Falcao fires Porto to Europa League glory

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Falcao fired Porto to Europa League glory as the Colombia striker capped a remarkable campaign by clinching his side’s 1-0 win over Braga in the all-Portuguese final in Dublin on Wednesday.

Andre Villas-Boas’ side arrived at the Aviva Stadium already crowned as Portuguese champions after a record-breaking domestic season and Falcao’s latest heroics brought them an even greater prize.

It was fitting that Falcao’s superb header just before half-time proved the decisive moment as he had smashed Jurgen Klinsmann’s record for most goals in a Europa League campaign earlier in the tournament.

While Falcao’s name is now firmly etched in the tournament’s history books, it may be that winning the Europa League is only the start of an even more memorable career for Villas-Boas.

At 33 years old, he is the youngest coach to win a UEFA club competition and he has already surpassed some of the formidable achievements of his mentor Jose Mourinho – the last manager to win this tournament for Porto back in 2003 when Villas-Boas worked as the club’s opposition scout.

Since taking charge of Porto last year, Villas-Boas has enjoyed a meteoric rise and he will finish the season with a treble if his team beat Vitoria Guimaraes in the Portuguese Cup final on Sunday.

He is already been courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and leading Porto to their first European trophy since the 2004 Champions League may trigger a scramble from the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Roma to secure his signature.

Villas-Boas took his first tentative steps towards a management career as a teenager when he impressed then-Porto manager Bobby Robson with a letter that made a persuasive case for why he should play a striker called Domingos Paciencia.

So it was the ultimate irony that, 17 years later, Villas-Boas should lead Porto out at Lansdowne Road alongside a Braga team managed by Paciencia.

Braga finished 38 points behind Porto as the runaway champions enjoyed an unbeaten league campaign with a record number of points.

But Paciencia’s underdogs had already shocked Celtic, Sevilla, Arsenal, Liverpool and Benfica this season and they showed no signs of being overawed in the club’s first European final.

They could have taken the lead within moments of kick-off when Custodio beat the offside trap to reach Silvio’s header and shot into the side-netting.

Unlike their last successful spell in Europe during the Mourinho era, Porto under Villas-Boas are built on a commitment to attack and Hulk almost put them in front with a fine solo effort.

Hulk cleverly evaded a sliding challenge on the left wing as he surged into penalty area and tricked his way past Paulo Cesar for a shot that flashed wide of the far post.

Although Porto had plundered 130 goals in 52 games in all competitions, but front three Hulk, Falcao and Silvestre Varela were finding it tough to break down Braga’s obdurate and uncompromising defence.

A tense stalemate ensured for much of the half until Porto finally broke free of Braga’s defensive shackles to snatch the lead in the 44th minute.

Fredy Guarin was the catalyst as the winger surged down the right flank before cutting back to make space for a beautifully flighted cross towards Falcao, who escaped Paulao and planted a superb header past Artur for his 18th European goal of the season.

Paciencia responded by sending on Kaka and Mossoro at half-time and his changes almost paid immediate dividends 40 seconds after the re-start.

When Rolando dwelt on the ball just outside his own penalty area, Mossoro stole possession to run clear on goal. However, with just Helton to beat, Mossoro’s composure deserted him and the Porto goalkeeper blocked the striker’s tame shot with his leg.

That proved to be Braga’s only chance for an equaliser as Porto opted to play out the rest of the game with a cautious approach that completely shut out Paciencia’s men.

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