Home » Europa League, Europe, Latest » Europa League Final Match Report: FC Porto 1 Sporting Braga 0

He wore his long coat, collar turned up, naturally, he prowled the touchline, he crouched in anticipation, he kicked every ball. And on Wednesday night, for certain, Andre Villas-Boas stepped out of the shadow of his now former mentor Jose Mourinho to become the youngest ever coach to win a European trophy.

In an evening of glorious celebration for Porto, rather than glorious football, Villas-Boas provided yet more evidence, if any were needed, to what the biggest clubs in Europe already suspected. There is a new star in the firmament and the Portuguese will struggle to hold onto this one, just as they lost Mourinho, for too much longer.

Villas-Boas, at 33 years and 213 days beating Gianluca Vialli’s record when he led Chelsea to the old Cup Winners’ Cup triumph in 1997, is now very much his own man having broken free from Mourinho after years at Porto, where he began as a teenage scout, Chelsea and Inter Milan. Now he is ticking off each of Mourinho’s achievements – by circumstance rather than design – and emulating them.

Titles and records are tumbling at his feet and where this all stops, no-one knows. Not even Villas-Boas. But next year it will the Champions League, not the Europa League, which he will contest. Beware.

Villas-Boas does not even have two full seasons experience as a coach behind him but his achievements are remarkable having saved Academica de Coimbra from certain relegation through the previous campaign and having reclaimed the Portuguese title for Porto in this. At one stage they won 16 league matches in a row and finished the campaign with 27 victories, three draws – and no defeats. They ended 38 points ahead of fourth-placed Braga.

They beat Seville and CSKA Moscow away in this tournament before humiliating Spartak Moscow and destroying Villareal 5-1 at the Estadio do Dragao and are also in the final of this weekend’s Portuguese Cups. Nothing sums up their season so startlingly as this – they have 140 goals in 52 matches, only failing to score in two games and winning 45 of them as they went into Weddnesday night’s final.

Braga’s record is far more modest – they have also not beaten Porto in two years and their only trophy win was the Portuguese Cup in 1956 – but their achievement in reaching this contest is the greater, having overcome the likes of Liverpool.

These two clubs may be just 30 miles apart geographically but they have both come an awful long way to this final, the eighth to be contested between two teams from the same nation, and the stakes told. Braga tried to bridge the gap in the most obvious and uncompromising way – by defending with depth, and tackling with bite.

Two challenges on Hulk summed that up with Hugo Viana – remember him from Newcastle United? – and Silvio both up-ending the Brazilian striker. Both were cautioned. It meant the contest was in danger of descending but, as half-time approached, the impressive Fredy Guarin stole possession back and sprung forward before whipping in a wonderful left-footed cross.

Falcao, the predatory Colombian striker who is such an aerial threat, held his run and met the delivery to twist his neck muscles and arc his header beyond Artur. It was his 34th goal of the season – and an astonishing 17th in Europe, two ahead of the previous record set by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Before that and Braga had actually been gifted the best opportunity with Custodio wasteful after being given a sight of goal and then, for Porto, Hulk flashed a shot wide. Within a minute of the second-half starting, Braga were afforded a gilt-edged chance with substitute Mossoro racing clear, with his first touches of the ball, only for Helton to block his shot. Given the occasion, it was a terrible miss.

Braga’s desperation grew and they threw away another fine chance with Paulao heading over from a free-kick after stealing in front of Helton. But they were making few real in-roads. The favourites were comfortable despite their coach’s obvious anxiety even if this was not the attacking play that has propelled them through this season. It mattered little last night. They won.

And as Mourinho, Villas-Boas former boss, used to say: that’s all that mattered.

Source: Telegraph

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