FC Porto 0-0 Benfica

FC Porto have loosened their grip on top spot in the Liga NOS after failing to overcome ten-man Benfica in tonight's 'Clássico', as the Eagles held on to a 0-0 draw at the Estádio do Dragão.

The hosts saw their position in first place come under threat after Sporting's 1-0 triumph over Belenenses hours earlier in Lisbon, as they also eyed a potential knockout blow in Benfica's season to go with a reinstated three-point-advantage at the head of the Primeira Liga table.

In a heated game, Benfica were reduced to 10 men after Andrija Zivkovic's red card in the latter stages of the encounter, but Porto would be unable to take advantage of their numerical superiority after a couple of Moussa Marega chances went begging.

For the hotly-contested encounter, Sérgio Conceição turned to his regular big-game look with a packed three-man-midfield, with the Lisbon outfit replying to the Dragons' shape in a 4-3-3 formation of their own, headlined by Eduardo Salvio and Franco Cervi in support of lone-forward Jonas.

It was through Jonas that Benfica found their first glimpse of goal within the first three minutes, as the off-balance Brazilian aimed to loop a header in from a corner before seeing his attempt met by José Sá's assured palm.

Such opportunities at either end proved hard to find as the game progressed, however, with the game stalling at the sight of both clubs totting up fouls throughout the first 20 minutes of play.

Porto looked towards Yacine Brahimi for inspiration and the Algeria international came close to serving up the jackpot on the half-hour-mark, sliding a perfectly-weighted pass through to Marega before the latter could skew his shot wide with Jardel's help.

To VAR or not to VAR controversy

The Dragons perked up en route to half-time, still with little-to-no goal-scoring opportunities to look back on before a good bit of old-fashioned controversy looked to liven up the encounter before the interval. Supplemented by a cross from Marega, a Jardel deflection complicated Luisão's intervention inside the Benfica area and left the Porto players protesting for a handball inside the box.

Such calls were snubbed by the referee, as were the pleas for the VAR's help, with the scores locked at 0-0 going into the break.

The hosts continued to press on with their hunt for the game's first goal in the second period, with Brahimi opening up the body and making Bruno Varela work with an arced shot aimed at the far post in the 51st minute.

Porto garnered more reasons for complaints when Vincent Aboubakar, despite being played onside by André Almeida, was flagged by the linesman prior to Héctor Herrera's disallowed goal on the rebound, with the timing of the officials' decision this time around cancelling out the legal use of the VAR.

Benfica didn't read the signs and were made to take another deep breath in the 58th minute when Marega beared down on goal from the right flank, as Varela did just enough to minimise the Malian forward's angle and shepherd a shot into the side-netting.

Felipe was next in the shooting queue for 'the Blue and Whites', picking up the leftovers from a corner to volley first-time at goal in the 67th minute, with the Brazilian's effort travelling just wide of the post and increasing the wait for the game's first goal.

The Eagles were able to weather the storm, but their ability to continue doing so took a heavy blow when Zivkovic, having just entered the field of play in the 75th minute, earned himself a second yellow card seven minutes later to leave his team reduced to ten men.

Marega misses 

Soon after, Marega had the winner at his mercy when emerging unmarked at the far-post in the 87th minute, but still the stalemate was maintained when the Porto man mistimed his side-footed volley at goal.

With another late cross into the box, Marega was again the recipient in Porto's bid to take all three points from the Clássico before fluffing his lines once more, as he took his header inside the box way over the bar from a prime position.

By the law of the scoreline, both the Dragons and Benfica would remain inseparable at full-time with a 0-0 draw, as Sporting joined the former at the top of the table with 33 points.

The Lions' win, courtesy of a Bas Dost spot-kick, meant that Jorge Jesus' men also distanced themselves from third-placed Benfica, with the latter lagging behind the two league leaders by three points at the top of the Primeira Liga.

