By Simon Hart in Porto
They like their Brazilians in these parts. Seventeen years ago it was a striker from Brazil, Juary, who scored the goal that won FC Porto their one previous European Champion Clubs' Cup. Last season's UEFA Cup triumph, meanwhile, was inspired by Deco - a Portuguese passport holder these days but a creative talent born in Brazil - and secured by the goals of Derlei.
If Porto are going to become the first team since Liverpool FC in the 1970s to follow up a UEFA Cup victory by lifting the European Cup, then they may well need the help of another Brazilian, this time the teenager Carlos Alberto. Bought from Fluminense FC in the January transfer window, the 19-year-old arrived as a long-term replacement for Deco. However, while used sparingly in the Portuguese SuperLiga, circumstances have forced Porto coach José Mourinho to thrust him into a striker's role alongside Benni McCarthy on European nights.
'Difference of opinion'
Derlei's injury, together with the ineligibility of regular starters Maciel and Sérgio Conceição, have left Mourinho short of forwards in the UEFA Champions League. So it was that Carlos Alberto lined up for his fifth start in the tournament against RC Deportivo La Coruña in the first leg of this semi-final. He had made the headlines for the wrong reasons prior to this match, as "a difference of opinion" - to use Mourinho's words - with the coach earned him a demotion to the reserves for three days and exclusion from Sunday's goalless draw with SC Beira Mar.
His return here was initially inauspicious, although in mitigation openings were scarce at both ends in an often ill-tempered first half. As the whistles from the home fans in the 50,818 crowd reached an ear-piercing level, his first significant contribution was to earn a booking for encroaching at a free-kick. Carlos Alberto can dribble - that is a given - and he was eager to collect the ball from deep, then turn and run at defenders. If the end product was mixed, one such surge produced the nearest thing of a first half which ended with Porto on top. After 37 minutes, he picked up a pass from Deco, spun inside two defenders and flashed in a cross which Depor defender Nourredine Naybet deflected narrowly over his own crossbar.
For the first time in the Champions League, he was not among the players replaced by Mourinho as the match progressed, instead dropping back behind substitute strikers Edgaras Jankauskas and Marco Ferreira. While not yet carrying the consistent threat of Deco, midway through the second half he was involved as Maniche struck the crossbar. He laid the ball off to Jankauskas, who in turn supplied Maniche to shoot.
However, as ten-man Depor hung on for a goalless draw following Jorge Andrade's dismissal, you suspected the happiest Brazilian in the Estádio do Dragão was wearing red - namely, Mauro Silva, the Galician side's captain. A FIFA World Cup winner with Brazil in 1994, Mauro Silva has of course seen it all before after more than a decade at the Riazor. Here he simply sat shielding the back four, using all his experience to break up opposition attacks. As captain he also maintained a regular dialogue with referee Markus Merk - albeit his remonstrations after one Ricardo Carvalho foul earned him a yellow card, which means he will miss the second leg.
A fitting cameo on a night of frustration for Porto came when Mauro Silva ghosted in to steal the ball from Carlos Alberto as he looked to break forward. It was like taking candy off a baby. But then, at 36, he is twice the age of the Porto tyro.
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