UEFA Europa League semi-final reaction

The four coaches of the clubs in UEFA Europa League semi-final action on Thursday have all given their reaction to the first legs, as has Falcao after hitting four to equal a European record.

André Villas-Boas shows his delight at Porto's fifth goal against Villarreal
André Villas-Boas shows his delight at Porto's fifth goal against Villarreal ©Getty Images

In Thursday's UEFA Europa League semi-final first legs, Falcao scored four times as FC Porto came from behind to defeat Villarreal CF 5-1 and take a giant stride towards the 18 May final in Dublin. The other tie remains in the balance, SL Benfica edging out Portuguese rivals SC Braga 2-1. UEFA.com brings you reaction from Porto and Lisbon (all times CET).

Tuesday 23.59, London
Video highlights of tonight's game are available here. The UEFA Europa League blog will return next Thursday ahead of the second legs in Villarreal and Braga.

Thursday 23.50, Lisbon
Braga coach Domingos Paciência feels his side are still well in contention to reach the final despite losing tonight's first leg. "Defeat is not a good result but we know that everything is open," he said. "We will try to come back at home and go through. What I can say is that it will certainly be a different Braga than here.

"We need to start better, we were very nervous because of the importance of the game. As the match went on we got better and in the second half we created chances. We could have scored one more but we know that 1-0 will be enough, so the players have confidence. Playing at home in front of our fans we will be great".

Thursday 23.40, Lisbon
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus rued his side's failure to build a more significant advantage against Braga but nevertheless remains buoyant over their chances of progressing. "We have won the first match," he said. "It was like that against PSG and Sttutgart, so this result at home is nothing new for us. We deserved more, at least to end with a two-goal advantage. Braga didn't create any chances to score.

"Their goal was from a set-piece situation and they didn't create many difficulties for us. We go to Braga better than we started the tie. Of course I believe that I will go to Dublin, the result gives us that faith."

Thursday, 23.45, Porto
Juan Carlos Garrido admitted that the heavy loss in northern Portugal "was hard to take" and lamented a failure to convert chances at key periods in the game. "It was a semi-final and we're playing at the highest level against great teams," said the Villarreal coach. "It's a big defeat and hard to take. We're not happy and have to analyse where we went wrong to emerge strong. We deserved more than one goal, and had three clear chances. The key was when it went 1-1 rather than 2-0 to us, this boosted the belief of Porto and their skills brought our mistakes."

Centre-forward Nilmar added: "Everything is possible in football, but it's going to be a hard task. We played great in the first half and then everything changed in the second, it's difficult to see what went wrong."

Thursday, 23.33, Porto
There was no happier man than Falcao at the Estádio do Dragão, the Colombian striker all smiles as he left the pitch carrying the match ball for the third time in the UEFA Europa League this season. "I will never forget these four goals," said Falcao. "It's a dream because I've never scored four goals in a game before."

Falcao now has 15 for the season, level with Jürgen Klinsmann's competition-record haul of 15 goals in a campaign, achieved in the colours of FC Bayern München in 1995/96.

Thursday 23.28, Lisbon
Ruled out of the second leg through suspension after a booking against Braga, Benfica's Pablo Aimar knows there is still a lot of football to be played in the semi-final. "We knew that they would defend well - they came to prevent us from scoring," said the playmaker. "We created many chances to score, especially in the first half. A 2-1 advantage is narrow; the tie is still open ... It will be hard to miss the second leg."

Thursday 23.20, Porto
Porto coach André Villas-Boas urged his team to keep their "feet on the ground" despite a four-goal victory against a Villarreal team who will "keep on dreaming about the final". He added: "It was a good first step towards the final. Scoring 15 goals in three games is down to the talent of the players. Falcao is fabulous, just like others in the team, but even though he's a fantastic goalscorer I have to underline the performances of all the group."

Midfielder Fredy Guarín, the scorer of the second, echoed the words of his coach, saying: "The way we turned the tie around after going behind was great. It was down to the efforts of the whole team."