 

By Patrick Ribeiro

FC Porto XI: José Sá - Ricardo Pereira, Felipe, Ivan Marcano, Alex Telles - Danilo Pereira, Sérgio Oliveira (Otávio, 59'), Héctor Herrera - Moussa Marega, Vincent Aboubakar (Soares, 76'), Yacine Brahimi

Benfica XI: Bruno Varela - André Almeida, Luisão, Jardel, Alejandro Grimaldo - Ljubomir Fejsa, Filip Krovinovic, Pizzi (Samaris, 65') - Eduardo Salvio (Zivkovic, 75'), Jonas (Raúl Jiménez, 85') , Franco Cervi

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  • No comment about the officiating. Anyone playing Benfica should expect to play against 12 men, plain and simple. Until the league does something to rectify this, I will no longer comment.

    This was no comparison. The entire game was one-way traffic in the direction of Bruno Varela's goalmouth. Don't know what 15-20 minutes Jon was watching, because the first part of the game was the two teams feeling each other out and effectively calming their nerves as this is the biggest game of the season. After that, it was two different class of teams playing against each other.

    Benfica had an awful game, but I put this more to Porto's superiority than Benfica's form. Tactics and individual skill were on Porto's side. That said, Benfica had some highlights; Varela proved he can be a top tier GK when he finds consistency, Grimaldo is a very exciting prospect for the eagles, and Fejsa is such a talented DM. On the negative side, Andre Almeida is a bench player, and selling Nelson Semedo has been a much larger loss for Benfica than I initially thought.

    For Porto, the fluidity and finding space was really good. Marega is a workhorse and I love the guy, but he disappoints me a lot with his lack of clinical finishing. Sergio Oliveira continues to be an underrated player at Porto and in Portugal.

    That being said, if Porto expect to win the title, they need to beat their rivals not just get the draw. Marega, Herrera, Telles had good opportunities to score or set up goals, each on more than one occasion. I am hoping Porto get back on track with the wins and hopefully Benfica and Sporting can stutter against each other in the new year.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well it was a rather disappointing classico in truth, a tactical battle for the most part. Benfica were indeed the better and more organised team in the opening 20 minutes and Porto took a long time to get going and they looked nervou in the opening exchanges,, but they soon improved and from the middle of the second half onwards Porto were better and definitely the more attacking team, although not utterly dominant as Sergio Conceicao exaggerated (as per usual lol) in his interview. Being at home it's expected that you are the more attacking team, however you also have to put away the chances that come your way.

    In an attacking sense it was disappointing from Benfica, but I was happy to see we looked solid defensively, and this is what has really needed to improve from the start of this season when the defence was simply not good enough. Jardel surprised me with a very solid display throughout. And Varela did very well too, which will do his confidence the world of good. Krovinovic showed again how he simply has to be starting all the time, very classy CM who gives us another dimension in the middle. Disappointing offensively from the team, but again I think this has to do with a point I mentioned in a recent post, Jonas is not a true CF. When we play bigger matches like these with the 4-3-3 (the correct option) it makes more sense to play with a true target man (like Jimenez) to supply in the box. I would also have preferred Zivkovic (more direct and much better assistance into the box) starting over Cervi. I can also understand the more caution we showed as the second half progressed. While a win would have been great, it was probably more important not to lose this match. Losing would've put us 6 points behind, while a draw keeps us only 3 points behind both rivals and thoroughly in the title race.

    Conceicao, the Porto officials and fans will no doubt keep complaining about referees for the rest of this season and keep trying to maintain a narrative of conspiracy theory, they need to somehow mask and justify the fact that they haven't won a single title for 5 years now. But its amusing because everyone else knows that alongside Juventus, FCP is the last club in Europe that could possibly complain about referee decisions. Even last night, there were a few bad fouls by Porto players which never even resulted in yellow cards. Felipe could've broken Jonas' leg with that foul yet didn't even get a yellow, yet Zivkovic for not as bad a foul got his second yellow. And the Luisao incident would've been a super harsh penalty, he was losing balance as a deflected ball moving very quickly slightly touched his arm. No way was that intentional hand ball!

