Vol. 5 Num 194 Thu. December 09, 2004  

UEFA Champs League
Champions owe it to Benny

A late goal by South African international Benni McCarthy saw reigning champions FC Porto squeeze through to the second round of the Champions League here on Tuesday as they beat Chelsea 2-1 in their Group H clash.

McCarthy's goal ensured that they did not suffer the indignity of becoming the first holders to crash out before the knockout stage and inflicted the English Premiership leaders' first defeat of the competition.

Victory for Porto was made all the sweeter by the fact that Jose Mourinho, the man who guided them to Champions League glory last season, was now in charge of Chelsea.

Porto coach Victor Fernandez was understandably delighted as it ended a tense past 10 days which had seen club president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa accused of two counts of sports corruption, two counts of influencing trafficking involving referees and one count of falsifying documents.

"Relieved? Yes of course.

"We deserved this victory. Little by little gaps opened up and we showed in this match we have the willingness to win, even if it wasn't easy."

Mourinho for his part said his old team deserved their place in the last 16.

"My players were less motivated and played for the draw while the Porto players realising what was at stake were highly motivated.

"This was not a match to prepare for the Arsenal game on Sunday as if it had been I would have played my best side," he added rather patronisingly.

Mourinho said it was logical that Porto had progressed.

"They were the second best side in the group and I would have been surprised if they hadn't gone through. Yes I congratulate them, though personally I am not happy as I never like to lose matches," he said.

Porto had to come from behind to pull it off as Damien Duff had opened the scoring in the first-half before Brazilian Diego levelled with a superb goal in the second-half and McCarthy's 86th minute header wrapped up the great escape.

Chelsea had the first chance of the match in the 11th minute as Ivory Coast international Didier Drogba had a free header from Frank Lampard's superb cross but the hosts keeper Nuno pulled off a brilliant save tipping it onto the bar.

The deadlock was broken in the 34th minute when Nunes made a complete mess of Duff's shot from the edge of the penalty area as the 30-year-old goalkeeper's effort to punch it away saw it deflect off his fist into the net.

Porto's first worthwhile effort in the half came from a long range freekick by South African international striker Benni McCarthy but it drifted wide three minutes from the break.

They went closer right on the stroke of half-time as their impressive Brazilian midfielder Diego struck a fierce freekick which Petr Cech did well to punch away.

Diego was the first player to test either keeper in the second-half as after 12 minutes of nervy football with the hosts especially tense the 19-year-old unleashed a shot which lacked any real power and Cech gathered it safely.

However, the Brazilian teenager made no mistake four minutes later as he slotted home past Cech to give the hosts real hope of making the last 16 with a wonderful right-footed volley from the edge of the area after John Terry had headed out Greek international Giourkas Seitaridis' shot.

Porto poured forward searching for the winner and McCarthy went close in the 64th minute when his low shot was beaten away by Cech.

Chelsea regained some composure and Lampard reminded the hosts that they should not be too loose at the back as he drifted in unnoticed but did not match his movement with the quality of the shot as he sidefooted softly straight at Nunes.

McCarthy though got the goal that he deserved for his performance as four minutes from time he netted with a wonderful header from the previously anonymous Ricardo Quaresma's cross.

LOUDER! Porto's South African forward Benny McCarthy gestures after his goal against Chelsea at Dragao Stadium in Porto on December 7. PHOTO: AFP