The chances of an all-Portuguese UEFA Cup final have taken a giant step forward after FC Porto and Boavista FC achieved excellent results in their semi-final first-leg matches last night.
Porto stunned Italian side S.S. Lazio with a 4-1 victory at the Antas stadium and once again it was striker Derlei who did the damage. The 27-year-old Brazilian hit another two goals to make it ten in this season's competition, having scored at least once in every round. City rivals Boavista's night was not as spectacular but they will be in confident mood after taking an away goal from a 1-1 draw in Glasgow against Celtic FC.
Lazio, fourth in Serie A and beaten UEFA Cup finalists in 1998, and Celtic, the Scottish champions, will hope for better in the second legs that follow on Thursday 24 April. The winners of the two ties will meet in the final, in Seville, Spain on Wednesday 21 May.
Porto, the 1987 European Champion Clubs' Cup winners, actually trailed after just five minutes when Claudio López struck a sweet finish from ten metres out. However, the home side stepped up a gear after that, and once Maniche had driven the ball in from 25 metres five minutes later it was all Porto. Derlei scored two opportunistic goals before Hélder Postiga wrapped things up.
Porto coach José Mourinho said: "It's not a normal score in a European semi-final. With two strong teams the result is not normally like that. But I must say it's fully deserved. We were much better than Lazio. This doesn't mean we are better than them, but today we played better and could have scored more goals."
In contrast, Lazio coach Roberto Mancini said: "This is a very bad result. I have to admit it will be very difficult to turn things around in the second leg. But I can promise we will do everything to score as many goals as we can. Let's wait for an inspired night. We're not out yet."
Meanwhile, Boavista coach Jaime Pacheco was not getting too carried away after his side's draw. "I am as optimistic as I was before the game. We had five or six first-choice players missing so it was a really big effort from us and the players had to give their best. Celtic are a great team and we had to play practical football in recognition of that."
Joy and despair
After a tight first half, the match came alive in the second period. Joos Valgaeren's own goal in the 48th minute was cancelled out barely 60 seconds later by Henrik Larsson's close-range strike. The Swedish international then saw Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo make a superb save from his penalty.
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill refused to think about what might have been. "It was unfortunate we had the penalty miss," he said. "Henrik Larsson will be disappointed but that is the game and no one is rushing to blame him." O'Neill noted that his side had been victorious in the quarter-finals despite a 1-1 home draw in the first leg against Liverpool FC. "There is a massive prize on offer and we will be up for it," he added.
No teams from the same city have ever met in a European final but there is every chance that could happen in Seville. If it does, the city of Porto will surely never have known a night like it.
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