Gashi after Zuffi had pulled wide into the left channel to collect a sweeping diagonal ball. Basel's ascendency was brief however and when Herrera added Porto's second Basel never really looked like finding a way back into it.

Paulo Sousa quickly replaced center back Schar with forward Breel Embolo and defensive midfielder Frei for attacking midfielder Yoichiro Kakitani but Basel continued to create little and were left exposed at the back.

Porto look a fairly well balanced side even in the absence of Martinez and could provide a really difficult tie for whoever they draw in the quarterfinals.