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UEFA Europa League reaction

Published: Thursday 19 May 2011, 0.25CET
UEFA Europa League reaction
Falcao grasps the trophy his 17 goals went a long way towards winning ©Getty Images
 
 

FC Porto are celebrating after Falcao headed the only goal of the UEFA Europa League final against Portuguese rivals SC Braga. The Colombia striker was unmarked in the centre of the penalty area as he met Fredy Guarín's centre a minute before half-time for his 17th goal in the competition this season.

UEFA.com brings you reaction from the Dublin Arena (times CET).

Thursday 00.25, London
Video highlights of the final are available here. The blog is now closed.

Thursday 00.14, Dublin
Braga captain Vandinho has revealed that the final will be his last game for the Minho club. "We didn't realise our dream," he told Portuguese channel Sport TV. "My journey with Braga is over. I must thank everyone in Braga for their support but everything has to end some time. I leave with my head up but sad nontheless. Life is like this."

Wednesday 23.55, Dublin
Defeat in Dublin was the second dose of UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League final disappointment for Braga midfielder Custódio, who was an unused substitute when Sporting Clube de Portugal lost to PFC CSKA Moskva six years ago. "It hurts more to lose this final than the one with Sporting because we've had a brilliant campaign," said the 27-year-old.

"But despite the defeat we have to be satisfied and proud. If anyone had told us we would be playing in this final people would have laughed. It was a great match that was decided by a [minor] detail."

For Porto's João Moutinho, who started the 2005 final in the Sporting midfield, it was a case of second time lucky. "What we have done is memorable," he said. "We have to congratulate Braga but we deserved to win. Here at Porto it is easier to win and I want to continue winning."

Wednesday 23.37, Dublin
Porto's triumph means André Villas-Boas − at 33 years and 213 days − has become the youngest coach to win a major UEFA club competition. "The most important thing is that Porto could add one more trophy to their achievements," said Villas-Boas.  "I'm only sad because we could have played better. It wasn't a good show after all. Both teams were not calm. It was not representative of Portuguese foootball. Did we only have one shot at goal? It was the decisive one. We are very happy to have won this trophy.

Wednesday 23.24, Dublin
Domingos Paciência regretted his side's lapse in concentration which allowed Falcao to head the decisive goal. "I'm sad, like the players," said the former Porto striker after his final match in charge of Braga. "Porto were not as dominant as everyone expected. They scored in the 44th minute after we slipped up. In the second half we tried and it was a pity Mossoró couldn't score."

Mossoró, who was denied by Helton when one on one with the keeper within 40 seconds of the second half starting, added: "It happened very quickly, I wasn't happy. The frustration is magnified because we didn't win."

Wednesday 23.02, Dublin
Porto goalkeeper Helton marked turning 33 in the perfect way having become the tenth player to feature in a major European final on his birthday. "The cup is very heavy," he said. "It is a wonderful gift. We are very happy for all that we have achieved. I want to dedicate this title to my mother. She underwent surgery this week and for sure she is very happy."

Wednesday 22.46, Dublin
Match-winner Falcao said Porto had "dreamt about this since the beginning of the season", adding of the Dragons' triumph: "My 17 goals were a bonus but the most important thing is that we won. The key was the unity of the team."

Wednesday 20.22, London
Remember you can follow all of the action from Dublin in the UEFA.com MatchCentre. The blog will not be updated during the final but be sure to return at full time for reaction from both teams.

Wednesday 20.12, Patrick Hart at the Dublin Arena
Here's the gen on tonight's venue: the Dublin Arena opened on 14 May last year after a €410m reboot which transformed the traditional home of Irish rugby union and base of the national football team from historical treasure to state-of-the-art stadium. The project costs were shared between the football and rugby authorities and the Irish government. Given the vision in emerald, glass and steel before those of us lucky enough to be here, it was worth it.

Wednesday 20.07, Patrick Hart at the Dublin Arena
Porto coach André Villas-Boas makes one change from the team that dismantled Villarreal CF 5-1 in the semi-final first leg, with Silvestre Varela coming in for the injured Cristian Rodríguez on the left wing. Domingos Paciência's Braga outfit shows two alterations from their semi-final victory over SL Benfica as Mossoró and Albert Meyong make way for skipper Vandinho and Paulo César in midfield and attack respectively.

Wednesday 19.59, Nuno Tavares at the Dublin Arena
With less than an hour to kick-off the green Dublin Arena is changing in colour as Porto and Braga fans start to fill the 50,000 seats available for the 40th final of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League. U2's A Beautiful Day is blaring on the speakers and indeed this a special and unique occasion for the first all-Portuguese UEFA club competition final. Though some clouds are dotting the blue sky, it appears we will have a rain-free spectacle.

