Benfica have moved one step closer to celebrating success in the Primeira Liga after a 4-1 win versus Sporting de Braga opened up a two-point-advantage at the top of the table, this Sunday.

FC Porto had their title hopes deflated on Friday night after giving up a 2-0 lead over Rio Ave late on to draw 2-2 away from home, having initially trailed the Eagles on head-to-head results.

A victory for Bruno Lage’s men away from home offers them margin for error with three league games to go, leaving Sporting to take advantage of Braga’s demise to go six points ahead in third place after victory in their game at home to Vitória de Guimarães. PortuGOAL brings you up to speed with the peak of the action in a potentially decisive week of Primeira Liga football.

 

Rio Ave 2-2 FC Porto

In a week ear-marked as a possible banana skin for all sides involved at the top, Porto were the first to test the waters in Vila do Conde, taking on Rio Ave on Friday night.

Yacine Brahimi got Sérgio Conceição’s men off on the right foot in the 18th minute, spreading the ball wide for Otávio before meeting the Brazilian’s cross, completely unattended, and nodding the ball past Léo Jardim.

Porto cruised to a 2-0 lead after Moussa Marega's deflected volley inside the box doubled the Dragon’s advantage in the 22nd minute, but the Malian crucially failed to amplify the score sometime later following good work from Brahimi, firing a tame left-footed shot straight at Jardim when nipping in behind the Rio Ave backline.

[To watch match highlights click on the screen below]

A better showing in the second period from the Vila Condenses had ex-Benfica man Filipe Augusto rattling Iker Casillas’ crossbar with a volley from range in the 74th minute, but it was another former Eagles player, Nuno Santos, who’d trigger the nerves ten minutes later with a cool dink over the Spanish goalkeeper to pull a goal back.

Disaster arrived for Porto in the 89th minute, unable to get the ball away from their defensive sector before a strike from Ronan deflected wickedly off Telles and over Casillas to level the game at 2-2, much to the agony of the visitors.

 

Sporting 2-0 Vit. Guimarães

With the season petering out rather rapidly for both sides, the two teams came into this particular occasion at the Alvalade in contrasting form, as Sporting totted up seven consecutive league wins prior to the encounter, in comparison to Vitória’s four defeats from six. 

Raphinha warmed his shooting boots against his former club in the 18th minute, edging Sporting closer to the game’s first goal with a vicious volley inside the box crashing off the top of the crossbar.

The Brazilian winger came close once more with a header saved by João Miguel Silva before the wide man’s compatriot, Luiz Phellype, glanced another effort in the air onto the back-post in the 34th minute.

[To watch match highlights click on the screen below]

Raphinha’s goal came in the 39th minute, squeezing an effort under a scrambling Miguel Silva despite complaints from the Vitória corner of a Marcos Acuña foul in the build-up to Sporting’s opener.

The Lions took their slender lead into half-time before making it two just six minutes into the second period, with Luiz Phellype making it six goals in five with a near-post tap-in, courtesy of Raphinha’s assist.

An action-filled performance for the latter almost saw him claim a second goal, as well as an assist, as both Raphinha and Bruno Fernandes dragged shots just wide of the post in search for Sporting’s third in the second period. Two goals would be all Marcel Keizer’s men would register, however, as they closed in on automatic Europa League qualification with a 2-0 victory.

 

Sp. Braga 1-4 Benfica

Following Friday’s surprise result in Vila do Conde, Benfica sharpened their teeth against a side they haven’t lost to for the league since 2014, as they bid to go two points clear at the top with a win at the Estadio Municipal de Braga.

Porto fans were left licking their lips in the 35th minute after a penalty for the Arsenalistas, via Rúben Dias’ foul on Fransérgio, saw Wilson Eduardo place his team ahead from the spot. Pizzi reverted the trick in the second half, finishing from the 12-yard-mark himself in the 59th minute after Ricardo Esgaio took down João Félix’s standing leg under the everyone's nose.

