In a pivotal week for Primeira Liga football, FC Porto’s title hunt descended very quickly into the defence of second place, having let go of a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 away to Marítimo.

A win for Sporting would’ve seen the Lions close the gap between them and Porto to just three points, with both supposedly now vying for automatic qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League, but a shock 3-1 defeat to Belenenses would go on to end all hopes the Lions had of climbing up the league table

Benfica didn’t fluff their lines, in contrast, clinching a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Rio Ave to leave them just two points away from a fourth consecutive Liga NOS title.

 

Marítimo 1-1 FC Porto

Garnering four draws in the last six games, recent form had deflated the mood somewhat around the Estádio do Dragão, with Porto needing a win against 6th-placed Marítimo to prolong their fight for the title.

Otávio set Nuno Espiríto Santo’s men onto the correct path, pouncing on Zainadine Júnior’s loose interception in the 28th minute to fire a low shot into the bottom corner and give Porto the lead.

Debutant Fernando Fonseca almost experienced similar joy, this time targeting Marítimo’s near-post, but Charles did just enough with his feet to deny the young right-back in the 42nd minute.


Highlights


The hosts presented a livelier iteration of themselves in the second period, as Raul tried his luck from range with a shot wide in the 52nd minute.

Tiquinho Soares came close to killing such momentum with a delicate chip over Charles six minutes later, but Raul was on hand to maintain the slender advantage.

Matters complicated themselves for Porto when Donald Djoussé’s header from a corner proved too powerful for Iker Casillas to keep out, as the side from Madeira drew level in the 69th minute.

The Dragons’ final hope was left with Soares’ header wide in the 83rd minute, just missing the emerging André Silva across goal, as claims for a penalty in favour of the visitors were also ignored before the final whistle.

 

Sporting 1-3 Belenenses

Collectively, Sporting’s season has long been one to forget, but in Porto’s slip-up they had the chance to add some flavour to a misfiring campaign.

A win would have to be achieved without the club’s livewires, Gelson Martins and Daniel Podence, both suspended, and the Green and Whites took until the 26th minute to create their first and only legitimate goal-scoring opportunity of the first half.

From the right, Bruno César left Adrien Silva in behind the Belenenses defence, but the Sporting captain got his bearings all wrong when hitting his shot wide of the mark on the turn.

Jorge Jesus’ men would only manage gain further ground in the attacking third by the second half, but this time they would make full use of the chance given to them.

A Bryan Ruiz cross in the 52nd minute caught Ventura out when hitting the bar, with Bruno César reacting first to the rebound and breaking the deadlock on the slide.


Highlights


Just as the Lions began to find their stride, Rui Patrício was faced with a penalty, as Matheus Pereira’s arm prevented a cross from entering Sporting’s box midway through the second period.

Abel Camará would step up and score his first goal since December 2016, soothing some of the criticism that had been directed at him by fans in recent weeks.

Jesus turned to Luc Castaignos and it was indeed the Dutchman who was presented with the perfect opportunity to get off the mark in a Sporting shirt, one-on-one with the keeper in the 80th minute, but the ex-FC Twente man executed his shot horribly with a side-footed that went miles over the bar.

The hosts were made to pay at the other end as Dinis Almeida popped up alone at the far-post to hook a volley past Patrício in the 84th minute from a free-kick, giving Belenenses the lead for the first time in the game.

Sporting’s back-post frailties would prove to be their undoing once more, with Maurides taking advantage of confusion in defence to square the ball for Gonçalo Silva’s tap-in that concluded a 3-1 win and put an end to Belenenses’ dismal run of seven consecutive defeats.

 

Rio Ave 0-1 Benfica

The title was almost within touching distance, but professionalism on Benfica’s behalf needed to be kept before their clash versus 7th-placed Rio Ave.

Leading the line, Jonas almost set Benfica on their way on two separate occasions; firstly when improvising to get a deep Rafa cross on target in the 6th minute and later as the recipient of good play down the Eagles’ left flank in the 14th minute, as Alex Grimaldo set up the Brazilian on the edge of the box to shoot just wide of the target.

Rui Vitória’s men might well have deserved to have ended the second period on the back foot, however, as Rafa arrived late for a 50/50 with Rafa Soares inside the box to generate calls for a Rio Ave penalty going into the interval.

Raúl Jimenéz warmed up his finishing with a left-footed volley on the turn in the 49th minute, but it would require more than what the Mexican offered to beat Rio Ave goalkeeper Cássio on the night.


Highlights


Rio Ave’s Heldon was on hand to reply for the hosts in the 59th minute, ripping down the left flank on the counter before aiming for the far corner, but the Cape Verdean’s shot lacked sufficient curve to break the stalemate. Tarantini also came close with a guided strike that met the side-netting/post junction with little more than 15 minutes of normal time left to play.

Benfica kept probing at the other end and the 75th minute would bring the league leaders the all-important goal, as Eduardo Salvio from the left set up a one-on-one for Jimenéz versus Cássio, with the ex-Atlético Madrid striker coming out on top and finishing with aplomb.

All the hard work put into gaining the lead came close to unravelling when a cross lost between Victor Lindelöf and Luisão was left for Gonçalo Paciência, the striker on loan from Porto, to take aim at goal, but the post came to Benfica’s rescue.

A win at home to 4th-placed Vitória de Guimarães next week will now be enough to crown Benfica as league champions.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Gameweek 32

Moreirense 2-1 Sp. Braga

Boavista 2-2 Nacional

P. Ferreira 0-1 Feirense

Marítimo 1-1 FC Porto

Sporting 1-3 Belenenses

Tondela 2-1 Vit. Setúbal

Vit. Guimarães 1-0 Arouca

Rio Ave 0-1 Benfica

 

Monday 8th May, 2017

Estoril vs. Chaves

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3 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    The final weeks of this season are starting to look remarkably similar to those of last season: ugly, stress-inducing, hard-fought 1-0 and 2-1 victories. The 1-0 away wins to Boavista and Rio Ave and the 2-1 away win to Academica immediately come to mind. Also, unless I am mistaken, I'm pretty sure it was Raul Jimenez who scored the late winner last season away at Rio Ave -- the guy doesn't get a lot of playing time, but he has have a knack for stepping up with clutch goals in the biggest games. We definitely wouldn't have won the title last season had it not been for Raul's late game heroics, and it looks like we're going to have to rely on him again this year.

    Nevertheless, while we do indeed have one hand on the trophy, we must not take Vitoria Guimaraes lightly. They are on a seven-game winning streak and will be going into next Saturday's match with plenty of confidence and nothing to lose. We are going to have to be at our very best to beat this Vitoria side, but I have no doubt that our boys are going to deliver. In short, it this Benfica sides ability to grind out hard-fought, ugly wins that sets them aside from the Sporting of last season and the Porto of this season. Even if we do go on to win the tetra, Rui Vitoria is still going to have his critics. But at the end of the day, the guys is on the verge of giving us two straight league titles, and let's not forget that we have made the Champions league knock-out round for two years in a row -- something that JJ found virtually impossible.

    And let's not forget the Rui Vitoria has achieved this with a squad that has been plagued by several long-term injuries to many of our best players (Jonas, Grimaldo, Fejsa, Jardel, Rafa, etc). Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the month, Rui Vitoria deserves a great deal of praise for what he has accomplished, especially when you consider all of the obstacles that he has managed to overcome.

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  • Rated 3 out of 5 stars

    How on earth did Belenenses score 3 goals against Sporting? BELENENSES! They have 26 goals total, Tondela has 1 less goal than this bunch of chumps. Awful....

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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