    All in all the results last night maintain (for the moment at least) a three horse race for the title, and it'll be interesting to see what materialises in the new year.

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  • By the way Andre, when have you ever heard me or any Portista "mask the fact that Porto haven't won anything for 4 seasons"?

    Ever year Benfica has won it in the tetra campaign, I have applauded them and said they have deserved it. There is no question about that. So it is a made up argument on your part.

    Let us differentiate here between questioning legitimacy of champions versus very obvious referee decisions. One is not necessary to prove the other.

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  • Nothing ever changes with some of you folks. Possession in first half was 54-46 to Porto and 55-45 in the second half, so the stats would go against your subjective narrative.

    Secondly, Felipe was definitely channeling his inner Bruno Alves, no question. But what is funny to me is the blatant denial by you folks like Benfica was so clean. Salvio, Fejsa and Jardel all made pretty stiff challenges, but let's not talk about those.

    Finally, I enjoy the irony of saying that Porto complains about officiating and then immediately turning to Felipe. It's the usual blindsided nonsense I hear from Benfica fans.

    Fact is, Benfica officially criticised the officiating and asked the league for a fine or punishment for Porto. But again, let's not talk about it.

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  • Guest - Brandon

    Porto was the better team plain and simple. The talent, creativity, and desire to win was there. But it has become obvious that Porto really lacks a dependable striker (the likes of Jackson Martinez and Falcao come to mind) Abubakar was looking to be that man at the beginning of the season but his form has dropped significantly. Marega has promise and works really hard, but he just doesn’t have the talent. Either that or something was on his mind last night... but I digress.
    The officiating was poor no matter how you cut it. What’s the point of having VAR if you don’t use it? A disallowed goal and a potential hand ball (I didn’t think it was but if they went to VAR maybe the ref would have thought otherwise) would have really chanfed the game. Benfica work playing for the tie, and a goal for a deserving Porto side would have opened the game up significantly. Can we also talk about last year? A ref backs into Danilo and he gets a red card, but a Benfica steamrolls a ref and nothing gets said? Yeah... that’s fishy.
    Ime very interested to see how the rest of the season plays out. There is no way Benfica can win the title playing the way they were last night. Porto still looks to be the favorite but if Sporting can get some results against Benfica that would definitely make things interesting.

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  • Agreed on all points Brandon. What happened to Tiquinho? Remember when he first came to Porto and was tearing it up, scoring left right and center? He was subbed on for Marega and essentially faded into the grass. Really disappointed that Conceicao has not been able to get anything at all out of him.

    I also agree that Sporting is the biggest threat this season. They have such a great core of players who have been playing together for 2-3 seasons now (William, Rui P, Gelson, Bas Dost, Bruno Cesar, Bryan Ruiz) combined with Bruno Fernandes and Acuna, who are some real talents.

    Let's not forget Braga are on a tear as well. Playing pretty football but also getting results. Will be an interesting season.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    While some of our players did make some stiff challenges (I remember Pizzi getting away with not getting a yellow after the ref gave Porto advantage), you cannot compare these challenges with Felipe's since the he very clearly had no intention to winning the ball. He mindlessly kicked Jonas' right leg which was nowhere near the ball. That was a clear act of aggression, not a clumsy late challenge, and he didn't even get a yellow. Now I personally wouldn't have given him a direct red since I prefer to play/watch a more physical brand of football, but you definitely need to give him a yellow.

    Very few Portistas cry about the officiating on this site, but I knew quite a few personally both here in the states and back in the old country who seem to be obsessed with pushing a fanciful narrative of ominous, all-encompassing Polvo which makes it all but impossible for either Porto or Sporting to win the title. They can blame their losses on voodoo witch doctors, vouchers, emails, or any other sad excuse if it helps them sleep at night, but at the end of the day, they only have themselves to blame. And, as Chris mentioned, Benfiquistas and the club itself are not immune to this almost uniquely Portuguese obsession with scapegoating all of your problems on the officiating. I get absolutely infuriated when I see Benfica fans (and especially club officials) drop to Porto and Sporting's level by whining about officiating and accusing their competitors of corruption. Every time I go to Portugal, I'm sickened by the amount of time each club and their fans (and the media) devote to bashing referees and pushing conspiracy theories. Perhaps it's my Portuguese-American "outsider" perspective -- I just find it pathetic.

