By Fergus O'Shea at the Estádio do Dragão
FC Porto avoided becoming the first UEFA Champions League holders to fail to negotiate the following season's group stage as goals from Diego and Benni McCarthy, the latter in the 86th minute, saw them overturn Damien Duff's opener and join Group H winners Chelsea FC in the knockout stages.
For a match pivotal to Porto's aspirations of advancing, coach Víctor Fernández deemed Luís Fabiano fit to start along with McCarthy and Derlei in a three-pronged attack. Chelsea also showed changes up front, with Duff supporting Didier Drogba. Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman, both scorers on Saturday, were on the bench while Scott Parker replaced Claude Makelele in midfield.
Although Porto started with purpose, it was Chelsea who carved out the first scoring opportunity. Irish international Duff deceived Areias and stroked a clever pass to Wayne Bridge who, playing in a more advanced role on the left of midfield, shot just wide with his right foot. Duff was again involved in the eleventh minute as he fed Frank Lampard whose cross was headed against the crossbar by Drogba via a majestic touch from Nuno.
Old boys impress
Porto's attempts to penetrate a Chelsea backline which had conceded just eight goals in 25 games this season were continually thwarted, with two of their outstanding performers from last season, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, playing solidly in the dark away colours of the Londoners. A set-piece looked the best route to goal, and McCarthy drilled a free-kick wide after Parker fouled Derlei just outside the box.
After Porto captain Jorge Costa picked up a booking which rules him out of their next European fixture, Chelsea took the lead through Duff in the 34th minute. A long ball found Drogba who touched the ball back to Lampard in space in midfield. The England midfielder nonchalantly flicked it to Duff with the outside of his boot and the Irishman did the rest, racing forward before firing in a shot off a defender which Nuno failed to keep out with a raised hand.
Although goals are the only statistics which count, Porto could take heart from enjoying 63 per cent of the first-half possession. Neither coach made a change at the interval, meaning the patterns of play after the break remained like those of the opening 45 minutes: Porto attacking, Chelsea doing likewise on the counter, but defending stoically.
They finally looked troubled on the hour when Ferreira blocked a fine goalbound shot from Diego, the Brazilian who followed that effort up with a wonderful equaliser a minute later. Right-back Giourkas Seitaridis made a thrusting run into the Chelsea half and sent in a shot which Terry headed clear. As the Chelsea defence looked to regroup, Diego latched on to the high ball and volleyed it beyond Petr Cech.
Handed a lifeline
Cech suddenly looked uneasy and soon after palmed away a McCarthy centre from the left when he normally would have collected it comfortably. Fabiano and Ricardo Quaresma, brought on for Derlei, were both on hand but not close enough to turn it in. Porto were then handed a lifeline when Lampard broke but shot straight at Nuno in the 74th minute.
Bound for the UEFA Cup - with PFC CSKA Moskva occupying second place due to their 3-1 lead at Paris Saint-Germain FC - as the game entered the 86th minute, Porto completed a stunning turnaround as McCarthy brilliantly outleapt William Gallas and headed in Quaresma's cross from the left. It really was the stuff of champions.