Ronaldo rises to occasion
A Cristiano Ronaldo wonder goal earned Manchester United a 1-0 Champions League quarter-final second-leg win at Porto.
By Peter Fraser
Last Updated: 16/04/09 11:19am
Manchester United became the first English side to record a European victory at Porto as a Cristiano Ronaldo wonder goal earned a 1-0 UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg win and maintained the holders' grasp on the trophy.
Defending English and European champions United arrived in Portugal facing an uphill task after conceding a late equaliser in a 2-2 first-leg draw at Old Trafford.
But a superb strike from Ronaldo in the sixth minute proved enough to secure an aggregate success and booked a semi-final date with Premier League rivals Arsenal, who saw off Villarreal in Wednesday's other last-eight tie.
The first-leg result saw manager Sir Alex Ferguson call on his players to invoke the spirit of 1999, when his side overcame a home, semi-final draw with Juventus to defeat the Italians on their own soil en-route to a historic Treble.
A sterling performance on a par with that night in Turin 10 years ago did not materialise, but it was also not required as Ronaldo responded to recent criticism and demonstrated why he was voted World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or for 2008.
Porto huffed and puffed in the second half, but they failed to genuinely threaten the visiting Fifa Club World Cup champions and Carling Cup holders, as the Premier League leaders and FA Cup semi-finalists remained on course for a potential quintuple.
Ferguson recalled former Porto star Anderson, who had missed three games since picking up a knee injury on international duty with Brazil, while Rio Ferdinand returned to the centre of defence alongside Nemanja Vidic.
Portuguese title holders Porto were unchanged as they tried to subdue an attack spearheaded by Dimitar Berbatov, with Ronaldo - who was a substitute in last Saturday's win at Sunderland - and Wayne Rooney providing the support.
It was Porto - so impressive in the first leg as United were rocked by their opponents' energy, ambition and creativity - who began on the front foot as Hulk sent a skidding free-kick to test opposing goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar in the third minute.
The strike appeared to offer United a further indication of the task they were facing and Ronaldo, whose commitment to the cause has been questioned as rumours regarding Real Madrid persist, responded in sensational style with a sixth minute opener that illustrated the 24-year-old revels on the Champions League stage.
Booed and jeered when in possession, Portugal's leading light Ronaldo - a former player for Porto's domestic rivals, Sporting - gave every indication of his undoubted talent as he rifled a right-footed rocket from 40 yards to leave Helton helpless.
The goal settled United and Ferguson's men began to demonstrate the control of passing which was a hallmark earlier in the season as Michael Carrick scuffed when attempting to follow Ronaldo's lead in the 12th minute.
Porto boss Jesualdo Ferreira was serving a touchline ban for a misdemeanour against Atletico Madrid in the last 16, and his side seemed to be similarly absent after falling behind, stuck in the stereotypical role of second-leg 'favourites', unaware whether to stick of twist.
Bruno Alves had Van der Sar scuttling across his line with a long-range free-kick in the 20th minute and Lisandro Lopez hooked a weak volley towards goal, but the hosts were struggling to pick Ferdinand and Vidic's lock.
A 56,000 sell-out, though, responded to star player Lisandro's effort and their team appeared to revel in the atmosphere as Porto enjoyed their best spell around the half-hour mark.
Porto were asking questions as United's midfield dropped deeper, with Anderson wasteful in possession and receiving a touchline barracking from a visibly unimpressed Ferguson during a break in play as Lucho Gonzalez was stretchered off.
With their opponents still down to 10 men, United could have doubled their lead when captain Ryan Giggs wasted a chance with a volley at the back post, before Porto restored their full allocation of men as Mariano Gonzalez replaced Lucho.
United had their own injury concerns, with the in-form Rooney hobbling following a blow to his foot, and infamously weak metatarsal, but the England striker was able to continue.
Porto then wasted their best opportunity with the interval five minutes away as Bruno Alves out-jumped Vidic to head wide.
The chance sparked a nervous couple of minutes for Vidic as the Serbian centre-back went in referee Massimo Busacca's book for bringing down Cristian Rodriguez, before stabbing a glorious opportunity over the bar at a corner.
A torrential downpour greeted the second half, and Berbatov immediately had a chance as the Bulgarian broke through to unleash a skidding effort which was smothered by Helton.
In Manchester-esque rain, Porto responded and appeared more intent on producing a display to match that which was offered in the first leg as Rodriguez and Hulk hit wide from outside the penalty area.
Full-back Patrice Evra took a clattering in an aerial challenge with Mariano Gonzalez in United territory, but it was Porto who won the free-kick and Hulk fizzed a curling effort down the throat of Van der Sar.
Porto introduced Ernesto Farias in place of Rodriguez shortly after the hour as they went in search of the equaliser which would see them through on away goals, but United were still to be genuinely stretched or turned.
Ferguson replaced Berbatov with Portugal international Nani as Giggs was moved to a central role to offer experience in the closing 20 minutes as United looked to the counter-attack.
Porto were applying their all to the task, but lacked ideas as Evra, Vidic, the excellent Ferdinand, and John O'Shea looked comfortable, despite their fragile lead as the finishing line approached.
With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Ferguson turned to further experience as Paul Scholes replaced Anderson when Van der Sar flapped at a corner for Rolando to nod wide, while Porto's Cristian Sapunaru made way for Tomas Costa.
United, though, retained the composure of defending champions in a trio of minutes of added time, and marched on in the tournament.
|FC Porto||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|12||Shots off Target||5|