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Toughest test awaits Porto

Published: Wednesday 23 February 2005, 23.01CET
If FC Porto are to reclaim their title they will have to do it the hard way in Milan.

Tournament statistics


Goals scored6
Attempts on target50
Attempts off target69
Fouls committed155
Yellow cards20
Red cards0

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Published: Wednesday 23 February 2005, 23.01CET

Toughest test awaits Porto

If FC Porto are to reclaim their title they will have to do it the hard way in Milan.

By Fegus O'Shea at the Estádio do Dragão

A giant flag covered the terraces of the Dragão stadium prior to kick-off depicting FC Porto's Luke Skywalker slaying a vulnerable looking Darth Vader clad in an FC Internazionale Milano kit. To make this intergalactic dream come true goals would be required for the home side and with this in mind new coach José Couceiro put out a team with much attacking potential.

Attacking intent
A three-man front line was spearheaded by South African Benni McCarthy, with the right and left flanks covered by José Bosingwa and Ricardo Quaresma respectively. For their Italian opponents, coach Roberto Mancini put his faith in Obafemi Martins and Adriano, who already had eight goals between them in this year’s competition.

McCarthy pressure
The European champions started brightly, Quaresma making some darting runs on the left wing and having a shot saved by Francesco Toldo after six minutes. Much of the pressure lay on the shoulders of Benni McCarthy - now famous for scoring in big games - and he performed with distinction for large periods of the first half, holding the ball up well and looking to play his colleagues into space. Compared to the strike force of Inter though, Porto lacked that decisive pass and the even more valuable finish.

Away strike
Porto went into half-time a goal behind and feeling somewhat hard done by. Adriano, although looking slightly sluggish at times still caused problems for the Porto defence, whilst Martins dribbling was inconsistent throughout. He did register the all-important away goal though, but in fairness it was Dejan Stankovic's run past Giourkas Seitaridis, laying the ball off to Martins, which forced the breakthrough.

Home joy
The Portuguese champions fought valiantly throughout the second half, plugging the ball into the box from both wings and coming close on several occasions. When the breakthrough finally did arrive it was from unlikely source, not through the predator finishing of McCarthy or the guile of midfield maestro Maniche, but defender Ricardo Costa. Coming just after the hour mark it sparked the fans who have enjoyed so much glory over the past two seasons into life and reminded them just how good the taste of success is. The sour taste of failure is not something they were ready to settle for just yet.

Porto purpose
The equaliser gave Porto even more purpose and confidence as they sought to break Inter's long unbeaten run. With Luis Fabiano now on the pitch in a central striker's role, McCarthy was allowed the option of roaming from left to right along the front line.

Baía brilliance
However, any club still unbeaten in all competitions in mid-February has to have something about them and had Inter not met Vítor Baía in impressive form those Porto fans would have seen their hopes of defending their title diminish once more. Sir Bobby Robson once described Vítor Baía as the best goalkeeper in the world and on this form it is easy to see why as he produced stops from Adriano and Martins which were truly out of this world.

Draw specialists
In the end the draw specialists had to be content with adding another D onto their list of results. However, unlike many this season, this will be a draw Inter will surely be happy to take back to Italy. For now, Porto can still dream of reclaiming their crown. But the force will need to be with them if they are to survive one of their toughest tests yet and leave Milan in three weeks' time with their hopes still intact.

Last updated: 24/02/05 11.07CET