On Wednesday, FC Porto, last year’s third-place Portuguese club who only made it into the UEFA Champions League by virtue of the Play-off round, beat reigning Bundesliga kings Bayern Munich, with noted machinist Pep Guardiola at the managerial helm. The German giants had lost only three games all season coming into the match, depending on when you started counting, and looked poised to similarly dismantle the ostensibly outmatched Porto. But a funny thing happened on the way to the semi-final.
The draw was laughable. Bayern is a perennial Champions League contender with two squads’ worth of international talent, while Porto hasn’t won a Champions League since Jose Mourinho was at the helm in 2004. That’s not necessarily to suggest that Porto is some kind of minnow in the vast and expansive European soccer ocean – Porto once defeated Bayern to win its first European Cup, in 1987 – but in comparison to Bayern, Real Madrid and Barcelona, every other team is gonna need a bigger boat.
Fate wanted it a different way. Keeping in mind that this is only the first leg, and that Bayern has all the firepower and hatred to come out and win the second leg 7-1 in front of the Munich fans, Porto flabbergasted the (injury-depleted, it should be noted) Bavarians, scoring two goals in the first ten minutes of the game. Those goals came from the same quixotic foot of a certain, well-traveled Portuguese national.
As Ryan O’Hanlon pointed out at Grantland yesterday, Ricardo Queresma may have just had his Kenny Powers walking off the mound moment. At 31, he stands not to have too many comparable moments left, but this display reminded the world why, in the pre-Ronaldo world, he was on tap to be the rightful successor to Luis Figo’s throne on the wings.
Jackson Martinez broke free of the anti-aircraft defense and caused the typically cool-headed Manuel Neuer to commit a reckless challenge. Slotting home the penalty, Queresma took the customary moment of celebration with his teammates and then trotted back, for there was more work to be done.
Within minutes, Queresma scored again, and the whole of Portugal fell in line behind its erstwhile savior and the devil sitting on the outside of his foot. You have to make a deal with Satan to have that kind of inconceivable capability, don’t you? Then again, a skill like that can only be divine.
In any case, Porto now leads Bayern, and the teams head back to Germany for the second leg next week. With the Bundesliga wrapped up in Bayern’s favor, and a tight race for the title in Portugal’s Primeira Liga, it is safe to assume that Guardiola’s focus has turned to Europe, and to the relative minnows currently hurling wrenches at his mainframe. Whether they emerge victorious or not, Porto has left an indelible mark on this Champions League season and, perhaps more importantly, on Bayern Munich, who suddenly look fallible.