Sporting 1-1 Benfica
Benfica took a huge step to beating Porto to the title when Victor Lindelöf’s stunning freekick levelled the score in a scrappy but engrossing Lisbon derby.
Despite all of the unfortunate off-field news in Portugal, it was a game played in a good spirit. It began with an embarrassing Ederson error that led to a penalty scored by Adrien Silva.
Both teams battled hard in midfield but it was the defender whose rocket strike finally broke a resilient Sporting defence at the Alvalade.
Benfica’s Jonas did not recover in time after his injury after scoring a brace against Marítimo last weekend. Rui Vitória selected Franco Cervi in Rafa Silva’s place with Rafa moving further forward.
Jorge Jesus brought in Jefferson for the suspended Marvin Zeegelaar at left-back with Bruno César continuing in midfielder after his influential displays. Elsewhere, Paulo Oliveira started ahead of Rúben Semedo in the centre of defence.
Before the match started there was a moment of tribute to the Italian Sporting and Fiorentina fan who died last night, a story that is likely to be talked about more in the following days.
Ederson gives away a penalty
The game got off to a dramatic start in a predictably atmospheric Alvalade. When Ederson miscontrolled a Luisão backpass Bas Dost was there to pounce. Ederson could only take down the Dutchman to concede a penalty after just three minutes in the game. It was an easy decision for Artur Soares Dias to make. Adrien Silva stepped up and calmly sent Ederson the wrong way to give Sporting an early lead.
The first-half turned into a scrappy midfield battle after the goal with Benfica having the better of possession but struggling to break down the Sporting defence.
However they did feel hard done by on two possible penalty calls, one a Schelotto challenge on Grimaldo, with the Spanish fullback's dramatic fall probably convincing the referee otherwise. A better shout came soon after when Bruno César leaned into Victor Lindelöf as the Swedish defender went for a header.
By the end of the first half it was Benfica who were the superior side but it was only Grimaldo's 45th minute freekick that forced Rui Patrício to make a save.
Sporting, however, were much improved in the second half and Bas Dost had two very good early chances to increase Sporting's lead. The second, and the best chance, saw Sporting counter and Gelson Martins cross for Bas Dost who looked set to score but he scuffed his chance
With Benfica looking less likely to make inroads in the second half Rui Vitória brought on Raul Jimenez for the ineffectual Rafa Silva.
Not long after Benfica got their first sight of goal in the second half when Konstantinos Mitroglou had a chance after some good play by Pizzi but his shot was saved by Patrício.
Lindelöf proves decisive
When Benfica did find the equaliser it was well worth the wait for the Benfica fans. Alan Ruiz clumsily gave away a freekick outside the area. Victor Lindelöf stepped up and hammered an absolute rocket of a shot that Rui Patrício could do nothing about.
Sporting tried to get the lead ahead but Benfica, understandably, were happy to take the draw and when Filipe Augusto came on for Mitroglou, Benfica managed to effectively kill the game.
It is a gigantic point for Benfica, meaning with a Porto win against Feirense, they will still be one point clear with just four games remaining.
For Sporting, they will be disappointed to have lost the chance to get the victory, especially after Lindelöf's spectacular goal came from a soft freekick to give away. The faint hopes of grabbing Porto's second place now are extremely unlikely.
by Richard Cole
Sporting: Rui Patrício; Ezequiel Schelotto, Sebastián Coates, Paulo Oliveira, Jefferson; William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, Gelson Martins (Joel Campbell, 87'), Bruno César (Daniel Podence, 80'); Alan Ruiz (Bryan Ruiz, 64'), Bas Dost
Benfica: Ederson; Nélson Semedo, Victor Lindelöf, Luisão, Grimaldo; Ljubomir Fejsa, Pizzi, Eduardo Salvio (André Carrillo, 74'), Franco Cervi; Rafa Silva (Raul Jimenez, 58'), Konstantinos Mitroglou (Filipe Augusto, 80')
[1-0] Adrien Silva, 5'
[1-1] Victor Lindelöf, 66'