McCarthy downs Chelsea to fuel Porto's progress

Porto 2 - Chelsea 1
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Porto's more extreme followers had hinted at "something special" for Jose Mourinho on his return to the club he turned into European champions last May, but it was their team who provided it as Group H of the Champions' League reached a dramatic climax last night. After Damien Duff had put Chelsea ahead, the home side dominated and won the game with a header in the 86th minute by Benni McCarthy to qualify as runners-up.

Porto's more extreme followers had hinted darkly at coming up with "something special" for Jose Mourinho on his return to the club he turned into European champions last May, but it was their team who provided it as Group H of the Champions' League reached a dramatic climax last night. After Damien Duff had put Chelsea ahead, the home side dominated the second half and won the game with a header in the 85th minute by Benni McCarthy to qualify as runners-up behind the London side.

Even this result would not have been sufficient had Paris St-Germain beaten CSKA Moscow, but the latter's victory in France, which the home crowd had kept tabs on, meant that come the final whistle the prevailing mood was one of celebration, not recrimination. Mourinho had been warmly greeted, at least by those in the posh seats, and was never close enough to the hoi polloi for any possible repetition of the spitting incident that marred his new charges' 3-1 win over the same opposition in London.

Although Chelsea had already qualified as group winners, and face a huge Premiership game at Arsenal on Sunday, he did the honourable thing in picking a strong side, which slipped to only a second defeat in 25 matches under him. Outsiders might have felt the outcome was suspiciously diplomatic, but Mourinho insisted: "I'm not pleased [for Porto], I can't be when my team lose. Only stupid people don't understand that. But I think Porto deserve to qualify because they are the second best team in the group."

As to why the balance of the game changed after the interval, he said: "I think my team were happy with the draw. They sat back and waited for the end, but the opponent was still motivated. So the difference was that motivation, desire and self-belief that Porto had." It was a fair assessment. The principal question to be answered was whether that greater motivation would weigh heavily on the home side or carry them along.

In the first quarter of the game, the burden seemed too great and Duff took advantage of much nervous defending, running riot down the right-hand side. He had been picked there ahead of Arjen Robben as Mourinho reverted to two strikers and a diamond midfield, using Wayne Bridge on the left in the role that Sven Goran Eriksson has granted him this season in the England side.

Taking his seat just before the teams emerged, the prodigal son appeared to be in danger only of being mobbed by photographers, who were shepherded away from the dug-out.

Whistles from the less forgiving home supporters in a near-capacity crowd greeted his forays into the technical area, which became more frequent midway through the first half as Porto briefly recovered from their poor start. Then Duff struck to redouble the pressure on them.

Duff first fed Frank Lampard, whose miscue allowed the ball to fall neatly for Bridge to drive wide with his weaker foot, and when the Irishman then found Lampard on the overlap, Didier Drogba met the cross with a firm header, Nuno pushing it on to the bar. Just after the half hour Chelsea forged in front with another smooth move in the same area of the pitch. Drogba ­ the victim of some isolated racist abuse ­ laid the ball back for Lampard to play an excellent pass forward for the vibrant Duff, who cut inside his man and hit a left-foot shot that Nuno feebly helped on its way into his net.

If Duff's work was done early in the second half, Robben replacing him, Chelsea's was not. Porto resumed strongly and had an equaliser within quarter of an hour. After Diego's fierce shot was blocked when a cross was headed out to him, the talented young Brazilian was in the same place to try again as John Terry attempted to head clear. This time his even stronger drive from 20 yards flew past Petr Cech.

Mourinho replaced Alexei Smertin with Tiago, but Porto had their tails up and Cech, having an indifferent night, was again unconvincing in pushing away McCarthy's low effort. Lampard's break, bringing a redemptive save from Nuno, was Chelsea's only opportunity of the half.

Hearing that CSKA were ahead in Paris and that a win would therefore put them through, Porto brought on Helder Postiga, who has not flourished since his famous goal for Portugal against England last summer. He soon produced an impressive effort from a cross by another substitute, Quaresma, which flew over the bar, and five minutes from the end Quaresma crossed again from the left, McCarthy's header allowing the champions to fight another day alongside Chelsea.

Porto (4-1-2-1-2): Nuno; Seitaridis, Jorge Costa, Pedro Emanuel, Areias; Costinha; Diego (Cesar Peixoto, 78), Maniche; Derlei (Quaresma, 60); McCarthy, Luis Fabiano (Postiga, 75). Substitutes not used: Sacramento (gk), Bosingwa, Ricardo Costa, Pepe.

Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Gallas; Parker; Smertin (Tiago, 62), Bridge; Lampard; Duff (Robben, 55), Drogba (Kezman, 78). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Makelele, Geremi, Gudjohnsen.

Referee: M Busacca (Switzerland).

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