Two former European champions will meet in the UEFA Cup final on 21 May in Seville after FC Porto secured a showdown against Celtic FC with a 4-1 aggregate victory against S.S. Lazio. Porto held Roberto Mancini's side to a 0-0 draw in the Olimpico stadium in their semi-final second-leg tie tonight and thus made history by becoming the first Portuguese side to reach all three UEFA club competition finals.
Lazio were left rueing what might have been after Claudio López saw his penalty saved by goalkeeper Vítor Baía at a crucial point in the game. "The game changed after the miss," said Mancini. "Had we scored, the whole game could have changed. Afterwards the team didn't function."
The first real chance fell the visitors' way. Playmaker Deco slid a clever through-ball between the Lazio defence for Derlei to chase. The Brazilian striker looked certain to score, but goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani was swift off his line to end the threat; claiming the ball at the very edge of his area.
Lazio struggled to carve out any clear opportunities despite seeing more of the ball than their visitors. Half-chances were spurned by Dejan Stankovic, Enrico Chiesa and Simone Inzaghi, but it was not till the half-hour mark that Lazio should have taken the lead. Massimo Oddo's cross looked destined to be nodded into the net by Inzaghi, but Jorge Costa made a superb defensive header to save his side.
Inzaghi had a penalty appeal waved away before missing a near-post opportunity as Lazio desperately looked for a first-half goal. It almost came in bizarre circumstances on 40 minutes when Claudio López's over-hit cross almost crept over Baía and into the net, but the goalkeeper made an acrobatic save to avert the danger.
The first half came to a dramatic close as both Hélder Postiga and César were dismissed after collecting a second booking apiece. Having already been shown yellow cards for a touchline clash on 23 minutes, the pair could have no complaints as they were given their marching orders for an off-the-ball incident.
Game opened up
With the match reduced to ten-a-side there was more space to exploit after the break, and the game opened up. However, both sides struggled with their final ball and the tie stayed firmly in Porto's control.
Then, on 57 minutes, Lazio won a penalty. Baía failed to claim a far post cross, and the ball fell to Inzaghi amid a crowd of players. The striker was bundled over by the otherwise excellent Jorge Costa and a spot-kick was given. A grandstand finish looked on the cards, but Baía did well to dive low and to his right to save Claudio López's effort.
Within three minutes of the penalty miss, Porto could have sealed the game, but Dmitri Alenichev and Derlei both missed with only the goalkeeper to beat. Porto, with Derlei the chief culprit, would miss several more chances as an increasingly desperate Lazio threw men forward in numbers.
Mancini brought Stefano Fiore off the bench, but Porto's defence, marshalled expertly by Jorge Costa, held firm. Indeed Porto should have come away with a win on the night, as Maniche mis-hit inside the box and had a long-range effort well saved.
"It wasn't a great evening for us," said Mancini after the game. "But overall I was satisfied with the performance, although we sent in too many long balls and crosses. The difference between the teams was not as great as the final result. In fact, we were the better team on the night."
'First leg crucial'
In the absence of the suspended José Mourniho, his assistant Aloisio gave the post match press conference. "The first leg proved to be crucial, as it put them under real pressure. Had they scored their penalty it might have given them the extra push. But I'm pleased with how calm our players stayed. Now we must go on and win the final."
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