Porto, for a day at least, jump ahead of Benfica to the top of the Primeira Liga after hanging on to a 2-1 win against Sporting at the Estádio do Dragão, ensuring a two horse race until the end of the season.

An impressive debut from Tiquinho Soares gave the home side a 2-0 lead going in to the break. Substitute Alan Ruiz pulled one back in the second half with a lovely finish but it wasn't enough for the visitors. Iker Casillas made an exceptional save in the last minute to prevent Jorge Jesus' side from grabbing a point.

 

Both managers fielded attacking line ups on a soggy evening in Porto, Nuno Espírito Santo immediately throwing new signing Tiquinho Soares into the mix alongside André Silva, Yacine Brahimi, and Jesús Corona.

Jorge Jesus surprised many with Matheus Pereira, having just 1 minute of Primeira Liga side, starting on the left-side of attack. João Palhinha took the place of William Carvalho in front of the back four.

Porto's new signing Tiquinho Soares made a dream start when he scored after just 5 minutes of the game gone. The goal started from a huge throw from Iker Casillas to start a counter attack. Jesús Corona got past Marvin Zeegelaar all too easily to cross for Soares, who escaped João Palhinha's attempt at marking him to start his Porto career off in style.

Porto double their lead

Porto looked the better side going forward in a half with little goalmouth action. The next chance of the game proved to be Tiquinho's second, after 40 minutes. This one came through a clinical pass through the middle by Danilo Pereira and the Brazilian forward made no mistake to double Porto's lead.

Jorge Jesus had work to do at half time. The ineffectual Matheus Pereira, who was having a tough time against Maxi Pereira, was replaced by Alan Ruiz.

The improvement was instant from Sporting. Bryan Ruiz, moved out to the flank after failing to make an impact through the middle, forced the first real save out of Iker Casillas a few minutes after the restart.

Minutes later Adrien Silva had an even better effort Sporting when his shot thumped the top of the bar.

Sporting pull one back

In the 60th minute Sporting pulled a goal back through substitute Alan Ruiz. Bas Dost headed down into the Ruiz's path, and Iker Casillas couldn't do anything to stop the Argentian's fierce shot.

Iker Casillas however made a brilliant save to deny Coates heading in from a freekick in the 82nd minute.

But Casillas' finest moment came in the very last minute when a Sporting corner once again found the towering head of Sebastián Coates, but the Spanish goalkeeper did fantastically well to tip the ball round the post. It was one of the saves of the season from the resurgent Casillas.

The result all but ends Sporting's disappointing season. The silver lining for Jorge Jesus will be the vastly improved second half performance and the chance to focus on the development of the Academy products who returned to the club for the rest of the season. Another poor performance from Marvin Zeegelaar may mean the abandoned André Geraldes move to Chaves was a blessing in disguise.

It was a huge win for the home side, with Benfica no longer romping towards the title. The pressure is now fully on Rui Vitória and his team in their game against Nacional tomorrow. Tiquinho Soares looks to have given Porto a new dimension going forward after his eye-catching debut.

by Richard Cole

Porto XI: Iker Casillas; Maxi Pereira, Felipe, Iván Marcano, Alex Telles; Jesús Corona (João Teixeira, 83’), Danio Pereira, Óliver Torres, Yacine Brahimi (Diogo Jota, 70'); Tiquinho Soares, André Silva (André André, 65')

Sporting XI: Rui Patrício; Ezequiel Schelotto, Sebastián Coates, Rúben Semedo, Marvin Zeegelaar (Ricardo Esgaio, 57'); João Palhinha (Daniel Podence, 80’), Adrien Silva; Gelson Martins, Matheus Pereira (Alan Ruiz, 46'); Bryan Ruiz, Bas Dost

 

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  • Hi Steve, I am going to stick my nose in this discussion because I have long been a critic of the highly overrated Jorge Jesus.

    To your first point, BdC has to stick with him for one major reason; money. If he fires Jesus, he has to pay him out a $20 million package. So, for that reason alone, he will not get rid of him.

    To your second point about Jesus expanding his horizons in a foreign market; well that requires other leagues being interested in him. And that simply is not the case. Jesus is only able to con Portuguese clubs into believing he brings anything of value, and the truth is outside of Benfica he has accomplished nothing or will ever accomplish anything.

    That may sound harsh, especially for Sporting fans who have been patient and loyal to the club, but the fact is they had 2 much better managers in Leonardo Jardim and Marco Silva who they decided to let go or push out of the club. BdC made a gamble and it has not paid off so far. That is the other big piece of this puzzle; the sheer lunacy of Jesus' compensation has significantly crippled their finances and buying power, which is why you see Sporting have a fairly thin bench.

