A resilient defensive display ensured Real Madrid CF eased their way into the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League after a 2-1 win over FC Porto in Group C on Wednesday.
First-half goals from Santiago Solari and Iván Helguera were enough for Madrid, whose dogged defending in the face of relentless Porto pressure effectively ended the Portuguese side's hopes of progressing. The impressive Capucho pulled a goal back for the hosts, who dominated from start to finish but simply could not break down a Spanish side determined to prove their worth.
Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque made seven changes to the side that pipped Porto with a late Solari goal a week ago, leaving out Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Raúl González and Fernando Morientes. Instead, the under-strength team he sent out at the Das Antas stadium battled hard for the points, despite never moving out of first gear offensively.
Madrid's opener came against the run of play on seven minutes, by which time Cãndido Costa had already gone close for Porto. As Madrid surged forward for the first time, Oscar Miñambres Pascual found room to deliver a high cross into the area, where Solari rose unchallenged to head into the corner of the Porto goal. Thirteen minutes later it was 2-0. Porto goalkeeper Vítor Baía spilled an awkward free-kick and Helguera pounced on the loose ball before hooking it home to double Madrid's lead.
Just before the half-hour mark Porto deservedly pulled a goal back. Helder Postiga raced down the right-hand side and clipped a cross to the unmarked Capucho, who had time to bring down the ball 12 metres from goal and drill it into an empty net.
Hierro in control
But from that point onwards the Madrid defence, marshalled superbly by Fernando Hierro, kept Porto at bay. As the Spanish side sat back, the hosts were afforded plenty of possession and Helguera was involved in two close calls for the Spanish side. The defender was forced to head over his own crossbar moments before half-time, but floundered ten minutes after the break when Capucho outpaced him on the Porto right. The Portuguese winger slipped the ball inside to Miran Pavlin, whose neat sidestep gave him room to fire a 20-metre drive that fully tested goalkeeper César Sánchez.
Porto squander chances
After Helder Postiga missed from close range with a diving header, Porto substitute Pena had claims for a penalty turned down and Jorge Andrade's back-post header was well saved, but Porto seemed to run out of ideas as Madrid held out to become the first side to book their place in the last eight.