Leonardo's 94th-minute penalty against FC Shakhtar Donetsk prolonged FC Porto's campaign into the spring, coach António Folha saying: "I couldn't be more proud."
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FC Porto coach António Folha was relieved and proud after seeing his team score in the 94th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw against FC Shakhtar Donetsk and a place in the UEFA Youth League round of 16.
With Porto trailing to Andriy Boryachuk's strike and Athletic Club 4-0 up on FC BATE Borisov in the other Group H fixture, the Dragons were about to be usurped in second spot by the Spanish side – until Leonardo converted a last-gasp penalty that sparked wild celebrations in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Though his players left it late, Folha told UEFA.com that Porto "deserved" to join section winners Shakhtar in Monday's draw for the knockout stage, where they will be given an away tie as one of the eight runners-up. "We showed a lot of quality throughout the group and I couldn't be more proud of the boys," said the former Portugal winger.
"Today we had a lot of chances to settle the match in the first half, but we were not clinical enough in front of goal. We could have scored in the first minute of the game, but curiously we could only do it in the last."
Porto captain Sérgio Ribeiro added: "We started very well and could have scored more than once in the first half, but the most important thing is that we qualified. It tastes better because of the way we did it.
"The experience of playing in a competition like this has been great. It gives us a lot of motivation and focus, and it is also very important in order to prepare us for professional football. Now anything can happen. We will play away from home, but we have what it takes to succeed."
Shakhtar coach Valeriy Kryventsov preferred to accentuate the positives after the Pitmen were dramatically denied their fifth victory of an unbeaten group campaign. "We were very close to winning, but I'm very happy with the organisation and discipline shown by my team," he said. "Now we will enter the winter break in Ukraine and maybe that will affect our chances in the competition, but we will give our best."
Boryachuk's third European strike of the season was little comfort for the 18-year-old forward, who dared to dream of what might lay ahead. "I'm happy to have scored, but not with the result. We deserved to win. Having said that, to have the opportunity to play in such an important competition like the UEFA Youth League gives us a lot of experience and, who knows, maybe this will be Shakhtar's year."