FK Partizan came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with FC Porto on Matchday 1, earning a point on their UEFA Champions League debut. A first-half header from Costinha had given the UEFA Cup holders the lead, only for Andrija Delibašic to grab a second-half equaliser in this hard-fought Group F encounter at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade.
Porto started the game brightly, looking to retain possession and make the home side work hard to win the ball. Deco, playing just behind strikers Derlei and Benni McCarthy, was typically lively and elusive. However, the Partizan defence – marshalled expertly by Nigerian centre-back Taribo West – operated an effective offside trap.
Then, with neither side having yet had a clear sight of goal, Porto took the lead. Deco won a corner on the right flank and the diminutive playmaker stepped up to take it himself. He struck an outswinger with pace and bend, which found Costinha at the far post. Goalkeeper Radovan Radakovic – standing in for the injured Ivica Kralj – got a hand to the Portugal midfield player's thumped header, but could not keep it out.
The goal catapulted the game into life with the action moving rapidly from end to end. However, neither side could find the necessary final pass and were often reduced to long-range efforts. Tomasz Rzasa hit an awkward left-footed volley over for the home side, while Maniche went close with a 25-metre shot for the visitors.
Just before the break, Derlei should have grabbed a second for Porto. Deco curled in an excellent free-kick from the right touchline, which deceived Radakovic. Derlei seemed certain to score, but the fleet-footed Brazilian could not make clean contact and the ball squirted wide.
Partizan coach Lothar Matthäus was obviously displeased at his side's first-half display and made two changes at the break, bringing on former Porto star Ljubinko Drulovic and defender Branko Savic. The effect was immediate and the home side began to play with confidence.
On 54 minutes, Partizan were level. Costinha brought down Ivica Iliev just outside the box and Drulovic stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. His left-footed effort struck West in the back and rebounded to Delibašic, who volleyed the ball powerfully past Vítor Baía.
The goal gave Partizan the confidence to sally forward and West was excellent in both defence and attack. However, Porto soon began launching counterattacks and carved out the better of the second-half chances.
Deco watched his curling free-kick punched awkwardly away by Radakovic before Derlei dribbled past a host of defenders only to give the ball away cheaply. The best chance fell in the final minutes, however, as substitute striker Edgaras Jankauskas found space on the left of the box, but drove narrowly over at the near post.
Partizan were restricted to long-range efforts, as Iliev and Delibašic worked tirelessly upfront. West made surging runs from the back, feeding Iliev on the edge of the box on one occasion and shooting from optimistic range on another. The tempo intensified as the game went on – and both sides appeared drained by the time the final whistle was blown.