BARCELONA, Nov 28 ― Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix scored in each half to earn Barcelona a 2-1 comeback win at home against Porto today that booked their spot in the Champions League knockout rounds for the first time in three seasons.
After crashing out of the competition in the group stage two years in a row, five-times champions Barca are back in the last-16 after securing a top-two finish with one game remaining.
Barcelona are top of Group H on 12 points, three ahead of Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk who will play each other on the final matchday to decide who will join the Spaniards in the knockout stage.
Barca need at least a draw against bottom side Antwerp in two weeks' time to guarantee top spot in the group.
They had to dig deep against a valiant Porto who were the better side in the first half but were frustrated by an inspired performance from Barca goalkeeper Inaki Pena, who replaced injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen and made several excellent saves to keep the hosts in the game.
Pena made a reflex save to deny a point-blank strike from Galeno in the 28th minute and blocked another effort by the Porto winger two minutes later, but this time Pepe was well placed inside the box to strike home the rebound and put them in front.
However, Barca hit back two minutes later, with a fine curling shot into the top corner by Cancelo after he dribbled past Joao Mario.
Porto didn't give up and almost got back in front in the 43rd minute, when Pena made a superb one-handed save to palm another Galeno shot from range round the post right before the break.
But Cancelo and Felix came out firing in the second half and Barcelona were transformed with the Portuguese duo causing all kinds of trouble for the visitors' defence.
Felix unleashed a thunderous strike from range in the 47th minute that crashed against the crossbar and he linked up well with Cancelo, both of whom started their career at the Benfica academy, Porto's rivals in Portugal.
Cancelo was excellent running down the left channel and teed up Felix for a tidy first-time finish just beyond the goalkeeper's reach in the 57th minute to secure the win.
“It was a final for us, we knew that and we won it, which is the most important thing,” Cancelo told Movistar Plus.
“When the results don't come, the confidence is not the same. I think we have a very mature, adult group that connect well with the others that are young, but we have a great team.
“We have put Barca back in the last 16, which is where this club deserves to be.” ― Reuters