Alan’s penalty gives Braga a first-leg advantage over Premier League opponents in their Europa League last 16 tie.
|Benfica’s Jardel celebrates with his team mates after scoring Benfica’s opener against Braga in Lisbon [AFP]|
Four goals from Colombian Radamel Falcao led Porto to a stunning 5-1 victory over Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday.
Villarreal were dangerous in the first half and were rewarded in the closing seconds when Brazil forward Nilmar crossed for midfielder Cani to head the La Liga side in front.
But an inspired second half display from the Portuguese champions put Porto on the brink of a place in next month’s final in Dublin.
The home side equalised on 49 minutes when Falcao converted a penalty after he rounded Diego Lopez and forced the keeper to bring him down.
Buoyed by the goal, Porto drove forward and went ahead on the hour-mark when Falcao’s compatriot Fredy Guarin dribbled past Bruno Soriano on the right wing, cut in to fire a fierce shot against the post and headed in from the rebound.
Falcao added Porto’s third in the 67th minute with a tap-in after Hulk led a counter-attack and then the fourth with a diving header from a curling free kick by Guarin that left the Spanish defence standing.
The striker took his Europa League goal tally to 14 with a looping header from a James Rodriguez corner in the last minute.
With their 13th straight victory overall, Porto boosts its chances of winning the triple crown after it claimed its 25th league crown with five rounds to play and faces Guimaraes in the Portuguese Cup final.
Benfica tie wide open
Benfica and Braga’s semifinal still hangs in the balance following Benfica’s 2-1 victory in Lisbon on Thursday.
Second-half goals from Jardel and Oscar Cardozo helped Benfica claim a slight advantage going into the second leg in Braga next week.
The first all-Portuguese semifinal in a continental competition burst into life after an uneventful first half, with three goals in 10 minutes.
Center back Jardel poked the ball in from short range in the 50th minute after Cardozo’s header bounced back off the post.
Vandinho headed in the equalizer from a free kick three minutes later then Cardozo found the target with a curling free kick.
Benfica haven’t lost a game in the Europa League this season, and have lost only once in 59 games at home to Braga.