By Graham Hunter in La Coruna
FC Porto coach José Mourinho refused to bask in the glory of his players' achievement in beating RC Deportivo La Coruña 1-0 at the Riazor, instead immediately challenging them to go all the way and win the UEFA Champions League.
The Portuguese coach contributed to a stunning victory with a tactical masterclass but deflected praise on to his team which had, he said, followed his orders to the word. Mourinho said: "I mean no disrespect to the Portuguese sides who have won the European Cup in the past but we, in Portugal, have become used to watching the Champions League final on television."
Chance to shine
He added: "Now my team is in the final and that feels good but it has not been a present. We have had to beat important teams to get there and now my players have their chance to make a mark on history."
Mourinho's blueprint had included the surprise of starting the immensely hard-working Derlei instead of the out-of-form Benni McCarthy - and choosing to man-mark Deportivo playmaker Juan Carlos Valerón with the outstanding Costinha. And the 40-year-old coach admitted that he and his players spent the five days prior to the final planning every last element of this triumph.
Our idea was to dominate the game," he revealed. "Then the plan B, if we could not dominate it, was to at least control the game. We came to win and in the end we did so without even losing control of this match. It's my opinion that even the Deportivo fans probably left the stadium convinced that the better team won.
"Deportivo were so close to the final that I'm sure that they thought we could not stand in their way. But my players did well, followed all the instructions that we had planned and now we are in the final - where we set out to be at the start of the season."
It was the diligent marking and organising skills of Costinha upon which Porto built a platform for victory. Drawing the sting from the gifted Valerón stopped the quality of possession, which had eliminated Juventus FC and AC Milan in the last two rounds, reaching wingers Víctor Sánchez and Alberto Luque - leaving Walter Pandiani largely stranded up front.
When the second half started it was the pairing of Deco and Derlei who turned on the silky skills and then showed the predatory instinct. However, Costinha was the key in the much tighter first half and deserved to be lauded by his fans and fellow players at the end.
Costinha said: "
The coach has taught us well that we win together and lose together. You have seen this year that a lot of very big name teams who did not play in this way did not get to the final stages. But one or two teams who are not such big names but do play as a unit are.
"We are the same group of players which started with ambition and now have reached the final. But it is worth pointing out that Valerón is a very fine player, who had a great chance to score tonight. Thankfully he did not, but Deportivo were still a tough team to beat and the coach comes out well from his decision-making."
Deportivo midfield player Sergio González expressed his, and his team's, deep disappointment. "I don't know if this is the worst setback in my career" he said, "but it certainly feels close to it right now." His coach Javier Irureta had few complaints, admitting that he had lost a tight battle to a good team.
"I think we could have won this match had we been more patient," Irureta said. "But the penalty changed everything and stilled our fans. Then we had [Nourredine] Naybet sent off and that, too, quietened our loyal supporters.
I'm sorry for the fans and the players that we won't be in the final - perhaps it will happen next season."
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