As AC Milan won their fourth UEFA Super Cup the face-off between Rui Costa and Deco was a compelling sideshow.
By Adrian Harte in Monaco
AC Milan's fourth UEFA Super Cup success underlined the quality coursing through the European champions' team - and the performance of Rui Costa on the right of midfield was the exemplar.
Even with Cafu and Rivaldo on the bench against FC Porto, Carlo Ancelotti's team were full value for their win. And Rui Costa - and his fellow elder statesman Paolo Maldini - showed that they have plenty left to give.
Indeed, after the game, Ancelotti said of the Portuguese player, who was shifted from his normal central berth: "Every time that Rui Costa plays in this position he has delivered. He is the prefect player for this role."
Rui Costa's first half display emphasised that rumours of his decline have been greatly exaggerated, and the fact that fellow Portuguese international Deco lined up as Porto's playmaker gave the match a fascinating subplot. Many see Deco as Rui Costa's eventual replacement in the Portugal team, while Rui Costa's criticism of Portugal fielding naturalised players like the Brazilian-born Deco gave their duel added piquancy.
Rui Costa was the first of the duo involved in the action but he snatched at his opportunist shot after three minutes. And within minutes the Portuguese playmaker almost played Andriy Shevchenko through only for Vitor Baía to make a last-ditch intervention.
Milan's ceaseless pressure soon produced an early goal with Rui Costa the architect with some vintage and virtuoso wing play. He twisted and turned away from his namesake Ricardo Costa before delivering a perfect cross that was headed home by Shevchenko.
The Porto fans' only recourse was to boo the former SL Benfica player on the many occasions he was on the ball, with the Milan tifosi chorusing his name in response. Meanwhile, Deco became more involved as Porto stepped up their search for a leveller but Milan were equal to him with one brilliant tackle from Paolo Maldini stopping him in his tracks after 29 minutes.
Rui Costa, like his colleagues, was unable to sustain that early momentum but he almost set up a second goal when he elegantly caressed Shevchenko’s pass on to Inzaghi, who shot into the sidenetting.
Deco, along with Maniche, emerged from the shadows after the break, and as he blossomed, Rui Costa's influence waned as fatigue crept in. And he spurned a great chance for glory after 70 minutes blazing over from inside the box.
Shevchenko the star
In truth, both Portuguese internationals were vying for second billing, so impressive was Carlsberg Man of the Match Shevchenko, all motion, industry and endeavour. His substitution coincided with a series of late chances for Porto, and Rui Costa was sacrificed as Cafu came in to bolster the Milan defence.
Although Milan held on to win, Porto coach José Mourinho still took heart from his side taking the UEFA Champions League holders all the way. He said: "I believe that this game has a positive aspect for us. For me the result was not a surprise but we leave here convinced that we can go to the Champions League with the hope and the certainty that we can compete with any team."
'A great match'
Meanwhile, Ancelotti was in celebratory mood. He said: "Tonight we saw a great match. Our attack played well and all the defence had a great game. And we deservedly won."
If all meetings between Champions League teams are as fascinating and flowing as this one, 2003/04 should be another vintage season.