Porto 2 Manchester United 1

25th February 2004
Palacios Stadium, Porto

Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United's return to Portugal after a few years did not go to plan. The night started off well, with Quinton scoring from a well-worked free-kick, but soon turned sour as Porto grabbed two goals, and had Roy Keane sent off by their play-acting.

The game was far from the usual fast-paced game of the premiership, with Porto making sure that they had possession of the ball for much of the game. Whenever a United player attempted to tackle them they fell theatrically to the floor, as much impressing their fans with their graceful dives as they did the referee.

Despite not having the better of the game, it was United who took the lead. Ryan Giggs teed up an indirect free-kick for a Paul Scholes thunderbolt. Vitor Baia could do little else than parry the shot out, only to find that there was a red-shirted Quinton Fortune ready to pass the ball into the back of his net on the other end of his knock-out.

The Manchester boys had time to celebrate, to settle down, and to get into their stride. They failed to take this chance, and the game resumed its slow passing tempo, dictated by the Portuguese.

Two corners followed, with each being dodgily scrambled away by the United defence that has been completely turned on its head in recent weeks. Gary Neville did his best to marshal the back-line, but had seemingly lost his voice just before Porto's equaliser. With the ball played in, somehow Benni McCarthy was the first to reach it, ahead of both Brown and Neville, and he volleyed it past the disappointed Tim Howard.

The attacks continued, and it was a relieved Alex Ferguson that took the boys for their team-talk at half-time with the scores still level.

The second half as much the same as the first, with neither Nicky Butt or Roy Keane allowed to impress themselves on the game, or the opposition, with the whistle blowing at every attempted tackle. Sir Alex was getting frustrated with such unsportsmanship, and even refused to shake Mourinho the Porto coach 's hand at the end of the game because it seemed the only plan Porto had was to play act and throw themselves to the floor.

Ten minutes form the end an unlikely cross was met by the head of Mccarthy, who was being 'marked' by Brown and Neville at the time, who nodded the ball into the net just out of Howard's reach.

Cristiano Ronaldo's entrance into the game gave United something, not least a number of free-kicks as the Portuguese youngster showed us a few of the tricks that he has yet to use in England. It was his through-ball to keane that saw keane dismissed.

Chasing the through-ball into the area, the ball was claimed from his feet by the onrushing keeper. Keane's momentum dragged him forwards and as he tried to vault the keeper, he put one foot on the goalkeeper to help him over. He shouldn't have bothered, and maybe should have allowed his momentum to cause Baia a few problems. Baia's reaction writhing in agony as though he had been shot left a nasty taste in the mouth.

Please let us beat them in the return leg, if only to free the European stage from such cheats.

FC Porto: Vitor Baia, Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Pedro Mendes, Maniche, Deco, Alenitchev (Jankauskas 63), Carlos Alberto (Ricardo Fernandes 75), McCarthy (Bruno Moraes 83). Subs Not Used: Nuno, Pedro Emanuel, Ricardo Costa, Bosingwa.

Man Utd: Howard, Phil Neville (O'Shea 70), Gary Neville, Brown, Fortune, Keane, Butt, Scholes, Saha (Ronaldo 76), Giggs, van Nistelrooy. Subs Not Used: Carroll, Bellion, Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, Forlan.

Sent Off: Keane (87).

Booked: Fortune, Butt.

Attendance: 49,977.

Referee: Herbert Fandel (Germany).