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Porto hold off valiant Villarreal to reach final

Published: Thursday 5 May 2011, 23.10CET
Villarreal CF 3-2 FC Porto (agg: 4-7)
The visitors will meet Portuguese rivals SC Braga in the final, their first-leg lead proving too great for Villarreal on a record-breaking night for Falcao.
by Graham Hunter
from El Madrigal

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Published: Thursday 5 May 2011, 23.10CET

Porto hold off valiant Villarreal to reach final

Villarreal CF 3-2 FC Porto (agg: 4-7)
The visitors will meet Portuguese rivals SC Braga in the final, their first-leg lead proving too great for Villarreal on a record-breaking night for Falcao.

FC Porto are through to the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League final after a contest high on commitment and quality, their 5-1 first-leg advantage proving insurmountable for Villarreal CF – despite the Spanish side's best efforts.

Falcao produced a record 16th goal of the competition this season just after half-time but home hope was extinguished just before it when Hulk's shot deflected in off Mateo Musacchio, cancelling out Cani's 17th-minute opener. Joan Capdevila's volley restored pride and Giuseppe Rossi's penalty ten minutes from time won it for Villarreal on the night. It was Porto who were celebrating at the end, however, a 7-4 aggregate win setting up a meeting with SC Braga in Dublin on 18 May.

The narrative followed so many of those glorious goal chases as Villarreal came out with their tails up, full of verve and belief. Cani busied Helton after some slick build-up and Rossi just failed to connect with Marco Ruben's right-wing cross with the goal gaping. Two good chances to rock Porto had gone begging – but doubt had crept in.

The Portuguese titleholders did not have answers and a new question was posed when Cani broke the deadlock, completing a move his ferocious pursuit of the ball started. He freed Marco Ruben who, despite a maladroit first touch, squared for Cani to muscle in front of João Moutinho – 1-0.

One mark of champions is how they react and Porto's response was peerless. They immediately gained more crispness, authority and intention to score. Rossi still carried threat, side-footing into the wrong side of the net, but it was clear Villarreal's improvised defensive system, with Bruno Soriano playing centre-back for the first time and Javíer Matilla in midfield, was creaking.

Before the break Matilla was exposed. Hulk used power and pace to leave the 22-year-old in his wake and his left-foot shot was going wide when it took a wicked deflection off Musacchio, spiralling beyond Diego López's reach. Three minutes later Hulk repeated the lesson to Matilla and only the goalkeeper's save denied Porto the lead.

It was a temporary reprieve. Three minutes after the restart, Fredy Guarín rampaged down the left and his cross was heaven sent for Falcao, whose control and clip home were exquisite. Nilmar missed two clear chances for Villarreal and Guarín cracked a free-kick against the bar as the game really opened up.

Capdevila restored parity after Cani's free-kick on 75 minutes and when Marco Ruben was tripped by Nicolás Otamendi, Rossi converted for his 11th goal of the competition to make it 3-2. Pride restored, but it is Porto who go on.

Last updated: 26/09/14 5.39CET

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