Oct 042008

Three days after a home defeat to Hull shook the club to its core is not a good time to face Arsenal, or any big club for that matter. The top clubs tend to respond to adversity, or a bad result, by taking it out on their next opponents, and with Porto having such an abysmal record in England (the only previous time they had avoided defeat was that draw against United when Mourinho danced down the touchline), it was all set up for a recovery night at the Emirates.

And so it proved, but a great deal of thanks for that must go to Porto themselves, who were utterly dreadful. It says a lot about the Portuguese league that they can be so dominant in their own country yet play in Europe and look so horribly inept.

It could have been different – the first half an hour was actually quite tight, but once Van Persie had slid home the opener all the fight went out of Porto. It was precisely the opposite reaction to Hull’s at the weekend, and they got exactly what was coming to them. Both strikers ended the game with a brace, and with Cesc and Walcott running riot this was exactly the tonic everyone needed after the wake up call that Hull had given.

It is difficult to read too much into the match though, and it shouldn’t be said that this marked a complete recovery, because Porto were so utterly dreadful that what looked like a tricky Champions League group should now be a walk in the park. After all, Porto actually won their opening game, a feat that is unexplainable after seeing some of their woeful defending the other night.

But it certainly was a timely confidence booster to some, especially the pairing of Adebayor and Van Persie up front, whose goals should have eased the pressure on them a little. Vela again impressed in a late cameo, showing he could be a game turner from the bench this season.

A draw in Kiev and a 4-0 win at home is a great start to the European campaign, and the Carling Cup is again looking like an entertaining distraction. It is in the league that slip ups must now be avoided.

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