FC Porto are through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage with two matches to spare after a goalless draw with FC Dynamo Kyiv, whose chances of qualifying from Group A are hanging by a thread.
The result was not the belated birthday present Dynamo coach Oleh Blokhin, who turned 60 on Monday, was hoping for. Although his team forced the issue after the interval, following a largely incident-free first period, the Bilo-Syni seldom looked like making the breakthrough which would have kept them within striking distance of second-placed Paris Saint-Germain FC. As it stands, they trail the Ligue 1 club, their next opponents, by five points.
Perhaps eager to cheer Blokhin – still confined to a seat in the stands on doctor's orders – Dynamo started zestfully, snapping into challenges in a bid to unnerve their Portuguese opponents. The early tempo did not translate into opportunities, however, as defences held sway, with Porto content to retain possession and probe for openings such was their position of strength in the group at kick-off.
In Jackson Martínez and James Rodríguez, though, the visitors possess two Colombia strikers in rich veins of form. It took them until the 35th minute to link up to almost deadly effect as the latter engineered space on the Porto left and delivered a cross which his compatriot, stealing in ahead of Yevhen Khacheridi, headed towards goal. Only a smart save from Maxym Koval kept the Ukrainian side on level terms.
Having ended the half in the ascendancy, Porto began the second period in similarly positive fashion, with Silvestre Varela flashing a shot wide from captain Lucho González's defence-splitting pass.
The introduction of Lukman Haruna in the 58th minute injected some dynamism hitherto lacking in the hosts' play, the midfielder's arrival coinciding with Dynamo's best spell of the game. Indeed, it was the Nigerian international who fashioned their first chance of significance, poking the ball through for Andriy Yarmolenko, whose low attempt brought a sharp save out of Helton.
Yarmolenko, having worked a pocket of space for himself in the penalty area, then glanced a header straight at the Porto goalkeeper from Miguel Veloso's free-kick. At the other end, Lucho screwed his effort wide when played in by the lively Rodríguez.
However, a goal at that stage would have been harsh on Dynamo, who are likely to need a couple of their own when PSG, 4-0 winners against GNK Dinamo Zagreb tonight, visit the NSK Olimpiyskyi on 21 November.
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