    This is all of course, just one person's unsolicited opinion.

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  • Hey Chris,

    Thanks for replying. Wow I didn't realise that there was such a high pay out package. After his 3 year contract ends, unless Sporting win the league or have a deep European run would Bruno De Carvalho still stick with Jorge Jesus?

    In terms of the two ex managers, Leo Jardim and Marco Silva were very good managers in my opinion, with a lot of potential to grow and become better. Are they better than Jorge Jesus? It's a matter of debate I guess, and everyone has their opinions. On that note Jorge Jesus is an older manager, whose had a lot of success at Portugal's biggest club (in terms of support). Leo Jardim and Marco Silva have obviously had moved on and improved themselves elsewhere. So it seems likely they both have a lot of upside, but can the same be said of Jorge Jesus or has he reached his ceiling? It would be good to see what others think.

    Considering other managers have found foreign clubs like Vitor Pereira who left Portugal for Saudi Arabia, Paulo Sergio who went to Scotland and Carlos Carvalhal who went to Cypress and Turkey, I think there is always someone whose interested. The stumbling block of course would likely be Jorge Jesus' reported €6 mill a year wages

    Thanks Steve

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Guest - Richard Teixeira

    Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars

    Great read. As a Porto fan myself I can say this match was intense. Porto started well and played fantastic in the first half with Soares scoring two goals in his first match as a Porto player. The second half it seems like Porto was getting comfortable with the result and took a back seat by letting Sporting dominate the possession.
    Coach Nuno I have to complement because he continues doing an amazing job with his substitutions and starting line ups. (Just to start Soares after signing a few weeks is pretty brave in itself). But the young talent is what amazes me and how he continues to give them chances (Diogo Jota and Joao Teixeira for example). André Silva I feel like needs to return back to his form earlier in the season because he hasn't looked as explosive. Coming from someone who did not like the signing of Iker Casillas so much, I have to give it up to him what amazing saves to give us the win in the end. I have heard multiple complaints by my Benfica friends that the before the second goal was a foul that led to the goal. Did you see an infraction there? I would love your opinion? Also what do you think of the upcoming matches? Benfica beat Nacional pretty easily, do you think they are feeling the pressure now even more only having a 1 point lead?

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  • Tough loss. We , Sporting really should have and deserved to get something out of that match. But results matter and thats that. Yes the season has been rough etc, but we as Tom said have played some good football in periods throughout the season. I'm very happy with this squad right now since the winter adjustments. We missed Joel Campbell who was injured and to me he would have definitely made a difference. Alan Ruiz showing is quality again.

    Seriously though Marvin Zeegelaar shouldnt start for us ever again man. I'm fed up with him, he obviously was never intended to be our first choice but because of jeffersons injury struggles he has been left back for most of the season and he has really hampered Sporting. We're practically playing with 10 men with Zeegelaar on the field lol. When Ricardo Esgaio came on in place of him our play on the left side of the field immidiatly improved. It was obvious that Ricardo Esgaio is a better full back. I would argue as I said long time ago too that he should be starting, he should be starting over Schelotto too. Even though Esgaio is a right back he played way better than Zeegelaar at left back when he came in. We desperatly need a new left back. But in the mean time for the good of the rest of the season, I hope we play someone else there in left back for the remaining games.

    If I had a wish for two possible dream signings for left back for Sporting it would be Mario Rui Portuguese left back on loan to Roma right now, and if not him Elmir Nabiullin from Ruben Kazan. Those two players are two natural left footers who are comfortable on the ball good dribblers fast and great at crossing. We've desperately missed that.

    I'm not even going to comment on porto and benfica fans bashing of Jorge Jesus. The guy is a brilliant coach, just our defense has been poor this season and I believe it has stemmed largely from our full backs being so poor. Jesus is a great coach, funny how people only see things selectively. Last season we beat both the two giants porto and benfica in all the classicos except the last one vs Benfica. We played the best football in the league, we played the better game vs benfica in that last classico as well, and had it not been for Bryan Ruiz missing TWO clear cut tap in goals we would have won that game and won the league. Do not forgot it was Jorge Jesus that managed that season as well. He's done great work, this season we didn't adjust well to the transition but this is not the end of the road. We have addressed the situation with exception of the left back position. And we will be good going forward as well.

    from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
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  • Hi Eddie,

    I feel like I should respond, since I'm obviously one of the "other fans" you're talking about.

    My appraisal of Jorge Jesus has nothing to do with Sporting. In general, I find him highly overrated and felt this way when he was at Benfica as well.

    One of his best players tried to strangle him when he lost 3 finals in a row. And sorry to tell you, but he has not made Sporting any better last year and certainly not this season.

