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May 5, 2011

Braga face Porto in Dublin final

Falcao broke a 15-year-old record as his 16th goal of the Europa League campaign helped Porto safely through to the final in Dublin, where they will meet fellow Portuguese side Braga after their defeat of Benfica on away goals.

• Villas-Boas: A great challenge
• Custodio: We all are heroes
• Europa League gallery Photo Gallery

With Porto leading 5-1 from the first leg against Villarreal, a night that saw Falcao score four times, the side led by highly-rated coach Andre Villas-Boas went to the home of the Primera Liga side and although they were defeated 3-2, they still enjoyed an impressive 7-4 aggregate win.

Falcao's tally for the Portuguese champions is now superior to that of Jurgen Klinsmann in Europe's second cup competition. The German striker scored 15 goals in the 1995-96 season as Bayern Munich won what was then called the UEFA Cup.

Benfica were expected to progress to the final in Dublin as well, but suffered a 1-0 defeat at Braga and an aggregate defeat on away goals after it finished 2-2 across the two legs. They are therefore denied the chance to gain revenge for the loss of the Portuguese title to rivals Porto, who took their crown at their own Estadio da Luz in April.

Porto's progression was never really in doubt, despite conceding the opening goal. After 17 minutes Ruben, who appeared to be in an offside position, cut the ball back for Cani, and the Villarreal midfielder finished into the bottom corner. However, five minutes before half-time any lingering hopes for the Spanish side were dashed when Hulk saw his shot take a huge deflection for his fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.

Fellow forward Falcao then once again left his mark on this tie. Having scored four in the first leg, the Colombian turned home a cross from Fredy Guarin to score his 16th goal of the campaign. Villarreal responded on 75 minutes when Joan Capdevila chested down at the far post and fired a shot home, while Giuseppe Rossi added a penalty five minutes later following a foul by Nicolas Otamendi, but Porto took their place in the final.

Meanwhile, having lost 2-1 at Benfica's Estadio da Luz, Braga found themselves up on away goals after 18 minutes when Custodio rose high to meet a Hugo Viana corner and produced a towering header that found the corner of the net. Benfica tried to respond before half-time but Javier Saviola saw his shot cannon off the post.

The Argentinian striker missed another glorious chance after 80 minutes when failing to turn in a Luisao header at the far post, before Braga's Paulao cleared off the line in the dying minutes, and the two-time winners of the European Cup were eliminated by their domestic rivals.

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