The pressure is well and truly on at the top end of the Liga NOS table, although you would be forgiven for not noticing, such is the ease that the title hopefuls have been able to turn over their opposition in the past week.
Unsatisfied with the seven-goal demolition of Nacional at home, FC Porto topped up their accounts with four more goals in the visit to Arouca, with Juventus waiting in the wings in the UEFA Champions League this week.
Sporting, despite being a long way away from top spot, reciprocated the Dragons’ eye for goal with four of their own, as they defeated Tondela 4-1 away from home.
Benfica weren’t to be left behind among the goal festivities, dispatching Belenenses back to Belém with a 4-0 defeat, as the red half of Lisbon rests upon first place for yet another week. Here’s how Week 25 unfolded at the top.
Arouca 0-4 FC Porto
The newspaper ink ran from Manuel Machado’s mouth after comments made about FC Porto’s man of the moment, Tiquinho Soares, who swapped his command of Nacional da Madeira for pastures new last summer.
With both now at new clubs, the Dragons’ trip to 13th placed Arouca marked the perfect opportunity for the Brazilian striker to capitalise on his ex-manager’s words, as Nuno Espírito Santo’s side looked to prolong their purple patch in the league.
Porto broke the deadlock through a far more improbable source, however, as Danilo Pereira rose highest in the 15th minute to head Yacine Brahimi’s free-kick over Rafael Bracalli and into the back of the net.
Soares then saw his name up in lights when Brahimi’s pass around the corner left him one-on-one with the keeper, but the striker dragged his shot a little too wide on its way to skimming the far post just three minutes later.
The winter acquisition was on the end of another chance soon enough and this time he was able to make it count, heading in Óliver Torres’ early cross close to the half-hour mark of the game.
After an eventful first half, it wasn’t until the 70th minute that Porto finally managed to increase their lead, as Diogo Jota scrambled in a Brahimi cross from the left-hand side of the area.
The Algerian playmaker continued to pull the strings in attack, setting up Soares for yet another shot on goal he may have fancied finishing in his hot form, but the ball trickled wide of the mark.
But just as he did in the first period, Soares wasn’t so forgiving the second time around, as he attacked Maxi Pereira’s cross with a side-footed volley into the far corner and added the finishing touches to another comprehensive Porto victory.
Tondela 1-4 Sporting
The Lions continue to look relatively unconvincing in Adrien Silva’s absence, but with the visit to 18th placed Tondela, Jorge Jesus plucked up the courage to deploy a far more attacking team than usual, as the likes of Matheus Pereira and Daniel Podence came into the side.
Responsibility was placed on Bryan Ruiz in the middle of the park, as was Sporting’s first chance to score, as the Costa Rican engaged Cláudio Ramos into making a save from a dangerous free-kick in the 10th minute.
Standard efforts at the other end by David Bruno and Pedro Nuno followed, but by the 33rd minute, Jesus’ tactical shift finally began to leave a lasting impression on the game, as Podence let the ball run across his body expertly from the throw-in to assist Bas Dost for an easy close-range volley.
With the Lisbon outfit in control, Paulo Oliveira scuppered the chance to double their lead on the stroke of half-time, as his header into the ground from Ruiz’s corner surpassed the frame of the goal via the bounce.
Sporting might well have been thinking about that wasted opportunity in hindsight, as Tondela came flying out of the blocks in the second period and made their ascendancy count through Jhon Murillo’s equaliser inside the box, supplemented by Pedro Nuno’s whipped cross.
Dost puts on a show
The Lions were able solve their latest conundrum no less than a minute later, however, as good work from Matheus Pereira left Dost alone with Ramos inside the box, with the Dutchman coming out on top and placing the third-placed side ahead once more.
Pedro Nuno tried to reanimate his team with a fierce free-kick in the 56th minute, but Rui Patrício denied the playmaker’s efforts.