    He is good at polishing players and developing them, but that's about it. He has shown no adaptibility to winning with a new club and has no class. He blamed the loss to Porto on one player (Palhinha) because he is unable to objectively judge or correct his own failures.

    I think Sporting deserve a better manager than him, and have had several who were. I respect BdC for rescuing Sporting from bankruptcy and banding the fans together, however I think he has made some large financial errors that will be costly.

    I still wish Sporting the best, so long as it means finishing second to Porto, but I think your club is ill-defined with Jorge Jesus at the helm.

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  • How can you say Chris that Jorge Jesus did not make Sporting better last season compared to how they were before? Dude did Sporting not achieve their highest points total ever in the league and were toe to toe with Benfica who also had a phenomenal season last season. Did Sporting not dominate all of the classicos last season? Those two facts right there prove Sporting were better than they were the seasons before. And the team did not just manage itself and randomly wind up playing so well and having those great results. Jorge Jesus did a great job.

    Leonardo Jardim is a great manager yes, he did great but he chose to move on on his own because he had the opportunity to go to Monaco who at the time were assembling one of the finest squads in Europe and loaded with cash, that was his choice. BdC always liked him and said he will always be welcomed back. We could not convince him to stay because no way we could compete with what Monaco were offering him and the possibilities they could provide in the future with their project. So stop saying let go like if BdC didn't appreciate him or underrated him or didn't appreciate him etc. It was Jardim's decision and BdC amicably agreed to it like a gentleman rather than holding him against his will.

    Marco was provided with a top quality squad just as good as the one Jesus had last season with the continuity of all our main stars and chemistry, plus we had the bonus of Nani. The only major loss was Rojo, Marco Silva then underachieved with that squad finished third when the same squad the season before finished second. That is underacheiving full stop. Jorge Jesus came in last season with the continuity of our main stars and chemistry with one major loss of Cedric (equal loss to Marco in dealing with loss of Rojo) but instead he made the team better and managed the best season points total Sporting ever achieved played great football and narrowly missed out on winning the league by a hair. In terms of the objective comparisons Jesus performed better for sure than Marco and thats that end of argument.

    This season has been poor so far for sure, we Jesus didn't adjust to the losses of our two best players in Slimani and Joao Mario and notably also the prolonged injury absence of Jefferson who is pivotal vital for Sporting. So in this season so far Jesus hasn't performed well overall, but that does not make him bad or that doesn't mean we should have kept Marco Silva. Silva never had to deal with this situation in Sporting. With what he had to manage the maintained top squad he underachieved finished 9 points behind Benfica, with the maintained top squad Jesus had last season he performed phenomenally breaking Sporting's league points record narrowly missed out on winning the league just two points behind.

    The story is not finished the league is still far from over. Jesus has been doing great work and I'm sure he will correct this and finish this season as best we could and do great next season. There's still 14 more games in the league to play so this season is far from finished and Sporting can catch up and will I believe.

    As long as Marvin Zeegelaar doesn't play for us again we will be better and perform again. Hopefully Jefferson stays fit from now as he's just been declared fit I think, and I hope Joel Campbell returns to fitness soon too as he's a major player for us too.

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  • Eddie,

    I don't find this whole "highest points total" argument very compelling. As Steve/Australia points out below, conditions are now such that 2-3 seasons ago, this was never possible. The proof is in the pudding. Marco Silva got Sporting their first piece of actual silverware, a Taca da Liga trophy.

    Also, and I am trying not to hold this against you Eddie, because I respect your love for your club and your viewpoints; but using the words "Bruno de Carvalho" and "gentleman" in the same sentence really undermines your argument. BdC is many things, but a gentleman is not one of those things.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well there's quite a debate going on about JJ. Here's some of my thoughts on the matter. I'd say i'm kind of in the middle of Eddie and Chris' arguments, I agree with some points made by both but don't agree with other points. This ambivalence is quite apt because being a Benfica fan, during his 6 years at SLB I was often ambivalent about JJ. There were a few times when I really thought it was best for the club for him to be sacked, but then I also appreciated the titles he won for the club. I was never a fan of his personality and behavior and his big-headedness, and the more I see him talk trash to the media and make excuses about losses and whatnot, the more I'm glad he's gone from the club and I actually genuinely feel like the club have moved forward since he left.

    However, credit should be given where it's due. And I still disagree with you Chris after a few years of discussion, in your premise that he simply isn't a talented coach. He clearly is. Not nearly as super talented as he obviouly thinks he is, but talented all the same, for sure one of the best Portuguese coaches at present. He won 3 Liga titles in 6 years at Benfica and took us to 2 European finals. That's a good record, not an outstanding record at a club with such heavy expectation like Benfica, but certainly a lot better than what the club had done in the decade before he arrived.

