By Graham Hunter in Porto
Real Madrid CF secured a thrilling 3-1 victory against FC Porto which firmly installs them as favourites to win UEFA Champions League Group F.
The nine-times European champions, who have now scored seven times in two group matches, even allowed themselves to go one behind before a majestic Luis Figo performance finally subdued the spirited opposition of José Mourinho's side.
Raul and Beckham missing
With Raúl González and David Beckham missing from the Madrid starting lineup, although the former enjoyed a late run-out, the Spanish champions manufactured stunning goals for Iván Helguera, Santiago Solari and Zinedine Zidane to answer Porto's opener from Costinha.
Dancing in the rain
From the start, with the partisan home fans dancing in the rain and the large Spanish contingent matching them chant for chant, it was clear both sides thought there was more than just three points at stake. UEFA Cup holders Porto bristled with aggression, pressing and harassing them just as Valencia CF had done in the Primera División last Saturday. At the heart of the hosts' creativity was Brazilian-born Portuguese international Deco, who showed his full repertoire of skills.
Pedro Mendes had the first real strike at goal, forcing a fine save from Iker Casillas in the fifth minute. Two minutes later Porto were ahead. Francisco Pavón fouled Ricardo Fernandes on the left of the home team's midfield and Deco whipped in a free-kick which Casillas could only spoon into the air. Costinha was perfectly placed to nod the ball back past the Madrid goalkeeper and the stadium erupted.
However, Madrid refused to be flustered. They stuck to their pattern of moving the ball wide to Figo and Santiago Solari whenever possible. Deco was still trying to steal the show and had it not been for a moment of brilliance from the overworked Casillas the game might have been settled as early as the 24th minute.
Porto's No10 feinted to cross with his left before using his less favoured right foot to slide the ball into the path of Derlei who connected with his left from close range. Somehow Casillas reacted quickly enough to parry the effort wide and from that moment the match swung in Madrid's favour.
Four minutes later, Zidane found Solari on the right wing and the Argentinian crossed for Helguera, in for the injured Beckham, to leap powerfully and head past Vítor Baía. Figo's swerving run then beat both Ricardo Fernandes and Nuno Valente and although Solari met the cross brilliantly Baía anticipated perfectly and saved.
Pressure pays off
Madrid's pressure finally paid off with a second goal. Ronaldo burst down the left and dinked a short pass to Roberto Carlos. The Brazilian cut the ball into Solari's path and the Argentinian danced past Baía before slotting the ball between two defenders.
The Figo show
After the interval, the evening increasingly turned into the Figo show. Time and again he tempted opponents into rash challenges with his nimble footwork. Finally Paulo Ferreira tugged the Portuguese international back and conceded a free-kick. From the set-piece Figo picked out Zidane perfectly and the Frenchman rifled the ball past Baía.
That helped douse the slight spark of hope Porto had clung to when half-time substitute Benni McCarthy turned a half chance into the net, only to be ruled offside. Figo then almost sealed a fine night's work, orchestrating a thrilling counterattack, finding Guti whose pass left Roberto Carlos one on one with Baía only for the Porto keeper to save.
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