Tondela then proceeded to hit the self-destruct button, starting with Kaká’s senseless intervention on Gelson Martins inside the box that earned Sporting a penalty in the 68th minute.
On a hat-trick, few could overpower Dost’s word in claiming the spot-kick, as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to complete a personal treble and increase the lead to 3-1.
Claude Gonçalves then produced another penalty for the visitors after a push into Dost’s back, as the target man, not content with three, stepped up to the 12-yard-mark again.
This time Ramos read Dost’s intentions, but the league’s leading scorer had just enough behind his penalty to squeeze it under the goalkeeper and push his mark up to 22 for this season.
Whether the Tondela shot-stopper fancied it or not, Gonçalves offered him a shot of redemption versus Dost from the spot once more, as the midfielder came crashing into Francisco Geraldes inside the box.
Dost looked for the same right-hand corner, but Ramos did indeed bag a small consolation with a firm save, concluding a 4-1 scoreline for the Lions.
Benfica 4-0 Belenenses
Rui Vitória was in no mood to dissect his side’s 4-0 loss at the hands of Borussia Dortmund last Tuesday prior to this clash, as focus locked onto a Belenenses side whose record versus Benfica is famous for all the wrong reasons as of late, despite steady league form coming into this game.
Jonas took up his habitual position next to Kostas Mitroglou in what has been an in-and-out campaign for last season’s top goalscorer, but the Brazilian almost marked his return with an early goal, heading over a pacey Pizzi cross that took the number 10 by surprise.
Pizzi looked to orchestrate another move, this time for André Almeida’s marauding forward, but it was Belenenses’ Miguel Rosa who was the biggest facilitator for the full back, ‘assisting’ the utility man for an easy first goal after attempting to intercept the initial pass with a miscalculated chest control.
Despite renewed efforts to attack, the closest the visitors came to inflicting any damage was from Rosa himself, as the winger’s deflected cross kept Ederson on his toes when protecting a 1-0 lead ahead of half-time.
Benfica enjoyed the majority of the chances in the first period, but meanwhile it was still 1-0, Belenenses had every chance of pulling off an upset at the Estádio da Luz, as Maurides warned with an early shot into the second half.
Quim Machado’s men would go even closer in the 50th minute, so much so that they had the frame of the goal rattling from Rosa’s 25-yard-shot, but the hosts would go onto land a killer blow within seconds, as Eduardo Salvio set up Kostas Mitroglou for a classy side-footed curler into the top corner from the edge of the box to double Benfica’s lead.
Still Belenenses persevered to find their way back into the contest, as Maurides wasted a great opportunity to pull a goal back in the 53rd minute when heading Sousa’s cross wide at the back-post, completely unmarked.
After Mitroglou’s exemplary finish, it was Salvio who was off celebrating with a well-placed effort of his own just ten minutes later, as Benfica ran off with a 3-0 lead.
The fourth almost came when intricate work from Andrija Zivkovic allowed Jonas in behind the backline, but the Brazilian only had enough room to beat the keeper upon João Diogo’s clearance in front of goal.
Yet again, the team from the Restelo came knocking through Maurides’ shot to sting Ederson’s palms, and even with the Brazilian shot-stopper out of the equation, Belenenses were still unable to grab a late consolation goal when Almeida did just enough to put Benny off from reaching a teasing cross.
The final word belonged to Jonas, courtesy of Mitroglou’s pass, as the 32-year-old’s finish from close range sealed a 4-0 win for Benfica and helped reclaim top spot once again.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Liga NOS Gameweek 25
Arouca 0-4 FC Porto
Vit. Setúbal 1-2 Feirense
Chaves 0-0 Sp. Braga
Tondela 1-4 Sporting
Boavista 3-0 Maritimo
Rio Ave 3-2 Moreirense
Vit. Guimarães 3-3 Estoril
Nacional 1-1 P. Ferreira
Benfica 4-0 Belenenses