Thursday 20.46, London
The lineups for tonight's matches can be found in the UEFA.com MatchCentre, where you can follow all of the action from Lisbon and Porto. The blog will not be updated during the games but be sure to return at full time for immediate post-match reaction.

Thursday 20.09, John Atkin at the Estádio do Dragão
The teams are in. The only mild surprise for Porto is that Cristian Rodríguez is preferred to Silvestre Varela on the left side of a three-man attack. Juan Carlos Garrido makes three changes to the Villarreal side that lost 3-2 at Sevilla FC on Sunday, with Cani, Borja Valero and in-form Giuseppe Rossi all restored to the starting XI. Surprisingly, though, there is no place for Joan Capdevila as José Catalá is preferred at left-back.

Thursday 20.07, Andy Brassell at the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Singing fans have started streaming into the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica on a glorious evening in Lisbon, on a historic night for Portuguese football − their tally of three clubs in the UEFA Europa League is the strongest representation for any country in the competition since four German teams made the last four of its predecessor, the UEFA Cup, in 1979/80.

A few historical ducks are waiting to be broken in this all-Portuguese semi-final. Benfica have not won a UEFA competition in the 49 years since lifting the 1962 European Champion Clubs' Cup, while Braga have only won once at their opponents' Lisbon home, in 1954/55 in the Portuguese Liga.

Thursday 19.42, John Atkin at the Estádio do Dragão
Portuguese meteorologists fearing for their livelihoods after my earlier weather predictions (see 13.11) can breathe easy as my forecast of rain does not look like coming true. As my understanding has it, you need clouds for rain – there is not a single one. It is sweltering.

Thursday 19.26, Nuno Tavares at the Estádio do Dragão
André Villas-Boas's Porto have recorded 44 wins from 51 competitive matches in what has been an amazing season for the Dragons. However, Villarreal can take solace from the fact that their opponents' three defeats this term all took place at the Dragão. That said, Porto are on a run of 12 consecutive victories in all competitions, the most recent of which was a stunning 3-1 success at fellow UEFA Europa League contenders Benfica which earned them a place in the Portuguese Cup final.

Thursday 19.12, Carlos Santos at the Estádio do Dragão
A throng of Porto fans have congregated in front of the stadium in readiness for the team bus arriving. Although the police have the parking zone covered, the supporters have found a good vantage point to see their heroes arrive. It is very crowded around the ground, with the merchandise stalls doing what appears to be a good trade in scarves.

Thursday 18.23, Carlos Machado at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Fans are starting to gather around the ground, with the UEFA Europa League Truck Tour proving a particular attraction. Amid the all-red surroundings of stadium seats and Benfica shirts, the sunshine in Lisbon provides the perfect backdrop.

Thursday 18.07, John Atkin in Porto
A steady stream of yellow shirts are beginning to meander through the winding streets of the Ribeira district, Porto's stunning historic centre. Almost all belong to Villarreal supporters who, by hook or by crook, have made the 1,000km journey from neighbouring Spain; from one side of the Iberian peninsula to the other.

One fan told me at some length about his own tale of woe, having to work through the Easter break to appease his boss. At some point I must have glazed over because I was jolted from my reverie by an amended rendition of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine: "We all live for the Yellow Submarine ..." It was almost as loud as it was out of tune, but the sentiment was clear.

Thursday 17.14, Carlos Machado at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Braga coach Domingos Paciência summed up the confidence coursing through the visitors' camp yesterday when he said: "We are Braga, nicknamed the Warriors, and we want Dublin." The former Porto striker also spoke of his players being "very optimistic about grabbing a win at Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica".

Opposite number Jorge Jesus, meanwhile, is hopeful he can take part in a continental showpiece for the first time. "I've never had a chance to reach a European final before," said the Benfica coach. "I've been close with Braga and Benfica, reaching the quarter-finals with both. A final is a prestigious occasion for everyone involved and I hope and am convinced that I'll be there for the first time."

