Memorable run ends at semi-final stage

Unfortunately, despite a courageous performance, TSG Hoffenheim's incredible Youth League adventure ended at the semi-final stage as they were beaten 3-0 (1-0) by final four opponents FC Porto at the Stade Colovray in Nyon on Friday afternoon.

The Hoffenheim contingent made a focused but relaxed start to the day. Breakfast was followed by a walk, an early lunch and then they departed for the stadium. As the team received their final instructions in the catacombs, TSG officials including managing directors Dr. Peter Görlich and Frank Briel took their place alongside president Peter Hofmann in the main stand at the Stade Colovray.

The opening stages were characterised by mutual respect, with the Portuguese side initially trying to take control while the Hoffenheim defence held firm. Head coach Marcel Rapp made only one change to the starting XI that claimed a famous 4-2 victory over Real Madrid at the quarter-final stage, bringing in the 16-year-old Melayro Bogarde in place of the suspended and injured Max Geschwill.

With midfield maestro Ilay Elmkies the driving force in midfield, TSG increasily forayed forward without ever posing a real threat in the final third. Alexander Nitzl was unlucky to be flagged offside while in a promising position in the 18th minute, with TV replays showing the decision to be incorrect.

Porto's tactical approach was clearly to disrupt Hoffenheim's build-up play at an early stage, but Rapp's charges kept their cool and combined well to circumvent the high press. Chances, however, remained few and far between and it was ultimately a set-piece that broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. A booking was given to Samuel Lengle for a foul on Fábio Silva on the edge of the box and Romário Baró, Porto's top scorer in the competition with five goals, curled the resultant free-kick into the top corner to put his side's noses in front.

But TSG quickly recovered from the setback and created their best chance of the first period three minutes later, with Amadou Onana dancing past an opponent in the penalty area before firing directly at Porto shot-stopper Francisco Meixedo from close range. Two minutes later, Bogarde did well to defend a two-on-one situation against Ángel Torres, who drew the ire of his unmarked team-mates João Mário.

Goals from Fábio Silva and Tiago Matos kill the game

Rapp's pre-game prediction ultimately proved to be true for much of the match. Porto played the "more mature" football and had the first notable chance of the second half in the 54th minute when Baró shot from 20 metres, forcing TSG custodian Daniel Klein into a spectacular save. Driven on by their vociferous fans, who sung for the full 90 minutes, the Portuguese side upped the pressure but were denied a second when Fábio Silva's effort from a tight angle was thwarted by Klein in the 59th minute.

TSG continued to hold their own but now needed to commit more men forward. Nitzl's through-ball had a little bit too much on it for Filip Stojilković, while David Otto fired over in the 65th minute. Rapp brought on a second U17 player, Marco John, followed by his super sub Benedikt Landwehr, who had bagged a memorable brace against Manchester City. But Porto remained in the ascendancy and almost doubled their lead when Baró struck the bar with a first-time shot from Torres' pass on the 72-minute mark.

But six minutes later, the advantage was doubled when Hoffenheim lost the ball in midfield and Porto countered at lightning speed, with substitute Vitor Ferreira picking out Fábio Silva who beat Klein to make it 2-0. That goal marked the end of TSG Hoffenheim's memorable run in the Youth League. Their semi-final performance in Nyon was strong, but their top-quality opponents deserved to progress to the final. Tiago Matos made sure of the victory in the 88th minute when he slotted home from close range.

Head coach Rapp was not entirely satisfied with the display from his charges, but he did not want to be too harsh on them either. "Obviously we're disappointed now," he said. "But we've been brilliant ambassadors for the club on the international stage. Shame we didn't make it to the final and that we couldn't achieve our full potential."

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 0-3 (0-1) FC Porto
Hoffenheim: Klein – Nitzl (Keßler, 79), Görlich, Wallquist, Bogarde (John, 66), Lengle, Alberico (Linsbichler, 79), Elmkies, Otto, Stojilković, Onana (Landwehr, 73).
Porto: Meixedo – Tomás Esteves (Tiago Matos, 81), Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Tiago Lopes, Ndiaye, Torres, Vieira (Vitor Ferreira, 77), Fábio Silva, Romário Baró (Gonçalo Borges, 81), João Mário (Afonso Sousa, 66).
Goals: 0-1 Baró (39), 0-2 Fábio Silva (78), 0-3 Tiago Matos (88). Attendance: 4,000. Referee: Irfan Peljto (Bosnia & Herzegovina). Cards: Bookings for Lengle, Görlich / Ndiaye, Vieira, Fábio Silva.

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