FC Porto's hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stage were dealt a decisive blow by an ambitious Club Atlético de Madrid side, who will present an ominous prospect for any opponent in the round of 16 having won Group G by an imposing ten-point margin.
The Dragões' qualifying task was a simple one: win and hope FC Zenit slipped up away to FK Austria Wien in the section's other game. With just 14 minutes on the clock, those plans began to unravel when Raúl García span to find the net from an acute angle with the help of the crossbar. Jackson Martínez's subsequent penalty miss would prove costly for Porto, the in-form Diego Costa racing through to score Atlético's clinching second before the break.
A worst-ever home campaign in a UEFA Champions League group phase had damaged Porto's slim chances of advancing, yet brighter away form hinted at better things to come here. Those hopes were raised further when, following a bright start, Jackson rattled the crossbar with a seventh-minute volley from Josué's centre.
Despite Atlético sealing first place in Group G on matchday four, García had insisted his team would not relax and so it proved. The 27-year-old cleverly took the ball down on the right of the area before spinning and firing in off the underside of the crossbar from the tightest of angles to give Diego Simeone's men the lead.
With coach Paulo Fonseca a visible presence on the touchline Porto responded, Lucho González testing UEFA Champions League debutant Daniel Aranzubia before Silvestre Varela's lopping header grazed the top of the crossbar. Their forward momentum unceasing, Porto were awarded a penalty when Aranzubia raced across his box before felling Martínez, yet the goalkeeper quickly made amends, blocking Josué's spot kick.
The two-time European champions would quickly be made to pay. After Martínez had connected with the woodwork once again, Óliver Torres's through pass sent Costa clear, the striker nodding past the onrushing Helton and prodding in to double Atlético's advantage.
Urgently needing a way back into a match that tightened up considerably after the interval, Porto continued to be frustrated by the frame of the goal, substitute Licá striking the base of a post as his side desperately sought openings. At the other end, García might have got a second when a loose ball fell kindly, yet he blasted straight at Helton.
Atlético had already done enough, though, and now await Monday's draw as their foray into the competition continues into the new year. Porto will resume their European campaign in the UEFA Europa League.
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