Porto And Braga Reach Europa Final In Dublin

Sporting Braga are through to the Europa League finals after a narrow win over Benfica in the Estadio AXA. After a 2-1 loss in Lisbon in the first leg of the all-Portuguese semifinal, Braga knew a 1-0 win would see them through and quickly seized the lead thanks to a beautiful header courtesy of Custodio in the 18th minute. Benfica knew that they had to score or they'd lose on away goals, and spent the rest of the match surging forwards in an attempt to regain the advantage.

The closest they came was in the 42nd minute, when Javier Saviola hit the inside of Guilherme Artur's left-hand post with a well placed shot, but there were several other opportunities for the visitors to net and they were thwarted by poor finishing and good stops by Artur. That's not to say that Braga didn't do some counterattacking of their own - Jiminez Roberto made some excellent stops as the game drew to a close, but Benfica were the ones bossing the game and yet unable to score.

So, Braga advance by an aggregate score of 2-2 (1-0 away goals), and they'll be travelling to Dublin for the right to face Porto, who actually lost for the first time all season in Villarreal but won their tie 7-4 on aggregate anyway. Braga aren't favourites by any means, but they have got a small chance of winning this thing, even if 'small' probably doesn't do the smallness of said chance justice. Congratulations are in order to Braga manager Domingos Paciencia for guiding his club to the first European final in their history.

Meanwhile, Villarreal mounted an impressive effort in a thrilling match at El Madrigal, but in the end, their 3-2 win on the second leg were not enough to overturn Porto's massive win at the Dragao, as the Yellow Submarine fell to the Portuguese giants 7-4 on aggregate. Falcao scored one of Porto's two goals, his 16th in the competition, making him the record goalscorer in European competitions for one season eclipsing Jurgen Klinsmann's efforts in 1995/96.

The tie was probably over after the first leg, but a 1-1 first half meant that there was no chance of Villarreal coming back. Still, they had some fun with the second half anyway. Falcao's record breaking goal came in the 48th minute, finishing off a great counter-attack set up by Fredy Guarin. Left back Joan Capdevilla scored a poacher's finish with a tap-in in the 75th minute, and Giuseppe Rossi gave Villarreal the winner on the night in the 80th minute, converting a penalty drawn by Marco Ruben.

Porto advance to the final in Berlin, which will be an all-Portuguese affair. They take on Braga, who squeaked out a tough win against Benfica, on May 18th.

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