Sport Soccer

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Falcao winner sees boss Villas-Boas break record

FC Porto 1
Braga 0

Porto's Falcao celebrates victory after his goal ensured a 1-0 victory over Braga in the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Getty Images
Porto's Falcao celebrates victory after his goal ensured a 1-0 victory over Braga in the Aviva Stadium last night. Photo: Getty Images

Jason Burt

He wore his long coat, collar turned up, naturally, he prowled the touchline, he crouched in anticipation, he kicked every ball.

And last night, for certain, Andre Villas-Boas stepped out of the shadow of his former mentor, Jose Mourinho, to become the youngest coach to win a European trophy.

In an evening of glorious celebration for Porto, rather than glorious football, Villas-Boas provided yet more evidence to what the biggest clubs in Europe already suspected. There is a new star in the firmament and the Portuguese will struggle to keep him 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 1998, 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 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 at one stage this season Porto 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 Villarreal 5-1.

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 last night's final.

Braga tried to bridge the gap by defending with depth and tackling with bite but they were undone just before half time when the impressive Fredy Guarin stole possession back and sprung forward before whipping in a wonderful left-footed cross.

Radamel Falcao, the predatory Colombian striker, 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.

Braga were afforded a gilt-edged chance with substitute Mossoro racing clear, with his first touches of the ball, only for Helton to save. Porto were comfortable despite their coach's anxiety even if this was not the attacking play that saw 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.

Irish Independent

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