For weeks, Porto have been waiting for their Primeira Liga title rivals Benfica to land a false stride. The moment finally arrived this weekend, but in what could proved to be a pivotal weekend in the season, the Dragons failed to take advantage.
Taking on Paços de Ferreira (only two home defeats all season) in their own back yard isn’t one for the novices of the Portuguese game, a fact Benfica fans will know all too well after their 0-0 draw on Saturday.
The stalemate opened the doors for Porto, so close to the final stretch of the season, to grab the advantage over the Eagles and go top of league table – before the meeting of the two titans in Lisbon – but Vitória de Setúbal were right on cue to derail the northern outfit in a 1-1 draw.
In the distance, Sporting went about their business quietly, as two more strikes by Bas Dost saw the Lions pick up a 2-0 victory at the Alvalade versus Nacional before the trailing storm.
With the title race seemingly swinging Porto's way, then back in Benfica's favour in the space of just 24 hours, it would take a brave man to bet a large amount on which of the two clubs will be lifting the championship title in May. Alternatively, try your gaming luck at Kasinovertailut. Here's the roundup of the top weekend action in Portugal.
Sporting 2-0 Nacional
They may not be in the equation of title chasers at such a crucial stage in the season, but a constant stream of goals from Bas Dost has done a decent job of drowning the lingering sorrows.
In Nacional, the Dutchman had the chance to amplify the tally accrued since arriving in the Portuguese capital, with Predrag Rajković’s side currently fixed in an intense fight for survival.
Twelve minutes was all it took for Dost to kick into gear, as he rose highest to head in a set-piece delivered with precision by Bryan Ruiz and give Sporting the lead.
The visitors showed signs of capitulating early, just as they did a fortnight ago in a 7-0 defeat to Porto, but a crucial 11th hour intervention by Nuno Sequeira did just enough to misguide Gelson Martins’ left-footed finish past the post.
Ex-Maribor man Dejan Mezga then came close to stunning the Alvalade with a blockbuster half-volley that sped dangerously past Rui Patrício’s goal in the 20th minute, with the Portugal number one beaten.
But at the other end, Nacional were still creating themselves all kinds of problems. A mix-up between a series of bodies gifted Dost the chance to slam home from an acute angle, doubling the score and elevating his strike-rate to a level reached only by the Lionel Messis of this world.
With Sporting in command, the pace of the game dropped considerably for the second period, as Sequiera and Alan Ruiz registered the few efforts of relative threat for both sides in a tame return from the interval.
Nacional continued to be limited to long-range strikes, as Tiago Rodrigues stung the palms of Patrício in the 75th minute, but 2-0 to the Lisbon outfit would be how the game would end.
P. Ferreira 0-0 Benfica
A visit to the newly christened Estádio da Mata Real can often be the peak of complexity in anyone’s fixture list, and it was one Benfica would have to weather in order to maintain their good domestic form and, most importantly, first place in the league table.
Andrija Zivkovic looked to set the tone early for Rui Vitória’s men with a whipped cross into Eduardo Salvio, who came crashing in at the back-post and failed to get the desired contact on the ball on its way wide.
We all know Eliseu may fancy himself a little too much as a sharp-shooter from time-to-time, but he almost backed that up come the 25th minute when unleashing a shot directly from his left peg onto the frame of the goal.
Cagey and locked at 0-0 is how things would remain into the interval, before Diego Medeiros threatened to change all that in the initial exchanges of the second period with a shot from the left that was parried away for a corner by Ederson.
The 63rd minute brought forward Welthon’s turn to rock the crossbar from a free-kick, bringing the home side even closer to a shock lead.
Inspiration proved hard to come by for Benfica, as they looked towards a late curling effort from Pizzi, saved by Rafael Defendi in the 88th minute, to bail them out.
The game’s final opportunity fell to none other than Jonas, but even the normally lethal Brazilian didn’t hold the answer as his free header at the back post bounced into the ground and over the bar and left fans and teammates alike wondering about what could’ve been.
FC Porto 1-1 V. Setúbal
Porto are a side Vitória de Setúbal have had no joy against since October 1997, so only a home win that would suffice for the club to leapfrog Benfica at the top of the table initially seemed a formality.
The hosts’ desire was apparent, as Yacine Brahimi took André Silva’s cutback before firing a close-range shot that required Vasco Fernandes’ anticipation on the line to rescue the visitors.
Iván Marcano edged Porto closer to the all-important goal in the 28th minute with a header onto the post, with Tiquinho Soares and Felipe unable to force the ball over line from subsequent rebounds.
The Dragons continued to beat down the door, this time via Soares biding his time to spot André Silva free at the back-post, but the young striker fluffed his lines when heading the pass back across the six-yard-box in the 32nd minute.
Jesús Corona held the key to the fans’ hearts, however, as Óliver Torres pinpointed Setúbal’s weakness with another ball towards the back stick and setting the Mexican winger up for an arrowed volley into the top corner on the brink of half-time.
Something that wasn’t in the script, at least not Porto’s, was João Carvalho intervening in the joyous occasion. The 20-year-old, on loan from Benfica, was on hand to nip in from under Felipe’s nose and bury a shot passed Iker Casillas with his second touch inside the box, upping the level of emotions at the Estádio do Dragão in the 55th minute to the tune of a potential 1-1 draw.
From one hot prospect to another, André Silva had the post to blame after denying him of a near-post header that could’ve placed Nuno Espírito Santo’s side back in control of the game in the 67th minute.
It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that the next real sighter for Porto appeared, with Brahimi shaping up for an idyllic winner on the half-volley that whizzed just over the crossbar from the edge of the box.
Soares’ rich form perhaps made him the ideal man to take on the final effort at goal, but a desperate acrobatic attempt ended up out of sight, along with the Dragons’ hopes of pushing ahead of Benfica before the highly-anticipated ‘Clássico’ in two weeks’ time.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Estoril 0-0 Boavista
Moreirense 1-1 Tondela
Belenenses 1-2 Sp. Braga
Sporting 2-0 Nacional
P. Ferreira 0-0 Benfica
Marítimo 3-1 Arouca
Feirense 3-2 Chaves
FC Porto 1-1 Vit. Setúbal
Vit. Guimarães 3-0 Rio Ave