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2010/11: Falcao heads Porto to glory

SC Braga accounted for six sides with European titles en route to the 2010/11 final but Portuguese neighbours FC Porto proved one Goliath too many, as they repelled the minnows' pot shots before Falcao struck a killer blow.

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2010/11: Falcao heads Porto to glory

SC Braga accounted for six sides with European titles en route to the 2010/11 final but Portuguese neighbours FC Porto proved one Goliath too many, as they repelled the minnows' pot shots before Falcao struck a killer blow.

FC Porto 1-0 SC Braga
(Falcao 44)
Dublin Arena, Dublin

As with the first edition of the UEFA Europa League an unfancied side swept aside all before them, claiming several notable scalps, before coming unstuck against one continental giant too many in the final. It was good news for FC Porto, the Goliaths who repelled SC Braga's pot shots before Falcao brought down the minnows.

Some 194 sides from 53 countries contested the second edition of the UEFA Europa League, from Aktobe to Madeira, but in the end the finalists were neighbours, separated by a mere 47km. They were so interlinked that it was a letter about Braga coach Domingos Paciência the player that set a teenage André Villas-Boas on a career that brought him into the opposite dugout.

Geographically and personally close, but a colossal gulf separated their pedigree. Porto had won 92 of their 131 meetings with their northern rivals heading to Dublin, including two on their way to winning their 25th Liga title unbeaten, smashing records as they went. The Arsenalistas, whose haul of major honours contained a solitary Portuguese Cup, fought hard but had no answer to Falcao's header, his 17th of the campaign, on the cusp of half-time.

The Colombia striker was a deserving if reluctant hero. He had broken Jürgen Klinsmann's 15-year-old record for goals in a single UEFA Europa League or UEFA Cup season in the semi-final second leg against a strong Villarreal CF side, though it was the first instalment that really showcased his scoring prowess. He struck four in a 5-1 comeback win, his third hat-trick of the campaign following hauls against SK Rapid Wien and FC Spartak Moskva.

That last-four tie ended 7-4, coming off the back of a quarter-final record 10-3 aggregate triumph over Spartak as the goals flowed for the Dragons. Braga were slower, steadier, but no less impressive. Having entered the competition in the round of 32 following their UEFA Champions League exit they accounted for KKS Lech Poznań, Liverpool FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv and then yet another Portuguese side, SL Benfica, in the semi-finals. They won two ties by a solitary strike; the others on away goals.

Their scalps carried a strong bloodline in European competition, and others had already fallen by the wayside. Club Atlético de Madrid's defence ended at the first hurdle while 1985 European champions Juventus bowed out after six draws. The draw; it can conjure negative images but in 2010/11 3-3 was the new 1-1. SSC Napoli alone played out two, with free-scoring Edinson Cavani fine-tuning the alchemy of salvaging points out of nothing.

For a while he looked like being the star of the show but Napoli lost to Villarreal in the last 32 just as the Falcao juggernaut built up a head of steam. Braga did better than most to slow his progress but his final goal was almost inevitable. Villas-Boas, the youngest coach to win a major UEFA club competition 33 years and 213 days old, had emulated José Mourinho's 2003 treble.

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http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2011/overview/index.html#falcao+heads+porto+glory

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