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Imperious Joao Cancelo the hero for Barca on a nervy Champions League night

Job done

FC Barcelona v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Once again it was far from a vintage performance from Barcelona, however, sometimes only the result matters and not the manner of the performance.

Xavi certainly can’t be happy with the way in which Porto routinely sliced through the Catalan’s midfield and back line, though he’ll be encouraged by the verve in which Barca attacked, particularly in the opening 45.

If there was a criticism of the front line, for whom Robert Lewandowski was once again anonymous, it was that far too many chances were initially squandered.

That they were even created has to be seen as a positive for the Blaugranes given how poor Xavi’s squad have been in that regard of late.

It was also encouraging to see Raphinha and Joao Felix playing with such confidence even if the former’s play was a little too one-dimensional.

The Portuguese badly needed a goal and a few inches lower directly after the start of the second-half would’ve seen arguably Barca’s goal of the season. He’d not have to wait long, however, and his fine finish saw the Estadi Lluis Companys erupt.

Countryman Joao Cancelo was an easy pick for man-of-the-match.

FC Barcelona v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

His game was so much more than a sublime finish for the equaliser and a great assist for Joao Felix. Looking as at home on the left as he does on the right too, it showed that - for once - Xavi can get a tactical tweak correct.

Cancelo was imperious. Head and shoulders, literally and metaphorically above anyone else on the pitch in both an attacking and defensive sense.

Indeed, as the last 10 minutes showed once he went off, this absolutely wasn’t a game for Alejandro Balde to go marauding to the byline with no end product.

FC Barcelona v FC Porto: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Other notable performances on the night came from Inaki Pena and Frenkie de Jong.

The goalkeeper certainly couldn’t be blamed for Porto’s opener and he dug the hosts out of trouble on more than one occasion, perhaps shutting a few mouths in the process. It’s clear how much of a miss Marc-Andre ter Stegen is, though under the biggest pressure, Pena passed the test.

De Jong is still the go-to guy to knit everything together. Things just work better with the Dutchman in situ.

Effortlessly turning defence into attack remains his stock-in-trade, with the real shame being that he wasn’t ably supported by Pedri and Ilkay Gundogan on the night.

The squad still have an awful lot to work on, particularly in certain aspects of their defensive output, but when wins like this come along, it’s right that they’re acknowledged and celebrated as such.

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