Porto’s route to the Final began in Belgrade, when Costinha scored to earn a 1-1 draw against Lothar Matthaus’s Partizan in the opening group game.
At home to Real Madrid Costinha was again on target in their 3-1 defeat. It was thus not until their third outing that the Portuguese champions chalked up a first win, 3-2 away to Marseille. Maniche, Derlei and substitute Dmitri Alenichev scored the goals. Alenichev also scored the winner, the only goal, in the return in the new Dragao stadium, and Benni McCarthy struck both goals in the 2-1 return win against Partizan.
That guaranteed Porto second place in the group behind Madrid, with whom they drew in the academic concluding tie.
Mourinho rested Jorge Costa, Mario Silva, Maniche and McCarthy but still secured a mutually-satisfying 1-1 scoreline on a 35th-minute penalty converted by Derlei after Michel Salgado had brought down Deco.
McCarthy was back, to devastating effect, for the start of the knockout section, at home to Manchester United.
The run-up to the game could not have been worse for Mourinho. Derlei had been ruled out – for the entire season it was thought then – by injury, and Costinha was suspended. On the brighter side, teenage Brazilian Carlos Alberto stepped in effectively up front.
United went ahead on 14 minutes through Quinton Fortune but suffered from the need to put out a makeshift central defensive partnership in Gary Neville and Wes Brown. South African McCarthy punished them with a volley in the 29th minute and header in the 78th. United suffered a further setback when skipper Roy Keane was sent off for needlessly treading on keeper Vitor Baia.
Paul Scholes put United level on aggregate and ahead on away goals after 32 minutes at Old Trafford. But it was not enough. A second Scholes goal was – incorrectly – ruled out for offside just before half-time.
In the last minute Costinha disobeyed orders by drifting forward to score from close range after Tim Howard only parried a McCarthy free-kick.
“I was supposed to get in among the wall,” said Costinha later, “but I just sensed there might be a rebound so I found a bit of space – and that’s where the ball came back to me.”
European experience paid off for Porto against Lyon in the quarter-finals. Deco and Ricardo Carvalho struck for a 2-0 home win, and Maniche scored both goals in France.
Lyon snatched a pride-preserving 2-2 draw in front of their own fans courtesy only of a last-minute goal from Giovane Elber.
Maniche hit the crossbar when Porto were held goalless by Deportivo La Coruna in the first leg of a semi-final that was a virtual cross-border derby in the north-west corner of the Iberian peninsula.
Porto found the Riazor stadium a home from home in the return. Mourinho gambled on a recall for barely-fit-again Derlei but the Brazilian came up trumps by converting the 58th-minute penalty that proved to be the only goal of the tie – and sent the UEFA Cup holders into the Final.
By Keir Radnedge