By Michael Harrold
Benni McCarthy's first-half header was enough for FC Porto to rekindle their UEFA Champions League hopes as the European champions defeated PFC CSKA Moskva 1-0 to claim their first victory in Group H.
McCarthy struck on 28 minutes, connecting with Giourkas Seitaridis' right-wing cross after a bright opening spell during which both sides created chances. CSKA's best opportunity came seven minutes after that, but Sergei Ignashevich fired his penalty over the bar. Group winners Chelsea FC are at home against Paris Saint-Germain FC in the section's other match, as Porto ensured the battle for second place will go down to the wire.
CSKA were back in action for the first time since relinquishing their Premier-Liga crown to FC Lokomotiv Moskva on the last day of the Russian season. Coach Valeriy Gazzaev, already without Chidi Odiah, was forced into one change from the side that defeated FC Moskva 4-1 just over two weeks ago, Elvir Rahimic replacing the injured Ivica Olic.
Porto coach Víctor Fernández was without Vítor Baía, Carlos Alberto, Raúl Meireles, Nuno Valente and Luis Fabiano, and made three changes to the team that lost 1-0 at the hands of Boavista FC on Saturday, goalkeeper Nuno, Seitaridis and Ricardo Costa coming in.
Nuno was almost called into the action immediately as Vágner Love bore down on goal, but Seitaridis was across quickly to clear. Porto too started positively, and on six minutes worked their first chance only for the unmarked Maniche to head tamely at Igor Akinfeev.
Two minutes later and only a brilliant reflex save from Nuno prevented CSKA from taking the lead. Miloš Krasic crossed to Yuri Zhirkov who headed goalwards from close range, but Nuno stuck out an arm on the line to make the stop and from under the crossbar Jorge Costa hacked away the rebound.
Miloš Krasic, Love and Sergei Semak were all threatening and on 20 minutes Semak skipped past Pedro Emanuel on the right and into the area, but again Nuno was down quickly to save. At the other end a mix-up in the CSKA defence presented Maniche with a clear sight of goal, but Deividas Semberas slid in to block as the Portuguese international prepared to shoot.
CSKA held the edge, but Porto, perhaps surprisingly for a side that had scored just once in its previous four Group H matches, were dangerous on the break and they took the lead on 28 minutes. Seitaridis dashed down the right and curled in a wonderful cross that McCarthy headed powerfully past Akinfeev.
CSKA responded with some neat possession football and should have drawn level ten minutes before the interval. Costinha tripped Ignashevich just inside the area and the defender stepped up to take the resulting penalty himself. But as in CSKA's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea on Matchday 4, the spot-kick was wasted, Ignashevich this time blasting over the bar.
Having survived that scare, Porto saw out the half largely untroubled, and they began the second period in a similar manner, holding CSKA at arm's length. CSKA stepped up the pressure midway through the second period, but frustrations were growing as Porto held firm.
On 64 minutes Love was tackled on the edge of the area when he looked poised to break clear, then Jirí Jarošik delayed his shot too long after being slipped in by Love. Love broke through again with four minutes to play, but Nuno was quickly off his line to clear and help Porto hold on for a crucial victory.