FC Porto 1-0 Olympique de Marseille A crucial victory puts the home side on the verge of the second stage.
By Graham Hunter at the Antas stadium
FC Porto established themselves as favourites to qualify from UEFA Champions League Group F with a hard-earned 1-0 win at home to Olympique de Marseille.
The result enabled the Portuguese champions to complete a second victory against the French side and – with Real Madrid CF having already qualified after a goalless draw away to FK Partizan – gave them a four-point advantage over Marseille in the section.
Despite being without playmaker Deco through suspension, José Mourinho's side controlled the first half and pressed the visitors back inside their own half. Porto worked hard to close down their opponents and deny the French side time and space, and they gradually took the initiative.
Mourinho opted for the same tactics that had enabled his team to record a 3-2 victory at the Stade Vélodrome on Matchday 3, using three strikers - Derlei on the left, the recalled Benni McCarthy and Bosingwa - to press the French team's back four. Meanwhile, Costinha established his authority in midfield with a succession of short passes and, despite the creative shortcomings caused by Deco's absence, the home side duly took the lead in the 21st minute.
Costinha began the move, striding forward before finding Dmitri Alenichev, who in turn passed to Derlei. The Brazilian's clever reverse pass freed the Russian on the left of the penalty area and Alenichev lifted a chip over goalkeeper Vedran Runje from the angle.
Lack of possession
Stung into action, Marseille tried to find an instant response, with defender Sébastien Pérez having a shot parried by Vítor Baía almost immediately. The Porto goalkeeper was subsequently forced to scramble the loose ball away from danger with Steve Marlet closing in. However, the strike was an isolated threat from the away team, who struggled to keep the ball, leaving leading scorer Didier Drogba starved of service up front.
The home side still looked the more likely scorers, and they almost doubled their advantage six minutes before half-time as Paulo Ferreira's free-kick curled towards the top corner, forcing Runje to touch the ball over the crossbar.
Marseille coach Alain Perrin responded to his side's lethargic first-half display with an attacking substitution at half-time, replacing Pérez with Egyptian striker Ahmed Hossam 'Mido'. The extra physical presence of the 20-year-old forward was felt immediately as the visitors began to threaten the home side's defence for the first time.
Marlet missed a great opportunity to level the match within three minutes of the restart as he failed to capitalise on a perceptive pass from Stephan Vachousek. The Czech Republic midfield player's ball found the forward in time and space inside the Porto penalty area but, with only Vítor Baía to beat, the French international shot wide.
The visitors still continued to press forward and had chances to earn a draw, however, and Vítor Baía was forced to make a crucial save with ten minutes left. Mido's overhead kick took a slight deflection off Porto defender Ricardo Carvalho, but the goalkeeper reacted magnificently, stretching to tip the ball away.
The visitors came even closer to snatching a dramatic draw in the closing stages, as Drogba's 25-metre free-kick hit the crossbar, but Porto held on to move within touching distance of the knockout stage.