Thursday 16.51, Carlos Santos at the Estádio do Dragão
A number of fans are starting to congregate around the stadium, some of whom are still trying to get their hands on a ticket. Anyone within earshot of the Estádio do Dragão will also be able to hear a murmuring of Spanish as Villarreal supporters begin to make themselves known.

Thursday 15.56, Carlos Santos at the Estádio do Dragão
More news from Falcao's Twitter account, the Porto striker saying "Messi is amazing" after watching FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid CF in yesterday's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, before finally breaking his silence on tonight's game (see 15.15). "It's not only Portugal supporting us when we go out on the pitch, there are many people from many parts of the world cheering for us. Thank you all," he tweeted.

Thursday 15.41, Carlos Machado at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Eight buses are doing the 350km journey between Braga and Lisbon to bring fans from the north of Portugal to the capital. Many more will come by car and there are 2,500 visiting supporters expected in total. They will be heavily outnumbered with around 60,000 Benfica fans also present, all urging their side to a first continental final since 1990, when they fell to AC Milan in the European Champion Clubs' Cup showpiece in Vienna.

Thursday 15.15, John Atkin in Porto
Much of the pre-match focus has been on the attacking threat posed by Porto's Falcao and Villarreal's Giuseppe Rossi. The latter has ten UEFA Europa League goals to his name this season and was yesterday hailed "one of the best forwards in Europe" by his coach, Juan Carlos Garrido.

Falcao has scored 11 in this competition, and eight in Porto's last eight games. He is gaining renown for his calmness and composure – perhaps it is no coincidence that his prolific tweets over the past 24 hours are yet to broach the subject of tonight's match.

Instead he has bigger fish to fry, like listing his wife's top three childhood television programmes. Cebollitas, a late 1990s yarn about an Argentinian youth football club, creeps in at No3 and Falcao admits it was a source of inspiration: "It made me dream about being the school hero myself."

Thursday 14.44, Carlos Santos at the Estádio do Dragão
Some facts and stats for you ahead of tonight's game in Porto. Both teams will play in their 'home' strips; 45,000 tickets have been sold including 350-400 to the visitors from Spain; the match will be broadcast to 72 countries; 160 members of the media (including photographers) are working at the match; 440 security employees will be at the stadium; and lastly, it is hot here, almost 25C, but there is a pleasant wind to cool things down.

Thursday 14.12, Carlos Machado at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica
Benfica had a light training session this morning in pleasant 24C weather under clear skies. The pitch is in great condition and everything is primed for this first encounter between two Portuguese sides in European competition.

Carlos Martins, Nicolás Gaitán and César Peixoto trained this morning but, according to coach Jorge Jesus, are still doubtful, while Braga's only absentee is the suspended Paulo César. Braga's players had a nice walk in downtown Lisbon this morning and "confidence" is the watchword among the squad ahead of tonight.

Thursday 13.47, Lisbon
With three of their clubs in the last four, it is no surprise that the local newspapers are already thinking about the prospect of an all-Portuguese final on 18 May. "Today is a historic day for Portuguese football," says A BOLA under the headline, "THE GOAL IS DUBLIN!" Record, meanwhile, says: "The final is around the corner – three Portuguese teams with a view over Dublin."

Thursday 13.11, John Atkin in Porto
It is another sweltering day in Porto, where the mercury is expected to creep up to 26C by mid-afternoon. There is a haze on the horizon, though, and by 21.05 this evening, when Porto and Villarreal kick off the first leg of their UEFA Europa League semi-final, there is every chance it could be raining.

It will take more than a drop of rain or a possible storm to dampen the mood, however, as 25-time Portuguese champions Porto look to close in on another title to add to their already substantial collection. Of course the trophy cabinet at Villarreal, who 13 years ago had still not graced the Spanish top flight, remains empty. For now.

Thursday 13.01, London
The countdown has started to tonight's games. See what the coaches had to say at yesterday's pre-match press conferences in our two previews: Porto v Villarreal and Benfica v Braga.