Silvestre Varela cannot have scored many goals more unorthodox than his opener against Arsenal FC on Wednesday night, but the FC Porto winger was quite simply delighted to have made a telling contribution to his side's 2-1 success in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie.
The 25-year-old celebrated his birthday a fortnight ago and he received something of a belated gift with 11 minutes gone at the Estádio do Dragão as Arsenal goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański spilled his pacy, low cross into the net. Fortuitous though it may have been, Porto had started with far more menace than their visitors and they finished on top too after Sol Campbell had levelled the scores with an 18th-minute headed riposte. Falcao hit the winner shortly after the break by converting Rúben Micael's indirect free-kick inside the area, the duo reacting quickest to the situation after Fabiański had been called to account for picking up a back pass.
"It was a difficult game but I think we performed well, and we deserved to win tonight," said Varela, whose side must now protect their narrow lead in London on 9 March. "Of course, I enjoyed scoring the goal and it doesn't really matter how I did it. That's the way things go in football sometimes. Our main concern now is our next league game [against SC Braga on Sunday] and only after that will we think about the Arsenal match, but we will be prepared for it. We faced a very strong opponent and I don't see this as a bad result for us at all. I think Arsenal played quite well but we managed to deny them the chance to play their game."
Tomás Costa echoed those thoughts and predicts that the Dragons will be presented with plenty of space to exploit when Arsène Wenger's men set out to turn the tie around in three weeks' time. "Arsenal will have to attack in London and that could be an advantage for us," explained the Argentinian midfielder, who came on as a 68th-minute substitute. "We'll have some time to prepare for that game and I believe we can get through to the next round. It's going to be a very difficult match in England, but if we believe in ourselves and what we're capable of, we will achieve great things."
The former CA Rosario Central player nonetheless warned his colleagues that they will have to defend better at set pieces in order to deny Arsenal the kind of goal that pulled them level in Portugal. "We were aware that, like most English teams, Arsenal are very strong at dead balls," he said. "But everything happened quickly and sometimes players don't have time to be aware they have an opponent on their back. Against teams like Arsenal, mistakes like that are usually very costly."
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