[To watch match highlights click on the screen below]

Benfica’s goalscorer was on hand to double his dose six minutes later, also from the spot, as Braga seethed at the referee’s decision to call a close-range handball on Bruno Viana inside the area.

Having turned the game on its head, the Eagles were quick to stun Braga and make it 3-1 via Rúben Dias, attacking Pizzi’s set-piece from the back-post with a powerful header.

The encounter closed with Rafa Silva taking full advantage of slack play from Pablo, moments before dancing past his former side’s defence and slotting away a fourth goal, edging Benfica closer to the title.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Matchday 31

Rio Ave 2-2 FC Porto

Portimonense 1-0 Feirense

Santa Clara 0-0 Vit. Setúbal

Sporting 2-0 Vit. Guimarães

Desp. Aves 3-0 Belenenses

Chaves 4-1 Nacional

Marítimo 2-0 Tondela

Sp. Braga 1-4 Benfica

Boavista - Moreirense

Comments (7)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Didn't watch Sporting or Porto only the highlights, and barely Benfica's game too

But Porto losing a 2-0 lead like that was funny, I wasn't even aware until the next morning when my dad told me I thought he was joking, can't blame anyone but...

Didn't watch Sporting or Porto only the highlights, and barely Benfica's game too

But Porto losing a 2-0 lead like that was funny, I wasn't even aware until the next morning when my dad told me I thought he was joking, can't blame anyone but themselves for that but that 2nd goal against Porto was unlucky for they go for you and against you so its as simple as that, I hope Porto lose points so that Sporting may have a chance to steal 2nd place off them in the final game... imagine Sporting 2nd place after that shocking summer it would be a miracle along with the potential of another taca...

Not sure how the ref didn't give a foul for the first goal against Sporting there have been a lot of mistakes by the Ref against Sporting this year, I still laugh about the Ristovski red card not so long ago but this one yesterday was definitely for Sporting's favor, judging by the highlights Sporting should've had about 5 goals in the first half and then some afterwards

I watched about 20 mins of the 2nd half of Benfica, all 3 penalties were incredibly soft but the 2nd penalty for Benfica's favor was beyond a joke but that is the kind of call you expect from Portuguese referees in Portugal. I swear it hits him on the stomach and then the arm... either way Braga have been trash against the big 3, not even going to get 3rd place, flopped massively in the Europa League and couldn't even get into any cup finals.

If Porto don't win the taca against Sporting, their year has been a complete flop, as I doubt Benfica will bottle the league now

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What a golden weekend for Benfica this was, virtually 3 points ahead of Porto, with head to head results in mind, after being some 5 points behind on Porto earlier in season.
Second half of season Benfica opened the chase for Porto, new coach...

What a golden weekend for Benfica this was, virtually 3 points ahead of Porto, with head to head results in mind, after being some 5 points behind on Porto earlier in season.
Second half of season Benfica opened the chase for Porto, new coach (he will stay next season), new system (4-4-2), Felix the rising star, Seferovic reliable scorer, and 4 to 5 players from their own Seixal given the nod !
Why should they give away this title again, as it happened two times in recent years, around Benfica's four titles in a row.
As for Porto, their play gets less convinced, against Santa Clara and now Rio Ave. I have my doubts on Casillas against Rio Ave: why come out of goal with two defenders involved, and at the second goal he stood bad positioned as well. Allthough his reflexes on the line are still top level.
I still recall Conceicao's remark after losing to Benfica: in May we will be happy again, lol !

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Only comment I have as a Portista:

Hope Sergio Conceicao takes a leave of absence and goes to management school. He has shown he is all fire and fury and zero tactical ability.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

First of all, The title of this article should be corrected to
“FC Porto misstep and referee corruption edged Benfica closer to title. Sporting continue winning streak to put pressure on top two and the Portuguese refereeing association.”

As...

First of all, The title of this article should be corrected to
“FC Porto misstep and referee corruption edged Benfica closer to title. Sporting continue winning streak to put pressure on top two and the Portuguese refereeing association.”