Wednesday 19.39, Patrick Hart at the Dublin Arena
Porto-Braga has taken third billing in the Irish Times today – behind important business for the Gaelic Athletic Association with Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Croke Park stadium in Dublin and rugby union news concerning local side Leinster. When the soccer does get a mention, it is with the rider that "it is not easy to make much of a case for the underdogs" at the Dublin Arena. "Porto look the best equipped." Well, should Domingos Paciência's men win tonight, they may be due an apology.

Wednesday 18.47, John Atkin at the Dublin Arena
Former Manchester United FC midfielder Kevin Moran is predicting a 3-0 Porto win, reasoning that "while they're close in geographical terms there's miles between the sides in terms of ability".

Among the Republic of Ireland old guard the Dragons are big favourites. Tony Cascarino has plumped for a 3-1 victory and Phil Babb, who was at Sporting Clube de Portugal from 2000-02, reckons it will be 4-0. Mark Lawrenson (see 12.51) is the lone dissenting voice.

Wednesday 18.04, Nuno Tavares at the Dublin Arena
As fans from both clubs arrive at the stadium, they show one other thing in common besides their country: their admiration for the majestic Dublin Arena. Leandro Pinheiro is hoping Braga can upset the odds and take the trophy to Minho, but the 43-year-old expects a tight game. "Of course it's not going to be easy as Porto have a great team and they won the league but I trust our guys and I'm sure we will have a great party tonight," he told me, between several glances of wonderment at the stadium.

Wednesday 16.36, John Atkin in Dublin
It is a bit more sedate down the road and across the river Liffey at the Braga Fan Zone. Sheltered from the blustery wind beneath the towering Wheel of Dublin, most seem to be focusing their pre-match attentions on perfecting their Irish dancing. I think. At least, that's what they seemed to be doing.

Wednesday 16.11, John Atkin in Dublin
Some 95,000 pints of beer will be consumed at the Dublin Arena this evening and a good number of Porto fans are getting a head start in the pubs and bars around Herbert Park. Half a kilometre from the stadium, the area is home to the Dragons' Fan Zone and the massed ranks of blue and white are already in good voice.

Wednesday 15.10, London
Following his appointment to officiate tonight's showpiece, Carlos Velasco Carballo has been speaking to UEFA.com, admitting it is "without doubt the biggest game I'll have refereed".

Wednesday 14.50, Hugo Pietra in Dublin
The Braga players appear to be in relaxed mood just hours before their big moment against Porto. The squad took a moment to go for a walk around their hotel this morning and looked to be in high spirits. Apart from the club's travelling supporters, Domingos Paciência's also seem to have earned the affections of the locals, backing up their coach's assertion from yesterday that "everybody likes to see the little ones beating the bigger ones."

Wednesday 14.16, London
Porto won 2-0 at CS Marítimo on Saturday to become only the second team to finish a Portuguese league season unbeaten, matching Benfica's 1972/73 achievement. With 27 wins in 30 league games, André Villas-Boas's side also wound up with a record winning margin of 21 points over second-placed Benfica.

Braga slipped to fourth in the final rankings with a last-day defeat against Sporting Clube de Portugal, a position which guarantees them a place in qualifying for next season's UEFA Europa League. If they defeat Porto in Dublin, Braga would go straight into the group stage.

Wednesday 13.46, John Atkin in Dublin
The Temple Bar area of town is already fluttering with Portuguese fans and flags. The flow is occasionally interrupted by groups sporting Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC shirts, English supporters who booked early in hope and expectation. Braga and FC Dynamo Kyiv ruined their best-laid plans, but they have made the trip anyway.

They could make their voices heard, too. Porto fans will significantly outnumber Braga's when the game kicks off at 20.45CET, yet judging by a few I spoke to, the Arsenalistas will enjoy much of the neutral support.

Wednesday 12.54, Nuno Tavares at the Dublin Arena
Windy Dublin woke up for its first ever UEFA competition club final to the sound of Porto and Braga fans cheering for their teams, with hundreds of them already strolling near the stadium although there are still about eight hours to go until kick-off. And if yesterday it was almost impossible to spot a Braga fan, today the numbers appear a bit more balanced, with the white and red shirts of the Minho outfit adding even more colour to the streets.

