Prolific Falcao heads Porto to Europa League glory
Porto deservedly beat Braga 1-0 to win the Europa League after a superb header by Colombian striker Falcao decided the first all-Portuguese final of a European competition on Wednesday.
Falcao swooped for his 17th goal of the competition just before halftime, timing his run to perfection to meet compatriot Fredy Guarin's precise cross and brilliantly direct a header past Braga keeper Artur.
Braga, the competition's surprise packages who knocked out former European champions Liverpool and Benfica, should have equalised when Mossoro went clean through seconds after halftime, 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," 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."
Image: Porto's goalscorer Falcao holds the trophy as he celebrates their Europa League final win
Falcao took his record-breaking tally further
Porto cruised to the Portuguese title undefeated and reached this final by knocking out the likes of Spain's Sevilla and Villarreal.
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.
Braga coach Domingos was almost certainly taking charge of his team for the last time with media speculation strongly linking him with a move to Sporting.
"I am very proud, I lived unique moments here. These players also did, it's a beautiful story," he said.
"May Braga continue to grow, we dignified Portuguese football."
Porto had the better of the first half and burly Brazilian forward Hulk cut in from the wing and zig-zagged past two defenders before flashing the ball across the Braga goal.
Hulk continued to prove a menace and was forcibly stopped in his tracks twice at the cost of two yellow cards in quick succession.
But 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 of 15 held by Juergen Klinsmann.
Image: -Porto's Falcao celebrates after scoring against Braga during their Europa League final soccer match in Dublin
Porto remain on course for a quadruple haul of trophies
It also succeeded in shaking the game 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 two teams based a mere 50 kilometres apart.
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.
Image: Porto players, from L-R, Falcao, Hulk and Alvaro Pereira celebrate their Europa League final soccer match victory against Braga