UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
DUBLIN ARENA 18 May 2011 19.45
FC PORTO V SC BRAGA
FC Porto 1-0 SC Braga
The A>B of Sport with Andrew Bontiff, UEL Sports Journalism Student
Porto have been crowned winners of the Europa League after a robust display against Portuguese neighbours Braga in Dublin.
Radamel Falcao’s solidarity goal proved to be the difference, when he rose the highest from Fredy Guarin’s cross to head Porto into the lead on the stroke of half time.
The Columbian notched in his 17th of a record-breaking individual season in the competition to light up a final which undeniably failed to bring out the customary flair Portuguese football has to offer.
Chances were limited throughout in what was a tense affair but nevertheless Porto illustrated their superior class over their opponents and held on to lift the trophy.
Porto’s defeat over Braga ensured 33-year-old boss Andre Villas-Boas a place in the European folklore, becoming the youngest ever coach to win a UEFA competition. Villas-Boas has enjoyed a phenomenal first season in charge, guiding his side to triumph following an unbeaten league campaign and winning the Portuguese Super Cup. The Dragões have yet another domestic cup final to look forward to next week in a bid to further enhance their sheer dominance this season.
In contrast counterpart Domingos Paciencia was denied a final swansong before he opts for pastures new. In his final game in charge of Braga he was unable to inspire his players at the last hurdle and apart from a wasted effort from substitute Mossoro, seconds after restart they never really looked like causing Porto much trouble.
They did in actual fact have the first attempt, when Custodio volleyed wide inside the opening three minutes, while Silvestre Varela’s audacious overhead kick sailed over the bar, but attempts on goal were too and far between.
Porto stopper Helton, celebrating his 33rd birthday, looked thoroughly comfortable on the night and sharply dealt with any danger when called upon. Braga pair Alan and Lima failed to justify the pre-match hype that had them down as potential match winners. Their attacking prowess hardly alarmed Rolando and Nicolas Otamendi, operating in the heart if the opposition defence.
The Match winner in the end was Falcao, he inevitably received all the plaudits but it was teammate Hulk who produced an imposing act to help the side on the way to victory on the big stage. The commanding Brazilian stood out for his powerful bursts on the attack, skipping past full-back Silvio as much for the fact he wore yellow boots.
With the encouraging support from their small set of travelling fans, Braga looked livelier in the second period but could not seriously threaten Porto’s back line. The more they pressed to force the game into extra time, the more resolute were Porto’s defence.
Frustratingly for Paciencia this was not the same Braga side who dealt with the likes of Liverpool and Benfica on their remarkable journey to reach their first European final. They can however be dignified on defeat and walk away from the Irish capital proud of their achievement. The intention on the eve of kick-off was to display their identity, through the spirit and togetherness captivated all season they certainly have done that, regardless of the result.
Villas-Boas’s side held on to cap off a sensational season. The jubilant Porto fans will begin the celebrations in the streets of Dublin which will carry on late into the night, while supporters back at the Estádio do Dragão will await the victorious team to parade the illustrious trophy for what will be a blue and white party.
Andrew Bontiff’s trip to the UEFA Europa League Final was funded by UEL’s Going Global Bursary
To find out more about Sports Journalism at UEL, please visit: UEL Sports Journalism.