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Porto prove confident campaigners

Published: Wednesday 26 May 2004, 8.01CET
Road to the final: UEFA Cup winners last season, FC Porto have shown no fear during an impressive run.
Published: Wednesday 26 May 2004, 8.01CET

Porto prove confident campaigners

Road to the final: UEFA Cup winners last season, FC Porto have shown no fear during an impressive run.

No side have claimed the UEFA Cup and European Champions' Club Cup in successive seasons since Liverpool FC in the mid-1970s. Having overcome a distinctly mixed start, FC Porto are now one match away from becoming the first team to achieve that feat in the UEFA Champions League era.

Tricky start
After winning the 2002/03 Portuguese double and UEFA Cup, Porto took up an automatic place in the Champions League group stage, only to be confronted with Real Madrid CF, Olympique de Marseille, and surprise qualifiers FK Partizan. Porto opened in Belgrade, but Costinha's 22nd-minute goal was cancelled out after the break by Andrija Delibašic. A fortnight later former Sporting Clube de Portugal man Luís Figo inspired Madrid to a 3-1 win at Porto - again after Costinha had scored first - and the two games against Marseille became pivotal.

Marseille dispatched
The pressure may have been on, but it inspired Porto. First they won 3-2 at the Stade Vélodrome, despite conceding first. Then Dmitri Alenichev, scorer of the third goal at Marseille, struck in a 1-0 home win. Benni McCarthy's two goals against Partizan ensured progress with a 2-1 victory, and Porto were unlucky not to win their final game in Madrid, which finished 1-1.

Derlei injury
After a tough group draw, fate showed no sympathy for Porto as they were paired with Manchester United FC in the first knockout round and lost Derlei to a serious knee injury. But José Mourinho had taught his team to fear no one, and in the first European match at their new Estádio do Dragão, Porto came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to two superb McCarthy goals.

Costinha heroics
United had reached seven consecutive quarter-finals, and looked on course at Old Trafford when Paul Scholes scored. He then put the ball in again, but was ruled offside, and United never got their second goal. Instead, in the dying minutes, Costinha pounced after Tim Howard could only palm away a McCarthy free-kick to send Porto through.

Lyon seen off
French champions Olympique Lyonnais were next, and Porto again enjoyed the atmosphere at their revamped home, winning the first leg 2-0. Lyon still had hopes in the return, but Maniche struck six minutes in and did so again early in the second half after Lyon equalised. Giovane Elber made it 2-2 on the night in added time, but Porto's aggregate lead was unassailable.

Solid Deportivo
In the semi-finals, Porto came up against an RC Deportivo La Coruña side who had overturned a 4-1 first-leg deficit to eliminate holders AC Milan. Another goal feast was not forthcoming, however. Deportivo came to Porto determined not to leave themselves needing another extraordinary comeback, and even though Jorge Andrade was dismissed late on, the Galicians survived several scares to take a 0-0 draw back to Spain.

Mourinho's masterstroke
Many felt Deportivo were now the favourites, but Porto were unbeaten in the Champions League since Matchday 2, and indeed were yet to lost on their travels. Derlei was restored to the European starting lineup, while previous goalscoring hero Costinha was detailed to mark Juan Carlos Valerón. It was another tactical masterstroke from Mourinho.

Derlei returns
Valerón never made the same impact at the Riazor that he had done against Milan, and on the hour Deco was tripped in the box. Derlei nervelessly converted a penalty that left Deportivo needing two goals. After Nourredine Naybet was dismissed for a second booking, Porto were through and a first European Cup triumph since 1986/87 in reach.

Last updated: 27/05/04 0.33CET

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