This goalless draw in torrential conditions may have ended the UEFA Champions League campaigns of FC Artmedia and FC Porto, but the Slovakian hosts were fully deserving of the point that keeps their best-ever European run going in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.
Artmedia were the happier on the muddy surface, and Porto's stalwart custodian Vítor Baía had to show all his experience to keep them out. The result takes Rangers FC through in second place in Group H even though they did not beat FC Internazionale Milano; Porto, however, cannot now win a third continental trophy in four seasons.
Tonight's rivals would have had one eye on the heavens throughout the day as relentless rain fell in Bratislava and put this fixture in some doubt. When kick-off arrived on schedule, attention switched from the weather to Glasgow. Porto needed to win regardless of the result at Ibrox, so began with Benni McCarthy in a three-man attack alongside Ricardo Quaresma and Lisandro López, while Artmedia welcomed Lukáš Hartig back as a lone forward, his broken hand healed.
From the opening seconds, it was clear the conditions would have a say in the outcome; from the wind to the sodden pitch, experienced referee Markus Merk was clearly in for a testing evening. A Ján Kozák free-kick troubled the Porto defence in the fifth minute, though after a scramble Hartig's shot screwed wide. The home goal was endangered eight minutes later, but after a free-kick was flicked on, Pepe headed over from right in front of the target and following a similar move shot wide.
Porto were certainly looking settled by the quarter-hour, their attacking formation testament to the fact they required victory to ensure they would not exit Europe before Christmas for the first time in nearly a decade. The visitors did have the ball in the net, but the assistant's flag was aloft against Lisandro López.
He then chipped over on the half-hour, but Artmedia's direct tactics were beginning to bite and nearly bore fruit, although Pedro Emanuel did well to get his head to the ball as Hartig shaped to nod in with Vítor Baía stranded. News of Inter's lead had raised spirits on both sides, but the swift Rangers equaliser emphasised the need for a goal if either of these teams wished to remain in the tournament.
Hugo Almeida's introduction in attack by Porto was a logical response to the circumstances, but Artmedia's Branislav Obžera had the first chance of the second period, his effort looping over. Obžera then darted on to a through ball, but Vítor Baía, as on several occasions, advanced swiftly to smother.
Substitute so near
With the wind behind them, Artmedia were pouring forward and only Vítor Baía's reflexes kept out Hartig's angled drive. Now Bosingwa joined the fray for the pegged-back visitors, the midfielder replacing defender and captain Emanuel. Moments later, the man who caused the Porto skipper numerous problems, Hartig, was carried off injured. Blažej Vaščák came on, and within minutes had burst through the regrouping Porto back line. It took some desperate defending to whip the ball away from him in the goalmouth, Vítor Baía having been rounded outside the penalty box.
Time, eventually, ran out on Artmedia as they continued to push hard for a winner, but a European odyssey that began in the sweltering Kazakhstani summer continues in the UEFA Cup. This year, though, there was no last-gasp reprieve for Porto.