Champions League - Moutinho strikes as Porto sink Malaga

Champions League last 16 first-leg, Estadio do Dragao - Porto 1 (Moutinho 56) Malaga 0

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Champions League - Moutinho strikes as Porto sink Malaga
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2013Porto's Jackson Martinez (L) battles for the ball with Malaga's Jeremy Toulalan during their Champions League soccer match in Porto, February 19, 2013

Joao Moutinho struck the winner as Porto secured a narrow 1-0 win over Malaga in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 showdown in Portugal.

The midfielder capped an impressive individual display with the only goal of the game on 56 minutes when he coolly converted Alex Sandro's low cross, despite loud claims for offside from the visiting team.

The hosts dominated for long spells but found it difficult to break down a visiting rearguard superbly marshalled by Martin Demichelis and Sergio Sanchez.

Malaga offered very little in the attacking third and will need to improve if they are to overturn the deficit in the return leg at the Estadio La Rosaleda on March 13.

Both sides came into what was their inaugural meeting with reason for optimism.

Porto were boasting a record that had seen them lose just one of 11 Champions League home games in the knockout stage while Malaga were still undefeated in their debut season in the competition after topping Group C.

It was the best defence in Portugal against the finest rearguard in Spain and it showed in a first half that promised much but delivered little in terms of goalmouth action.

Porto asked the majority of the questions but found it hard to pick Malaga's lock.

Their main threat appeared to come from set-pieces and after the Brazilian Fernando guided over at the near post they almost stole ahead on 18 minutes.

Another fine delivery by Moutinho was met by Silvestre Varela who glanced his header inches past the far post.

Porto's in-form hitman Jackson Martinez was a constant menace on the shoulder of the last defender but Demichelis and Sanchez continued to thwart him with some excellent last-ditch defending.

As the half came to a close Moutinho, Marat Izmailov and Danilo all tried their luck from distance but never looked like beating the steady presence of Willy in the Malaga goal.

The pattern continued following the restart and Izmailov missed a gilt-edged chance to put the hosts in front when he miscued on the slide with the goal at his mercy.

However, Porto finally got the advantage their dominance deserved two minutes later when Sandro's clever cross picked out the late run of Moutinho who slotted home with a neat first-time finish. Replays showed the Portuguese midfielder was offside but the goal was given despite strong appeals from the Malaga players.

If that was supposed to be the catalyst for the open attacking football expected prior to kick-off, then both teams failed to read the script.

Malaga continued to defend manfully while Porto took their foot off the gas and seemed content to head to Spain with a slender one-goal advantage.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Joao Moutinho - FC Porto: Capped a performance packed with skill and vision with a well-taken goal.

PLAYER RATINGS

PORTO: Helton 6, Danilo 6, Mangala 6, Alex Sandro 7, Otamendi 6, Gonzalez 6, Moutinho 8, Izmailov 7, Fernando 7, Martinez 7, Varela 6. Subs: Rodriguez 6, Atsu 6, Castro 4.

MALAGA: Willy 6, Weligton 6, Demichelis 7, Sergio Sanchez 7, Antunes 6, Joaquin 5, Toulalan 6, Iturra 6, Isco 7, Baptista 5, Santa Cruz 5. Subs: Portillo 6, Camacho 5, Piazon 5.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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