After five spot-kicks each it was still all square. Normal time had finished 2-2 (1-1); now it was 3-3, with Chelsea's highly coveted Callum Hudson-Odoi among the penalty scorers. Rui Miguel Pires spurned a chance to send Porto through when he missed his side's fifth spot-kick. The shootout continued and when Diogo Bessa was denied by Chelsea shot-stopper Jamie Cumming on the 14th penalty, the Dragons' dreams of a final were dashed. Nonetheless, it shows that FC Porto are familiar faces in the final four of the Youth League and have already amassed experiences – albeit unpleasant ones – in Nyon.
Now the blue and whites find themselves in the final four again – as do the two other semi-finalists Chelsea and Barcelona, who both reached the final a year ago. Only UEFA Youth League debutants TSG Hoffenheim are new to the semi-finals. Manchester City were the fourth semi-finalist last term but they were eliminated from the tournament by Barcelona in a 5-4 (5-2) thriller.
FC Porto kicked off their campaign with a convincing 3-0 win away to FC Schalke 04 in the group stages and ultimately qualified for the last 16 ahead of group runners-up Lokomotiv Moscow. Coach Mário Silva's charges subsequently dispatched Tottenham and Midtjylland 2-0 and 3-0 respectively in front of their own fans to book their spot in Nyon. They have picked up an unwanted statistic on the way, however: the Dragons have committed the most fouls (145) in this UYL campaign. TSG, incidentally, are the "second-best" in this category with 134.
Coach Mário Silva a former Porto player
Mário Silva took over the FC Porto U19s at the start of the season and has the respect of his players as a former FC Porto first-teamer. The former left-back was part of the glory days under the leadership of José Mourinho, who won the 2003 UEFA Cup and the 2004 Champions League, but did not feature in either final. He has been a coach at his boyhood club since 2012 and was in charge of the U17s until the end of last season. Mário Silva's side – as you might expect – are currently involved in a bitter battle with domestic rivals Benfica for the right to call themselves the champions of Portugal. Both teams are currently locked at the top of the table on equal points with seven games to go, although it is Benfica who have the better goal difference. During competitive matches, Mário Silva wears an armband bearing the word "coach" – a requirement of the Portuguese federation that has now been extended to European competition too. Much like the captain's armband, it serves to signal who is in charge.
On two occasions, 2014 and 2016, FC Porto surprisingly crashed out in the group stages, while in 2015 (5-0 defeat to RSC Anderlecht) and 2017 (2-1 loss to Barcelona) they exited at the quarter-final stage. But they have yet to reach the final. In their bid to do so, Mário Silva will be relying on key players such as Romário Baró, who is Porto's current top-scorer in the Youth League with five goals to his name. He sports a rather unmissable rasta haircut. Then there is centre-back Diogo Leite, who like goalkeeper Diogo Costa is unofficially part of the senior squad. Leite started the first game of the season when Porto beat CD Aves 3-1 in the Portuguese Super Cup, and already has one Champions League appearance to his name (against Galatasaray). Costa, meanwhile, is now the record appearance-maker in the Youth League, having played 26 times.
Two players who have played for FC Porto in the elite European youth competition are now plying their trade in front of much larger crowds: André Silva has been an AC Milan player since 2017 but is currently on loan at Sevilla, for whom he has scored nine goals this season in the domestic league. Meanwhile, Diogo Dalot completed a transfer to Manchester United last summer and, following his recovery from an injury that kept him sidelined for a long spell, is now a regular fixture in the Premier League.
Youth League Semi-Final
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim VS. FC Porto
Friday 26 April, 14:00 CET, Centre sportif de Colovray Nyon
Information on tickets and fan buses can be found here.