FC Porto are in firm contention to reach the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as they claimed victory at Hamburger SV to effectively end the German club's wretched European campaign.
A spectacular Lucho González strike right before half-time put the visitors in the driving seat and Lisandro López doubled the lead after an hour. Rafael van der Vaart's header kept Hamburg's dreams alive, but the last word came from Porto substitute Bruno Moraes. The 2003/04 champions are now third in Group G, but only a point behind leaders PFC CSKA Moskva whom they visit next.
Van der Vaart start
Inspired by playmaker Van der Vaart, making his long-awaited group stage bow for Hamburg, and 21-year-old competition debutant Benny Feilhaber, the hosts piled on the pressure from the off. But Porto's assured central defenders Pepe and Bruno Alves kept Hamburg strikers Danijel Ljuboja and Boubacar Sanogo subdued in the opening quarter-hour and the Portuguese title-holders had the first opportunity when Raul Meireles's effort from a wide angle was parried by goalkeeper Sascha Kirschstein.
Moments later the individual class of Hélder Postiga, who broke his UEFA Champions League duck in Porto's 4-1 defeat of Hamburg two weeks ago, caused even more trouble. The fast forward beat Hamburg defender Joris Mathijsen, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. Hamburg responded when Juan Pablo Sorín, who had recovered from a pelvic complaint to play, delivered a precise cross to Ljuboja. Helton did well to save the resulting header.
Spectacular strikeHamburg frustrated
Hamburg's thirst for a first win was obvious, but the legacy of three group defeats appeared to affect their nervous defence who were allowing Porto room to create danger. Sorín and Ljuboja went close, yet just when it seemed the half would finish goalless, Lucho González produced the opener with a blistering long-range drive after neat interplay from his team-mates.
With 45 minutes to save their European challenge as the second half began, Hamburg were unable to raise their game. Thomas Doll's men did their best to attack up the flanks, but the final delivery to the waiting strikers was lacking. By contrast, Hélder Postiga could have doubled the advantage twice from promising positions but each time was denied by Kirschstein.
Exchange of goals No equaliser
Porto, though, were continuing to impress with their quick-passing style despite the absence of injured Brazilian starlet Anderson. Their deserved second goal came on 61 minutes when Ricardo Quaresma crossed from the left and Lisandro López, who struck twice on Matchday 3, forced the ball in. This time, Doll's team replied immediately through Van der Vaart, who scored with a brilliant header from Piotr Trochowski's centre.
Hamburg poured forward but substitute Besart Berisha's effort from a narrow angle rattled the left post and Sanogo's header ended up the wrong side of the opposite upright seconds later. Hamburg's fourth consecutive group loss became a painful reality when Moraes turned and shot in from outside the area three minutes from time.