Europa glory could be just the beginning for the Porto manager who learnt his craft under Bobby Robson and Jose Mourinho
|Falcao celebrates scoring his 38th goal of the season, and a crucial one, with Porto fans [GALLO/GETTY]|
Porto added the Europa League to an unbeaten domestic season after deservedly beating Braga 1-0 in the final on Wednesday.
A superb header by Colombian striker Falcao decided the first all-Portuguese final of a European competition that saw two teams separated by just 30 miles in northern Portugal meet at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Falcao swooped for his 17th goal of the competition just before half-time, timing his run to perfection to meet compatriot Fredy Guarin’s precise cross and brilliantly direct a header past Braga keeper Artur.
“It was a moment in which I had to stay very calm and when I saw the ball in the air, I had to wait for the right moment to head it. It’s the happiest day of my life, I dreamt of this since I was a boy,” Falcao said.
Braga, the competition’s surprise package who knocked out former European champions Liverpool and Benfica, should have equalised when Mossoro went clean through seconds after half-time, only to shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
However, they did not have enough attacking guile to stop Porto boss Andre Villas Boas emulating the club’s greatest coach Jose Mourinho by winning this competition and the domestic league in his first season in charge. He also became the youngest coach to win a European trophy.
“Without a doubt this is a great feat. We have one trophy left for a memorable season,” Porto boss Villas Boas said.
“This has a huge emotional impact for us. Round after round, we kept believing more. Porto becomes an even more special club, even more unique. It adds another trophy, which is important and builds its future.”
Porto, who cruised to the Portuguese title and reached the final by knocking out the likes of Spain’s Sevilla and Villarreal, started the more dangerous but were kept at bay for much of a mostly tedious first half.
Their opponents, playing in their first European final, created the first chance when midfielder Custodio fired a half volley wide of Porto captain Helton’s goal on four minutes.
The Portuguese champions went close minutes later when burly Brazilian forward Hulk cut in from the wing and zigzagged past two defenders before flashing what would become the last clear cut chance for over half an hour across the Braga goal.
Falcao adds to record
Hulk continued to prove a menace and was forcibly stopped in his tracks twice at the cost of two yellow cards in quick succession, first by Braga midfielder Hugo Viana and then more cynically by Portugal teammate Silvio.
However, it was his strike partner Falcao who broke the deadlock a minute before the break, handing the game the jolt it needed with his 38th goal of the season and his team’s 137th.
The goal meant the prolific striker, who scored five goals in the semi-final against Villarreal, took his record-breaking tally for a single European competition further past the previous mark held by Juergen Klinsmann.
It also succeeded in shaking the game briefly into life and Braga would have been level had substitute Mossoro, who seized on some lax Porto defending with virtually his first touch, fired either side of Helton when put clear on goal.
As the pace of the game picked up, so did the frequency of yellow cards with three more brandished, underlying the rivalry between the local rivals.
Quadruple in sight
Braga kept searching for an equaliser but lacked any cutting edge in front of goal, a criticism throughout a gritty campaign in which they scored just three goals in four quarter-final and semi-final matches compared to Porto’s 18.
That was as close as Domingos Paciencia’s stubborn side came, allowing their more illustrious opponents to add a second Europa title to a trophy room that also includes two European Cups, a European Supercup and two world club titles.
Porto, who lifted the same trophy when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup in 2003, also remain on course for a quadruple haul of trophies this season.