Wednesday 12.51, John Atkin in Dublin
Rolling coverage of "Dublin's biggest ever football event" began early on Irish commercial channel TV-3, where former Irish international Mark Lawrenson has predicted extra time and penalties this evening. Ex-England defender Martin Keown has plumped for a narrow 1-0 Porto win and regardless of who they have asked (and they seem to be asking anyone they can find at the Dublin Arena) all are united in their belief that tonight will be close.

Wednesday 12.34, Hugo Pietra in Dublin
It has been a busy morning in Porto and Dublin with 32 flights scheduled between the two cities today. The first flight from Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro took off at 04.45 and the last one is expected to leave at 11.45. The Irish capital is becoming more and more Portuguese as kick-off approaches.

Wednesday 12.09, John Atkin in Dublin
The sun is not exactly overwhelming here in Dublin but we ought to be grateful for the fact that for once there is no immediate threat of rain. Indeed, the forecast suggests tonight will be clear and dry, with temperatures as high as 12-14C.

Please note that my last foray into meteorological predictions on this blog saw me provide an 80% chance of rain for the first leg of Porto's semi-final against Villarreal. The game kicked off in temperatures deep into the 20Cs, the sky a vision in blue.

Wednesday 11.46, Lisbon
In Portugal, A Bola starts the build-up to the first all-Portuguese decider in UEFA club competition history with the headline: "The final nobody dreamed of." Under the caption "thirst for glory", Porto coach André Villas-Boas and Braga boss Domingos Paciência are pictured with a traditionally-Irish pint of Guinness between them, with the text celebrating the likes of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. "It is today in Dublin, capital city of the Republic of Ireland, homeland of some of the greatest writers of all time, that an immortal page will be written in the history of Portuguese football."

The papers also report that Braga's Brazilian forward Lima has already got something to celebrate, having learned during training that he is now the father to a daughter, Maria Paula.

Record has re-christened the UEFA Europa League as the "Liga Portugal" and focuses on the presence of fans of beaten semi-finalists SL Benfica and Villarreal CF, who are in Dublin after booking their tickets to watch their sides in the decider.

O Jogo, meanwhile, sits neatly on the fence when it considers whether pre-match favourites Porto will overwhelm their northern neighbours, noting sagely: "The big team is the one that wins."

Wednesday 11.00, Dublin
The morning papers in Ireland are gearing up for the final, with the Independent reporting: "Even though there may be some empty seats in the 49,000-capacity stadium, today will still be the busiest day in the history of Dublin Airport as about 28,000 people make their way to the venue." The report says that the airport is expecting 66 chartered flights as well as scheduled services, with a spokesman confirming: "It will be the most amount of planes ever at Dublin Airport."

The Irish Times, meanwhile, noted that Braga fans would be substantially outnumbered by their Porto counterparts, but the mayor of the Minho city – Mesquita Machado – is eager to enlist extra support in Dublin. "The Irish are nice, I know they will help us," the mayor said. "We have already won just by being here and we can start celebrating now." The paper added: "The mayor said he was so confident Braga would progress to the final that he booked his hotel room in Dublin before the semi-final against the other Portuguese giants [SL] Benfica."

Of the final itself, the Irish Times noted: "It will be the biggest television event stated to date in Ireland with 40 cameras worth €75 million covering the game. For the first time in an Irish stadium, spider cams, which give a panoramic view of the play, have been installed."

Wednesday 10.55, London
Many happy returns, Helton: 33 today!

Wednesday 10.45, London
UEFA.com had reporters at yesterday's press conferences, so we have a full final preview as well as words from Porto's João Moutinho and Braga's Lima.

Wednesday 10.30, London
UEFA.com has put together a terrific raft of features ahead of the final. Porto's 16-goal top scorer Falcao has spoken to us, along with Braga coach Domingos Paciência and the captains of both clubs.

Moreover, we have discovered some exciting statistics about the final, which for the first time sees a coach facing a club he once represented as a player. Dragons' boss André Villas-Boas, meanwhile, could become the youngest coach to win a major UEFA club competition final.

As we await Dublin's first major UEFA club competition final, UEFA.com spoke to former Republic of Ireland forward Mickey Walsh and one-time Bulgaria winger Emil Kostadinov, both of whom enjoyed successful spells as Porto players.

Wednesday 10.10, London
Excitement is building ahead of tonight's game in Dublin, but this could be a good time to make final adjustments to your UEFA Europa League Fantasy Football team, with the winner of this season's competition set to drive away with a new SEAT car. You can also test your footballing acumen with our Predictor game.

Last updated: 03/05/12 14.36CET

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