    I also agree with you guys regarding Porto's lack of genuine quality in some key positions. At the beginning of the season, I argued that Sporting had the strongest squad in the league and that Porto was largely dependent on a solid defense and Brahimi's individual brilliance, and this is starting to become more and more obvious. I never rated Aboubakar. He is nowhere near as talented (and more importantly) as prolific as Falcao, Jackson, and even Lisandro Lopez. Tiquinho is a decent striker for a mid-table club, not a Porto player. Marega is a great athlete, but as we saw yesterday, he doesn't have the technical quality to play for a club like Porto. Apart from the aforementioned Brahimi, you simply cannot compare the quality of this years' Porto midfield/attack with those of the AVB, Vitor Pereira, and even Lopetegui years.

    Sporting still hasn't necessarily found adequate replacements for Joao Mario and Adrien, but I feel like their squad as a whole is the strongest they've had in years. Bas Dost may be a bit one-dimensional, but he's a brilliant finisher; Gelson is one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe; William is an elite #6; Coentrao seems to slowly be returning to his best; Mathieu is the best CB they've had in years; they still have Patricio; and they've got plenty of quality options on the bench. The title race is still far from over, and at this point, there really isn't a clear front runner. However, if I were a Sportinguista, I'd be quietly confident about their chances.

    I still like Benfica's chances, but I'd like them a lot more if we pick up one or two quality players in the winter transfer window.

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  • I respect your post Jon. One of my best friends is a Benfiquista, and we occasionally watch the Classico together. What we have both been displeased with this season is the general Trump-ing up of tensions between the Big 3. The club administrators openly criticising the other teams, officials, etc. It is pretty childish and disappointing.

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  • Not exactly an enjoyable match but still a point and during the first 20mins or so I'd have taken it as Porto struggled to keep up with Benfica's superior positioning and movement. We've seen this before against Leipzig and Besiktas but Porto hung in there and eventually took over. Marega showed us his real level and as some on here have said Aboubakar has dropped right off. Shame we didn't have Corona from the bench. Oliver Torres has also disappeared. However, Herrera, Sergio, Danilo and a couple of others have showed up at key moments and the mister has got it right more often than wrong.
    Regarding the officiating - whats the point of VAR is they aren't going to use it? Luisao's handball might have been harsh but thats what VAR is for - other leagues would have no problem making "controversial" VAR decisions in key matches as Serie A has shown.
    Yes Felipe put his foot in but there was a serious amount of play acting by both sides as well so wotevs.
    The tribalism/blindness by some fans is tiresome also and the worst aspect of following a football team. From what I've seen The Mister has refused to get involved and hasn't commented on the other teams.
    Regarding the league to me Sporting are the most organised and look to be the strongest team, William Carvalho is a class act. Benfica will benefit from not being in Europe and if they can replicate those first 20mins from Friday they'll be up there.
    With the players Porto have I can't see them getting much better so I guess it'll be about injuries/suspensions/Tiredness and head to head games between the big 3 that decides the title.
    I'm going for it to be decided on the final game of the season, if not the final 5 minutes.

    PORTO!
    PORTO!

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  • The Liga is toxic, the constant complaining of the big 3 is tiresome, all they do is whinge about each other and the refereeing. Teams should be fined when coaches and players criticise a referee, why the hell would you be a ref in Portugal?

    I can't even watch the games anymore, I have zero interest. Nothing but constant fouls and toxic attitudes, where is the love of the game? Where is the respect and where is the fun? It's just a game.

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