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Unstoppable Porto Set Up All-Portuguese Europa League Final

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Three games. Fifteen goals. Even after a sloppy start in which they allowed Villareal to go in 1-0 up at half-time, FC Porto insisted on being brilliant. Having scored five in each leg against Spartak Moscow, Andre Villas Boas’ all-conquering cohort decided to repeat the trick in just one half against Villareal to set up a final against either Benfica or Braga.

For once this season, Porto fans were forced to suffer a little as a surprisingly abject first-half display, during which centre-backs Rolando and Otamendi went for an evening stroll which allowed Cani the space to put Villareal in front, meant the newly-crowned Portuguese champions went in 1-0 down at the break. Normal service was resumed in the second-half, however; Radamel Falcao scored from the spot to level the score before Freddy Guarin made a characteristic run into the box, shot from an angle and headed home the rebound from Diego Lopez’s save. Falcao then sandwhiched a predatory finish, after some excellent play down the right from Hulk, in between two bullet headers to give himself fourteen goals overall in the competition.

The other Semi-Final, an all-Portuguese affair, was much tighter. Having hit the post in the first-half, Benfica went ahead through centre-back Jardel, before Braga captain Vandinho levelled the score three minutes later. Oscar Cardozo then struck a beautiful free-kick to win the game for Benfica, but the tie looks delicately balanced. Braga’s away goal, coupled with Benfica’s struggles on their travels in the Europa League this season and their poor recent record at Braga, would suggest that this one is far from over.

Whoever Porto are dealt in the final, however, Villas Boas will fancy his chances of emulating Jose Mourinho by winning Europe’s ‘other’ major competition in his first full season, given his team’s utter dominance of domestic football this year. Having hammered Benfica 5-0 (what other scoreline could it have been?) at the Estadio do Dragao earlier in the season, they then beat  Benfica on their own patch twice in two weeks to guarantee the league title and turn around a 2-0 deficit in the domestic cup Semi-Final. This being the Benfica who are already guaranteed to finish second ahead of Braga.

In the meantime, Portuguese football can celebrate one of its greatest successes. Although Portuguese teams have reached fifteen major European finals at club level, this will be the first all-Portuguese affair in the final of a major tournament. It is, ultimately, the expression of the fact that the Portuguese, after decades of occasional highs amid years of disappointment, can finally lay claim to being one of football’s major forces for the first time since the 1960s. Since 2000, the country has hosted a European Championship and reached the final, appeared in a further semi-final and quarter-final of the same competition, and reached the World Cup Semi-Final. Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo have each been voted the best player in the world, Jose Mourinho is almost unanimously viewed as the wold’s best manager and, excluding this year, Portuguese clubs have appeared in three major finals.

Whether the likes of Radamael Falcao, Hulk and Rolando decide to stay together to mount a Champions’ League campaign next year remains to be seen. Given that Portuguese football has lost the likes of David Luiz, Ramires, Angel di Maria, Raul Meireles and Bruno Alves in the past year alone, one would imagine that the three Europa League adventurers will probably need to rebuild their teams once more in time for next season. In the meantime, there’s a major trophy to play for.

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Comments (2)

  1. I have several friends who support Porto. They have a total belief and confidence that they will win the Europa League. That with their complete domination in the Super Liga and after their turn around in the Cup semi final away to Benfica a treble was waiting. They felt that that Villareal were the tougher opponents than either Benfica or Braga. In the first half this looked to be accurate with Villareal finding an ridiculous amount of space behind the defence. Porto looked more like the team I had gone to see in the CL against Arsenal only 13months ago. What a turn around both in this match and from then until now. Whilst there is an argument that the depth of the Super Liga questions the exact quality of Porto [and Benfica/Braga] their exploits in Europe blow that argument to pieces. Will they hang on to not only their best players but their manager. My friends expect Villas Boas to stay another season but that it will be tough to hang on to Hulk and Falcao [whose value must be rocketing]. Maybe only the guarantee of CL keeping them. However, they are not unduly worried. Porto have had an immense capability for unearthing and developing talent, selling them for the next talent to come through. More so than the other clubs – Benfica without Ramires or Luiz are not the same whilst Sporting seem almost in permanent decline. In some ways I hope this Porto team stay together another season to see how they will progress in the CL and when there is greater expectation on them and the manager.

    • Porto has the luck to have the best President in sports that knows how to sell, when to sell and what to buy and when to buy. He talks to media very often and already said he wants the all the players remain on the club at least one more year, with the only way with the only chance of someone being out this season is hiting the terminaton clause that for Hulk are 100M, but for Falcão are only 30M, but he already said he wants to renew contract and Porto alaways makes a great job to shield their stars.
      I believe the team will remain intact at least one more year, but even if we lose someone we have very hungry players ready to step up and shine (except on ST position where Falcao is just the best and our reserves are far from his level, but we always find a pearl on offseasons), but when we lose Hulk who is probably our best player, we still have Wingers like Cristian Rodriguez, Varela, James Rodriguez (future world star), and next season we already bought the little kid everyone talks about as the next Messi, Juan Iturbe.
      So we fans are used to see that and like I said when somebody leaves we know other guy will step up and be as crucial as the guy who leaved.

      I don’t know about next season, but if we were in Champions League we would contending for the title, that’s for sure, this team is way better than Mourinho’s team when we won the CL, back then Mourinho had one midfield line that just absolutely controled the game and possession and when defending that midfield choked the opposing team, but the offensive players were nothing special… this year team has stellar defense, midfield and forwards, and has an incredible depth with 6,7 guys that can play at the same level as the starters easily. Today Villas Boas made the biggest management of the season changing 8 players and we still won 4-0 in an away game, playing good football.