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Football: NO-CLASS STAMP; CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, 2ND PHASE, 1ST LEG: FC PORTO 2 MANCHESTER UNITED 1 United crisis as Keane kicks up storm in Porto.

Byline: David McDonnell

AFTER his recent warnings to United's young stars about the need for self-discipline and total commitment to the cause, Roy Keane last night let his club down when they needed him most.

Keane's moment of madness in stamping on Porto keeper Vitor Baia marred Sir Alex Ferguson's 100th Champions League game as United boss and may well end up costing the club their European dream for another season.

This morning the United skipper cannot point the finger of blame at his young team-mates who, he claimed, believe their own hype and "slacken off" when they get their first taste of celebrity.

How can United's emerging youngsters take such warnings seriously from a player who cannot keep a hold on his own fragile temperament? With one malicious stamp of his foot, Keane has undermined his own position.

Trailing 2-1 with four minutes to go was no disgrace to a Porto side who, in truth, could have been further ahead, such was their superiority in attack and movement off the ball.

A precious away goal from Quinton Fortune had given United something tangible to take into the second leg and, with their ability to demolish opponents at the Theatre of Dreams, United had every chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.

But when Keane allowed his frustration to get the better of him, that scenario went out of the window. United will be without their inspirational skipper for the return leg and, even if they do progress, possibly the quarter-finals too.

Although Fergie leapt to the defence of Keane after the game, insisting Baia made a meal of the challenge, you can be certain the United boss will privately berate Keane for his moment of madness.

This was Keane's first sending-off since he elbowed Jason McAteer at Sunderland on August 31, 2002. Since then, Keane had proclaimed he was a changed man, that he had mellowed and that he had learned to channel his aggression the right way.

Yet the folly of that claim was evident for all to see last night. Keane's rash trampling of Baia was undoubtedly in part down to frustration at not being able to stifle Porto's impressive, free-flowing attack. Keane and Nicky Butt were outplayed by the brilliance of the likes of Brazilian teenager Carlos Alberto, and the guile and movement of Porto's two-goal hero Benni McCarthy.

Quite simply, United were outclassed by superior opponents and Fergie, in a rare moment of honesty, admitted afterwards that his side had got off lightly.

Yet when Fortune seized on the rebound from Paul Scholes's thunderous free-kick to give United a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute, there were few who could have predicted such a bleak outcome to the night.

But when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed a glorious chance to double that lead three minutes later, inexplicably trying to head a ball he should have stabbed in at the far post, the omens did not look good.

United's early lead flattered them and Porto began to put United under relentless pressure and Fergie's makeshift central defensive pairing of Gary Neville and Wes Brown were made to toil. An equaliser was inevitable and it duly came a minute before the half-hour when Dmitri Alenitchev turned sharply to fire in a cross for McCarthy who swept a first-time shot into the net.

It then became a matter of United hanging on and taking the 1-1 draw back to Old Trafford. But Fergie's men conceded possession far too cheaply and were punished when Nuno Valentes sent a hopeful ball into the United area in the 77th minute and there seemed no immediate danger.But McCarthy, so impressive throughout, out-jumped Neville and Brown to send a looping header over Tim Howard and into the United net.

Yet the drama was not complete. That was reserved for Keane's moment of idiocy. He has saved United so many times in the past, but this time he let them down and only has himself to blame.

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).

MAN UTD: Howard, Phil Neville (O'Shea 70), Gary Neville, Brown, Fortune, Keane, Butt, Scholes, Saha (Ronaldo 76), Giggs, van Nistelrooy.

56% POSSESSION 44%

7 SHOTS ON TARGET 3

8 SHOTS OFF TARGET 1

0 OFFSIDES 5

5 CORNERS 1

21 FOULS 25

0 YELLOW CARDS 2

0 RED CARDS 1

ATTENDANCE: 49,977

MAN OF THE MATCH: McCarthy

CAPTION(S):

HEADS YOU LOSE: McCarthy's brilliant header beats United; SO GUTTED: United defender Gary Neville feels the pain of defeat
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 26, 2004
Words:769
Previous Article:Football: Off-the-ball antics will cost Fergie.
Next Article:Football: Case for defence is still so doubtful.


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