Portugal’s last representative in the Champions League has been eliminated. Injuries to key players and Steven Defour’s red card early in the second half contributed to Porto’s 2-0 loss against Malaga on Wednesday night.

After winning 1-0 in the first leg of the round of 16, Vitor Pereira’s club went into the Estadio La Rosaleda with a slight advantage over their Spanish counterparts.

Midfielder João Moutinho who had missed recent league matches with a bruised thigh started the match but was not at his best. French defender Eliaquim Mangala also returned to game action for the Portuguese champions.
James Rodriguez who has struggled to regain form after returning from a torn muscle was on the bench to start the match.

The beginning of the first half resembled the first leg in Porto with neither club gaining a clear advantage over the other. The tide started to turn after the half hour mark when Porto goalkeeper Helton made a great save off Malaga’s Portuguese left-back Antunes to keep the score even and Porto ahead on aggregate.

But that play seemed to have shifted the momentum. A few minutes later former Benfica striker Javier Saviola had a goal waved off because the referee ruled that Malaga midfielder Julio Baptista had interfered with Helton.

Porto caught a break but Malaga was quickly taking control of the match. The Spanish club were rewarded when Isco scored off a brilliant strike just outside the box in the 43rd minute. The two clubs went into half-time tied on aggregate. Joao Moutinho was substituted at the beginning of the second half in favour of James Rodriguez.

The pivotal moment of the match came in the 49th minute when Steven Defour fouled Malaga’s Joaquin, receiving his second yellow card. Down to ten men, Vitor Pereira’s club could manage very little from then on. In the 77th minute, Malaga’s Santa Cruz scored minutes after coming on as a substitute to put Malaga ahead for good.

Manager Vitor Pereira told TVI television that certain refereeing decisions altered the match. “The expulsion of Defour and the injury to Moutinho were decisive. Malaga were a very aggressive club. We were very constrained by the referees in terms of yellow cards. Half our club had received yellows from an early stage of the match,” Pereira said.

“Our aggressiveness was penalized with yellows while Malaga was not. There were different standards for each. It was a match where each incident went against us. Now, we have the domestic league to concentrate on,” Pereira added.

The loss means that Benfica is the only Portuguese club left in European competition. They meet French side Bordeaux in their second leg matchup in the Europa League competition on Thursday. Benfica currently have a 1-0 lead on aggregate.


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