    Similarly at Sporting last year he did hit the ground running and brought them close to the title, so his first season at least was somewhat successful. However Marco Silva the previous season, with virtually the same squad as Eddie points out, at least won a trophy (the Taca) and did a lot better in European play, so it's doubtful whether JJ has really brought the club forward as much as Eddie says. The fact that this season they are already out of the running for any trophies in early February, only adds more to this doubt. It's all a matter of opinion of course.

    This is how I would summarize JJ's strengths and weaknesses. Strengths: an attacking brand of football that is usually quite entertaining (and entertainment is very important in my book), able to usually get his teams playing with intensity and drive, an ability to develop players and get them to be more flexible (i.e Coentrao, Enzo Perez, Matic among others). Weaknesses: not the greatest defensive organisation (evident at both SLB and SCP), a poor record in the big matches against stronger opponents (i.e CL failure at both SLB and SCP, he's lost all the bigger matches this season, while last season he did win 3 of the 4 classicos but lost the most important one of all which effectively lost the title), a stubborness and lack of tactical flexibility, and a clear lack of faith in and usage of young local talent. So there you go, mine's just another opinion thrown in lol! Lastly I will say that i agree with a comment someone else made, he has to go coach outside our Liga to really prove himself completely. Until he does that, nobody outside the Portuguese football sphere of influence will really take much notice.

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  • Hi Andre,

    I liked your 'ambivalent' response, because you make some really sensible, rational and logical points.

    I think Marco Silva done OK in his first season, and we'll never know what he would have or not achieved in his second seasons. He also showed that he could compete in Europe and almost made it to the knockout rounds with Sporting (bar a dodgy penalty handball on Silva against Schalke) and with Olympiacos (beating Arsenal away). I remember thinking at the time of his sacking that Marco Silva had a lot of room for growth and improvement, whereas with JJ he was solid, but also what you see is what you get.

    A lot of people talking about what JJ did last year and how amazing it was to achieve a record points total etc., and whilst I agree that was a great achievement, I'd like to add some perspective and context to this debate, and logical things that cannot be ignored.

    1. Prior to the 95/96 season wins were only worth 2 points. Now they are obviously worth 3.
    2. A Liga had 16 teams prior to the 2014/15 season meaning JJ had an extra 4 games and 12 points to get that total, and lets not forget that during 2014 and onwards Sporting have not been competitive.
    3. You are also only as good as your opponents. in the 2015/16 season;
    a) Porto were in a crisis that year and drops points left right and centre.
    b) Braga, Guimaraes and to a lesser extent Boavista and Belenenses were not competitive.
    c) Benfica had a manager who much like Marco Silva the previous year had no experience at a top club and started slowly.
    4. This year (2016/17)
    a) Porto has solidified with Nuno driving them to a title challenge.
    b) Guimaraes, Braga and Boavista have all been competitive as has the very surprising Chaves and even teams like Setubal.
    c) Benfica's Rui Vitoria also has experience now.

    So I'm much like Andre in my opinion of JJ.

    I would at least ask the question, "Considering JJ's poor record at developing local youth and the fact Sporting is very much a club that develops local youth, is JJ really the best person to take Sporting forward?"

    Thanks Steve

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Great points gang but there is more (lol).

    Marco Silva was screwed. There is no other way to say it. BdC had his press conference with his 400 page document and the silly reasons Maro Silva was "fired" like not wearing team colours. He should have just said the truth, "We stole JJ and Marco had to go." but he didn't.

    Slimani scored 15 goals in 2014 for Silva. He scored 31 the year JJ arrived. Easy to finish better when your striker leads the league in goals. Porto was weak in 2015. So only a 2 horse race.

    For every Matic, Coentrao (how JJ gets credit for this is ridiculous). Hmm lets see, how many careers where almost harpooned due to JJ incompetence? Bernardo Silva, Andre Gomes, Joao Cancelo, Danilo, Candeias, should I go on? Thankfully some of these guys survived JJ's anti-Portuguese agenda and made their marks outside of Benfica.

    Andre have you forgotten JJ insistence on playing Malgarejo (where is he now btw?) and his horrific performances in the Europa final? He subbed off Cardozo at the 70' mark against Guimaraes and Benfica ended up losing 2-1. That's why Cardozo freaked out and shoved him, and that was the end of that.

    JJ did very well at Benfica but he should have done BETTER. He was setup to succeed and he often failed due to his ego and stubbornness. The real hero is LFV and the scouting department at Benfica over the last decade imo.

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