Malaga's "Cinderella story" continues
Malaga star Isco felt his team were worthy winners after seeing off Porto 2-0 to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Porto had led 1-0 from the first leg in Portugal as a result of a Joao Moutinho goal that should have been chalked off for offside, and Malaga may have been forgiven for letting their heads drop when, in the return leg, Javier Saviola saw a goal mysteriously ruled out by the officials.
However, Isco scored a wonderful goal a couple of minutes later to level the scores on aggregate and, after Porto saw Steven Defour dismissed early in the second half, substitute Roque Santa Cruz headed home a winner for the hosts.
"It's a dream, something that had never been seen before in this city," Isco told the Spanish media after the match. "We deserve it."
Malaga could face the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich when the draw for the quarter-finals is made on Friday, but Isco insists he is just happy to be involved.
"An achievement like this seemed impossible only a short time ago," Isco told UEFA's official website after the game. "It is a dream for everyone here. We came out of the blocks with a lot of intensity because that is what this tie demanded of us.
"We then settled into the match and showed what we were capable of. I think we deserved the win. We enjoyed ourselves and we played in such a way that our fans enjoyed the game too. The Champions League is the essence of football and we will continue to enjoy it no matter where it takes us next."
Isco's team-mate Jeremy Toulalan offered significant praise for the 20-year-old, comparing him to Barcelona maestro Lionel Messi.
"Those games, you have to have great players to unlock them. Barcelona have Messi, we have Isco," Toulalan said. "This is historic. Since the beginning of our adventure, we have tried to go the furthest possible. We had to qualify. We played to our strengths."
Santa Cruz admits the home crowd provided Malaga with a significant advantage in the tie and believes the positive morale at the club has been critical to their Champions League success.
"I think that this group of players and the fans deserved this," he said."The friendship and closeness within the squad is fundamental. I am happy to have scored and for that fact that we won.
"The supporters were spectacular tonight. I have only witnessed an atmosphere like this in World Cup qualifiers. We are all so happy and now we must enjoy what we have achieved here."
Porto coach Vitor Pereira lamented his side's inability to hold onto their first leg advantage but left a scathing assessment of the officials who he felt favoured Malaga after Steven Defour was sent off for the visitors.
"We knew we were going to find Malaga to be an aggressive team but our aggression was punished with yellows and theirs was not," Pereira said. "Defour's sending-off and (Joao) Moutinho's injury influenced the match.
"Moutinho started to feel uncomfortable and they scored right at the end of the first half. Then the second half started with the red card and the game became more difficult. We tried to react, even with 10 men, to control the game. Every event in the game made our life difficult. We are sorry to exit the race. I think the fans are sad, but there is no one sadder than the players."