Real Madrid CF needed a late goal from substitute Santiago Solari to overcome a stubborn FC Porto in Tuesday's Group C encounter at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The 1-0 victory left Vicente del Bosque's side five points clear at the top of the section and within reach of the quarter-finals.
Luck on Madrid's side
Solari struck seven minutes from time, advancing towards the Porto area before firing a low shot beyond Vítor Baía and in off the post. If Madrid got the luck of the deflection, they also had Doña Fortuna to thank earlier in the half when referee Markus Merk refused the visitors a penalty after Aitor Karanka appeared to tug at Helder Postiga's shirt.
So while the portents were with the Spanish side - including four home wins in as many games against Porto in this competition - any nervous glances were from Madrid eyes. Certainly, the best openings fell to the visitors. Brazilian playmaker Deco rattled the outside of Iker Casillas's post from an acute angle after beating the goalkeeper to a loose ball. Deco was again involved on 20 minutes, breaking clear with the excellent Nuno Capucho only to be denied by Casillas.
Madrid lack artifice
By contrast, Madrid had only a sequence of half chances to show for their territorial advantage. These fell to Guti, Iván Helguera and Steve McManaman, but each time the attacker lofted a bouncing ball over Vítor Baía's crossbar. If Madrid's performance was disjointed, they could point to the first-half substitutions that deprived them of the injured Luis Figo and the concussed Guti. Whatever, they lacked the necessary artifice to break down a Porto side which was as physically strong as it was technically adept.
Dragons on fire
The Dragons have taken to life under new coach José Mourinho - registering four straight victories in the Portuguese first division - and it showed. They did not look like a team still to win in the second group stage. And when defender Ricardo Silva headed against the crossbar from Deco's free-kick on the hour mark, you could hardly say it was against the run of play. However, honour in defeat would be their sole recompense.
Madrid's reward came when Solari, Del Bosque's third substitute, finally provided the inspiration which had been lacking amid so much perspiration. Del Bosque said recently that he would resist calls to shave off his moustache in the event of Madrid becoming European champions for a ninth time. It was not the only hairy moment for Madrid supporters this week.