Dublin dazzles for UEFA Europa League Final
Porto 1-0 SC Braga
Dublin proved to be more than a capable host venue for the 2011 Europa League final on Wednesday as Porto edged out Portuguese rivals Braga by the narrowest of margins to claim the coveted trophy.
The Stadium, re-opened last year after an extensive redevelopment, was truly rocking by the time the neighbours squared up for the kick-off which was watched by an estimated worldwide audience of 50 million.
45,391 were in attendance to see what was more of a competitive than spectacular 90 minutes but Porto won't crib that it took just a one moment of sublime finishing by Falcao a minute short of half-time to secure their third UEFA Cup (now Europa League) in the space of nine years.
It takes the team led by Andre Villas-Boas to within one game, the weekend Portuguese cup final against they face Guimaraes, of landing a treble.
The familiarity of the finalists meant an open contest was never going to materialise but one glimpse of the chance supplied to leading marksman Falcao was met with the desired accuracy.
On 44 minutes, Fredy Guarin found space on the right to look up and pick out the unmarked Falcao in the centre who buried a header past the stranded Artur.
Braga made two changes at the break and there was more of a cutting edge to their attacking play in the second half.
One of the substitutes, Mossoro, burst clear on goal within the first minute only to smash his shot against the legs of Porto goalkeeper Helton.
Another newcomer to the fray, Meyong, was presented with a chance later on yet his shot was poor and drifted wide of goal.
It was to be Porto's night, with Falcao and attacking partner Hulk, always threatening up front with their power and pace. Futher heroics from either weren't required as it turned out as the Blue and White striped shirts embraced in celebration upon the final whistle.
FC Porto: Helton; Alvaro Pereira, Otamendi, Rolando, Sapunaru; Fernando, Guarin (Belluschi 73 mins), Moutinho; Valera (James Rodriguez 79 mins), Falcao, Hulk.
SC Braga: Artur; Miguel Garcia, Alberto Rodriguez (Kaka 46 mins), Paulao, Silvio; Vandinho, Hugo Viana (Mossoro 46 mins), Custodio; Paulo Cesar, Lima (Albert Meyong 66 mins), Alan.
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain).