Pepe reveals Porto planned to ‘neutralise’ Arsenal star after Champions League defeat | Football

Pepe says Arsenal ‘had a bit of luck’ in their shootout victory over Porto (DAZN)

Pepe has revealed that Porto set out to ‘neutralise’ Martin Odegaard during their Champions League clash with Arsenal on Tuesday.

Porto sealed a 1-0 win in the first leg but Leandro Trossard’s first-half goal at the Emirates Stadium pulled the Gunners level on aggregate in the return leg.

The two sides could not be separated after 120 minutes and a penalty shootout was needed, with David Raya saving two Porto spot-kicks to help secure Arsenal’s place in Friday’s Champions League quarter-final draw.

Odegaard, meanwhile, provided a superb assist for Trossard’s goal and Pepe, who delivered an impressive performance at the heart of Porto’s defence at the Emirates, admits his team were looking to keep the Arsenal captain quiet.

‘First of all I want to thank the fans, what they did tonight was incredible. Secondly, it’s a shame to be eliminated like this, but it’s part of football,’ Pepe told DAZN after Porto’s Champions League exit.

‘We were a team that created a lot of difficulties for Arsenal, starting with the home game. Today, with their first shot they scored. I have to congratulate my teammates because they did what the coach asked. But, in some moments we could have defined better and scored the goal. It was a great game on our part, but, unfortunately, we didn’t make it through the round.

Kai Havertz of Arsenal battles with Pepe of FC Porto during the UEFA Champions League 2023/24 round of 16 second leg match between Arsenal FC and FC Porto at Emirates Stadium

Pepe delivered an impressive performance against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium (MB Media/Getty)

‘We don’t forget that Arsenal are a great team, in the Premier League they score a lot of goals. We came to play our game, neutralising Odegaard’s play between the lines. We knew what we were doing, but unfortunately we couldn’t score. They had a bit of luck.’

When asked how Porto could’ve avoided a shootout, Pepe replied: ‘It’s about resolving the game before penalties, that’s what we tried to do.

‘If we had better offensive definition, but we even created chances. Unfortunately, we also feel the fatigue of a difficult time.

‘We were always connected to the game and I must congratulate my teammates and the fans. We have to lift our heads, move forward and learn lessons.’

When asked how he can still handle the intensity of playing 120 minutes at the age of 41, Pepe said: ‘I am passionate about football, a privileged person, I do what I love and I dedicate myself a lot to this profession. I try to take care of myself.’

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