Vitor Pereira’s Porto were not at their best but still cruised past Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 at the Estadio do Dragao to maintain their lead at the top of Group A of the Champions League.
A first half goal from Lucho Gonzalez put the hosts on their way and two well-taken second half goals from the outstanding Joao Moutinho and Silvestre Varela gave Porto their 150th win in the competition.
Zagreb, who have yet to record their first goal in Europe this season, were not without their chances and Sammir crashed an early effort against the woodwork before Fatos Beqiraj also spurned two good chances.
But Porto were always in control and ran out comfortable winners to set up a Group A showdown against Paris Saint-Germain after the French side ran out 2-0 winners in Kiev.
Knowing that a victory at home was vital with a probable group decider in Paris to come, Pereira opted to start his strongest available side. Gonzalez , Moutinho, Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez and Varela all started in a formidable looking attack.
Porto started conservatively, stringing passes together as Zagreb set up shop dropping deep and looking to counter. Varela looked threatening early on, winning a corner that almost put the hosts ahead when Martinez powered a free header wide of the target at the near post when he should have forced keeper Ivan Kelava into a save.
For their part, Dinamo’s task looked a hopeless one having not scored a goal in the Champions League this campaign whilst conceding 11. That all looked to have changed 12 minutes in. Domagoj Vida played a fine ball through to Sammir who cracked a first time shot straight against the inside of the upright, Helton beaten all ends up.
The shock of almost conceding only their third goal of the campaign seemed to have the desired effect and forced Porto into a decisive response. Moutinho latched onto Vida’s defensive header and laid off the ball deftly to Gonzalez to fire home his fifth of the season and his second against Zagreb having scored in the opening fixture.
Moments later, Porto could have been two to the good. Rodriguez beat his man by the touchline and whipped in a cross that Kelava could only palm into the path of Gonzalez but the midfielder blasted over the bar. More chances came and went, Varela scuffing his shot into Kelava’s grateful arms from Rodriguez’s pass.
Porto seemed to switch off defensively before the break, Beqiraj having a goalbound header cleared off the line before dallying too long when put clean through on goal by Sammir and allowing Nicolas Otamendi to get a foot in to block the shot. From the resultant corner, Helton blocked Vida’s goalbound header to Beqiraj whose mishit shot was cleared off the line from Danilo.
Porto came out in the second half with a more confident swagger about them and they set up shop in the Zagreb half for long periods. Kelava was a busy man, first saving well down to his right to parry a fierce Martinez effort. Martinez then turned provider for Rodriguez but his shot lacked venom and Kelava was afforded a more comfortable save.
Zagreb’s counters were only sporadic and Porto doubled their lead on 67 minutes. Josip Šimunić, who had been a rock in the Zagreb defence, pulled back Martinez and Moutinho added further punishment, curling in a lovely free kick past the helpless Kelava.
The midfield maestro put Zagreb out of their misery with six minutes remaining, this time turning provider with a deft backheel to set up Valera for his fifth of the season. Varela should have added a fourth in injury time from Danilo’s cut back but hit his effort straight at Kelava.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Joao Moutinho – Porto: Scored one and created two in another midfield masterclass.
Porto: Helton 6, Danilo 6, Mangala 6, Ba 6, Otamendi 6, Lucho 7, Moutinho 8, Defour 6, Martinez 6, Rodriguez 7, Varela 6. Subs: Sandro 6, Fernando 6, Atsu 6.
Dinamo Zagreb: Kelava 6, Šimunić 6, Vrsaljko 6, Vida 7, Ademi 6, Kovačić 6, Sammir 7, Pivarić, Brozović 7, Beqiraj 7, Čop. Subs: Puljić 6, Halilović 6, Krstanović 6.