Ahead of an important weekend of action, largely due to the recurring to and fro between Liga NOS leaders Benfica and their direct challengers FC Porto, Sporting sought to add to the headlines with a looming presidential election and an equally significant fixture to boot.

Porto took the initiative and were on cue to flaunt their qualities against a troubled Nacional side with a comprehensive 7-0 victory prior to Benfica’s trip to Santa Maria da Feira.

There, Feirense hoped to cause an upset against Rui Vitória’s side, but a 1-0 win would be enough to propel the Eagles back to first place.

This result leads us to what was tipped to be the pick of the weekend. On the back of Bruno de Carvalho’s crushing electoral victory, there was nothing to choose between third placed Sporting and Vitória de Guimarães in fifth, as the two outfits played out a 1-1 draw. Here’s how the tale of the weekend played out.

 

FC Porto 7-0 Nacional

A new week, but it was one that conveyed the same old focus, as Porto looked to pile on the pressure in the race for the title with a much-needed victory against Nacional, currently languishing in the relegation zone.

A couple of ambitious tries from André Silva and Yacine Brahimi eased the hosts into the game at the Estádio do Dragão, but it was from Óliver Torres that Porto initially found the breakthrough, as he helped on Alex Telles’ cross with an acute volley in the 31st minute.

Felipe was on hand to offer yet more concerns for Nacional’s well-being with a high header from corner that caused its fair share of commotion inside the box on its way down. Brahimi doubled the Dragons’ lead with a deflected strike on the stroke of half-time.

The second period progressed in much the same vein, with Nuno Espírito Santo’s men notching a third early on from André André’s passs across to box for André Silva to tap in.

Tiquinho among the goals again

With 54 minutes on the clock, it was Porto’s winter reinforcement Tiquinho Soares who took the opportunity to get on the scoresheet when following up a close-range rebound, as his stream of goals continues to show no sign of going away.

The nightmare ensued for Nacional in the 61st minute, witnessing the dismissal of Tobias Figueiredo for a second bookable offence and conceding a fifth to Miguel Layún from the subsequent free-kick.

Brahimi had a brace within his grasp when swivelling inside the box and poking a shot wide in the 68th minute, but it was a feat Soares would have no problem achieving just two minutes later when taking a looped pass on his chest and leaving Facchini beaten with his second touch.

An eye-catching flick over the Nacional backline almost let Diogo Jota in on the fun, but again Porto’s goal-hungry forwards were on hand to force the ball over the line, as André Silva concluded a big result for the northern outfit.

 

Feirense 0-1 Benfica

Off-field altercations interfered with the running of the game at the Estádio Marcolino de Castro and Benfica remained true to the delays caused with a slow start, as Eduardo Salvio spurned the first attack in 18th minute when discarding the options around him to hit a tame shot at goal from the left.

Kostas Mitroglou came sniffing soon after with a testing header for Vaná to beat away in the 22nd minute, whereas at the other end, a Sérgio Barge daisy-cutter deflected by Luisão sat up perfectly for Luís Machado to volley into an empty net, but the Portuguese forward did the impossible when hitting his attempt over the bar form close range.

Not for the first time this season, Pizzi proved to be a prominent figure for Benfica in the final third, as intricate control inside the box left Vítor Bruno floored en route to the playmaker tucking in the game’s first goal on the cusp of half-time.

Mitroglou had the second in his sights in the 56th minute following Vaná’s miscalculated attempt to reach a loose ball, but Barge’s providential block spared the Feirense keeper any lasting scrutiny.

The 28-year-old striker continued to threaten inside the box, this time with a diving header in the 61st minute, but again there was to be no joy for the man so full of goals in recent weeks.

From one Greek import to another, Anastasios Karamanos will be ruing Ederson’s somewhat fortuitous positioning on the line that denied him the equaliser following a stab at the ball into the final quarter of the game.

It was Salvio’s turn to suffer in front of goal next, as the wide man’s stroke of the ball from Franco Cervi’s pass drifted wide under agonising circumstances.

A win by the slimmest of margins would be enough to see the Eagles through to the end of the game, however, as they repositioned themselves in first place.

 

Sporting 1-1 Vitória Guimarães

The Lions kept up appearances with a 42,000 turnout at the Estádio José Alvalade to welcome Bruno de Carvalho’s second term as president of the club, but Vitória de Guimarães’ league position alone exemplified just how far they were from being considered mere participants on a joyous occasion for the green half of Lisbon.

Key man Hernâni offered signs of the visitors being no pushovers with an early attempt at Rui Patrício’s goal, saved by the goalkeeper in the 12th minute, whereas Moussa Marega’s cross soon after almost saw the duo on loan from Porto profit from a mix up at the back.

Sporting responded through Ezequiel Schelotto, but the Italian’s initial hesitance inside the box saw him settle for a sliced effort wide in the 19th minute.

High praise was sent Bas Dost’s way in the 34th minute when the Dutchman’s vision overpowered his knack for goal-scoring, choosing instead to assist Alan Ruiz with a composed knock-down prior to the Argentine making it 1-0 to the hosts on his right foot.

Jorge Jesus’ men could have hit Guimarães hard in quick succession when Bruno César found himself alone inside the box, but the Brazilian’s attempt to lift the ball over the keeper from an angle was thwarted at it’s infancy by Miguel Silva.

Despite an open first period, it wasn’t until the 67th minute that a far more contained iteration of Sporting caused Pedro Martins’ team problems, as Bryan Ruiz set the emerging Joel Campbell up for a first-time shot that was steered past the far post.

Improvising at the other end, Marega shaped a toe-poke towards goal that just didn’t have enough bend to find its way on target in the 73rd minute, but the Malian striker would go on to inflict damage just two minutes later.

As Bruno Gaspar dug deep into his energy reserves to execute a cross from the byline, Marega took up his position to drag a shot past Rui Patrício and into the far corner, bringing to an end a personal goal drought that takes us back to Gameweek 9 of this season.

‘Os Vimaranenses’ were able to hold onto a 1-1 draw to leave third-placed Sporting lagging behind top spot by 12 points.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Gameweek 24

Moreirense 0-0 Boavista

Sp. Braga 3-1 Arouca

FC Porto 7-0 Nacional

Feirense 0-1 Benfica

P. Ferreira 0-0 Tondela

Marítimo 1-0 Vit. Setúbal

Belenenses 2-1 Chaves

Sporting 1-1 Vit. Guimarães

Monday, 6 March 2017

Estoril vs. Rio Ave

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