Europa League - Porto hammer Spartak again
Porto romped to a 5-2 win at Spartak Moscow that put Portugal’s champions into the semi-finals of the Europa League with a 10-3 aggregate victory.
Goals from Hulk, Christian Rodriguez, Fredy Guarin, Ruben Micael and Radamel Falcaco - his 11th in Europe this season - put the tie to bed, which was all but theirs already after a 5-1 first-leg win in Oporto.
Artem Dzyuba pulled one back for Spartak with a superb solo effort and he created another for substitute Ari; but while their attacking play deserved the goals, the Russians were woeful at the back, with rookie coach Valeri Karpin on borrowed time at the Luzhniki.
His opposite number, the precocious young Andre Villas-Boas, looks close to emulating his mentor Jose Mourinho - his team have dominated the Portuguese championship, winning it with several games to spare, and look the best side in a competition the Special One also claimed in his first full season as Porto boss.
On their plastic pitch the Russians, who have had a poor opening to their recently-started domestic season, put up a half-decent fight but were undone by some excellent forward play from Hulk and the highly-rated Falcao as they looked to overturn a four-goal deficit in vain.
Spartak had a near insurmountable task but they gave it a go, exploiting Porto’s high defensive line on several occasions but lacking that bit of quality up front, with Welliton’s touch particularly disappointing.
Porto keeper Helton made a good stop from Aiden McGeady after the Ireland winger’s mazy dribble gave him a half-chance that he nearly gobbled up with a rasping finish, but Spartak’s threat was largely toothless as they consistently were caught offside.
Attacking midfielder Dzyuba was booked for a dive over a risky Rolando challenge in the area and, within a minute, Porto put any hopes of an unlikely comeback to bed when Hulk scored , running from halfway, beating several desperate challenges to fire a low finish past Andriy Dikan for a superb solo effort.
Rodriguez forced a smart stop from Dikan just after the half hour, while the hosts spurned three good chances when Pavel Yaklovev and Alex put over from good positions with Welliton denied a header on goal by the palm of a brave Helton.
Despite being 6-1 up on aggregate though Porto were still looking for another and they almost got one when Hulk smacked in a low shot that Dikan saved.
And on the stroke of half-time they got their seventh over two legs from Fredy Guarin’s resultant corner, as Rodriguez looped a header past the stranded keeper for 2-0 on the night.
The second half carried on in the same vein - almost directly from kick-off half-time substitute Micael threaded Falcao through: his shot was saved but the Colombian picked up the loose ball and gave Guarin a simple finish.
Dzyuba, who along with McGeady played well for the hosts, pulled one back to make it 3-1 when he nutmegged Nicolas Otamendi and skipped past a floundering Rolando before sliding a cool finish past Helton.
It was a wonderful goal but its memory was quickly erased when, from Porto’s next attack, Spartak’s defence again went to sleep at a corner, with Rodriguez this time turning provider with a flick-on that Falcao buried.
In what was rapidly resembling an entertaining friendly, Spartak gamely battled for a more respectable scoreline on the night, as Ari made it 4-2 with a deft flicked finish after a great pass from Dzyuba, who had the odd distinction of being man-of-the-match while on the end of a spanking.
Ari, who came on at half-time for the poor Welliton, should have scored his second and his side’s third when he raced clear of the back four only to horribly mis-kick his finish wide.
Micael restored the three-goal lead on the night and took his side into double figures overall when he grabbed a late, low finish after a long-range effort came off the bar, a final nail the coffin for Spartak who must now focus on salvaging their domestic campaign.