Europa League wrap: Porto, Sporting Braga in final

Porto and Sporting Braga will meet in an all-Portuguese Europa League final in Dublin on May 18.The two Liga Sagres sides both recorded aggregate semi-final victories on Thursday, with Porto claiming a 7-4 triumph against Villarreal at Camp El Madrigal, despite losing the second leg to the Spanish outfit 3-2, and Braga advancing on away goals after they finished 2-2 with Benfica.

Porto’s progression was secured courtesy of goals from both of their star strikers, Hulk and Radamel Falcao, although Villarreal mounted a late comeback to win the match on the night.

Marco Ruben set up Cani for a 17th-minute opener that gave the La Liga outfit a glimmer of hope but any chance of an extraordinary comeback where dashed when Hulk netted his 34th goal of the season in all competitions, five minutes before the break.

Falcao’s goal after 50 minutes saw him hit the back of the net for the 16th time in this season’s Europa League, breaking a 15-year record held by legendary German striker Jurgen Klinsmann for the most European goals in one season.

Porto were gunning for their eighth away win in a row in European competition but were forced to settle for the aggregate win after goals from Joan Capdevila and Giuseppe Rossi, the latter from the penalty spot, in the last 15 minutes, settled the second-leg result.

Braga stunned Benfica with a 1-0 win at Estadio AXA to claim their aggregate tie on away goals.

The all-important goal came from Custodio, who hit the back of the net with an 18th-minute header that proved enough on the night.

Braga’s Hugo Viana swung in the corner that led to the goal, and the former Newcastle United midfielder proved instrumental throughout the match as Benfica threw everything at their opponents and came close to snatching an equaliser on several occasions, the first of which occurred when Javier Saviola hit the right post in the first half.

Saviola had another chance with 10 minutes to play, but could not apply the finishing touches at the far post, while Braga defender Paulao was required to make a dramatic goal-line clearance to stop Alan Kardec’s header from creeping over the line with just two minutes remaining.

Five minutes of extra time ensured a nervous wait for the home fans, but Braga held on to reach their first European final and condemn Benfica to more heartbreak in a disappointing season for Jorge Jesus’ men.

 


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