Saturday, May 7, 2011

Europa League: Braga, Porto to clash in an all-Portuguese final

Saturday, May 7, 2011








BRAGA, Portugal (AP) ? FC Porto eliminated Villarreal 7-4 on aggregate and will meet Braga in the Europa League final after the fellow Portuguese side beat Benfica on the away goals rule.





  • Striker Radamel Falcao and Porto advanced to the Europa League final despite losing on Thursday.

    By Jose Jordan, AFP/Getty Images


    Striker Radamel Falcao and Porto advanced to the Europa League final despite losing on Thursday.



By Jose Jordan, AFP/Getty Images


Striker Radamel Falcao and Porto advanced to the Europa League final despite losing on Thursday.






Dublin will host the first ever all-Portuguese European final on May 18.


Facing a 5-1 deficit, Villarreal received some hope with Cani's 17th-minute opener. But Hulk dashed the hosts' slim chances in the 40th when his blast glanced off Villarreal defender Mateo Musacchio, catching goalkeeper Diego Lopez out of position.


Porto's Radamel Falcao netted his fifth goal of the series when Freddy Guarin finally made Villarreal pay for its high defensive line three minutes after halftime with a pass to his unmarked teammate. Falcao coolly shot under Lopez to break Juergen Klinsmann's 15-year-old record with his 16th goal of the tournament.


Spain defender Joan Capdevila fired in a cross in the 76th to level the score, and Giuseppe Rossi notched his 11th goal of the competition with his 80th-minute spot kick after Nicolas Otamendi fouled Marco Ruben in the area.


"Villarreal was very aggressive and we kept having to adapt," said Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas. "They made life difficult for us, as we had expected."


But overall, the first-year coach was pleased with his team's effort.


"We were very competent over the two legs," he said.


Villas-Boas has the chance to guide Porto to its first European trophy since Jose Mourinho won the Europa League and Champions League in 2003 and 2004.


The Portuguese champions will be favored in the final, having already beaten Braga twice this season. But the underdog is now more than used to pulling off the upset.


Portugal defender Custodio Castro overturned Braga's 2-1 deficit when he rose up to head home a corner in the 19th, adding Benfica to his team's earlier triumphs over Liverpool, Arsenal, Celtic and Sevilla.


Benfica lifted its game after the goal and Silvio's low drive just missed on the half-hour, while Javi Garcia should have made more of a loose ball at the other end.


Before the interval Javier Saviola hit the post as Benfica signaled the contest wasn't over yet.


Benfica squandered some late chances with Saviola failing to tap in a stray ball at the back post.


Braga then let its stingy defense, which only allowed one goal at home in the tournament, to protect its away-goal advantage down the stretch.


"I think we deserve the final after this great run we've had," Braga coach Domingos Paciencia said. "We've proved we're good enough and we'll be looking to do it again in the final."


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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