As for Porto, they drew Rio Ave. after their mediocre play all season and getting stomped and pissed all over by Liverpool, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Rio Ave is a decent team.

Benfica?! They beat their b team with blatant help from the officials. Of course , Portugoal won’t point it out. I suspect Portugoal journalists have an agreement for a cut of a future Joao Felix transfer, given the nauseating amount of hype afforded to the player on this website .

Felix continued the fine tradition of dishonest gamesmanship by top Portuguese players . Epic dive to win a penalty today. The second penalty was also not an intentional handball. This really brought benfica back into a game they were struggling with.

I’m sure when benfiquistas come back to their senses Tuesday afternoon (after the Monday morning hangover and hard days work of pouring concrete on Monday subsides) I will receive a lot of hateful responses as per usual.
Congrats on yet another bought title.

Sporting ? Not much was expected this season but they are playing well lately and I am sure will win the taca de Portugal an unintelligent Porto side.

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I notice you make no reference to the incredibly soft penalty awarded to Braga in the first half. But, hey, why call attention to anything that doesn't support your biased preconceptions?

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Huge result for Benfica to put us real close to the title with just 3 games left! A very disappointing first half from the team in truth, Braga were better in the the first 45 mins and well worth their halftime lead. But it all changed as soon as...

Huge result for Benfica to put us real close to the title with just 3 games left! A very disappointing first half from the team in truth, Braga were better in the the first 45 mins and well worth their halftime lead. But it all changed as soon as the second half started, Benfica were thoroughly dominant and played like real champions elect in that second half against a strong opponent on a very difficult ground. It ended up with yet another "goleada", the 11th time since Lage took over in January that we've scored 4 or more goals in a match.

The second penalty shouldn't have been awarded, it was a ball to hand and the Braga defender couldn't possibly do anything about it. We got lucky there, but some decisions you get and others you don't...the first Frankfurt goal the other night for example was blatantly offside and cost us in that tie. Anyway its good we scored two more proper goals yesterday to shrug off any doubts about the deserved 3 points.

The usual cacophony of noise and whining from Porto and their officials about the referees favoring Benfica, it's all we've heard from them in these last few years that Benfica have been very successful. What they seem to have forgotten is that on that very same ground a few weeks ago Porto were given two very soft penalties of their own, without which they would have lost the match. Even if you take away both Benfica's penalties yesterday we still would have won the match. If Benfica own the referees, how is it possible that in both matches against Porto this season, Benfica ended up with 10 players? How is it possible that of the top three teams this season, Benfica have had the most red cards (Porto the least) and the fewest penalties awarded for us (Sporting the most)? Porto should rather focus on the fact that in recent weeks they have lost form when it really matters and that Benfica have scored 25 more goals than them in the league, and that they have also failed to win any of the classico matches this season. Always better to focus on improving yourself rather than constantly keep bickering about (and ultimately get distracted by) your opponent.

Anyway with 3 games left, there is still everything to play for and nothing has been decided yet. Benfica are in a strong position to win the campeonato now but there is still a lot of work to be done. Feet on the ground and one "final" at a time...

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Benfica struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in the first half, but they were absolutely dominant in the second. Pizzi and Rafa were understandably get all of the praise, but I was particularly impressed with Ferro.

I thought we would have...

Benfica struggled to get into any sort of rhythm in the first half, but they were absolutely dominant in the second. Pizzi and Rafa were understandably get all of the praise, but I was particularly impressed with Ferro.

I thought we would have a difficult time creating chances from open play without Gabriel's superb passing range from deep, but Ferro rather than any direct replacement in midfield, has stepped up to the plate in the Brazilian's absence. His ability to play piercing balls in between the lines, cross-field switches, and long-balls over the top into the channels -- along with Florentino's superhuman ball-winning ability all over the pitch -- has made Gabriel's injury a non-issue.

We've got one hand on the trophy, but it's still far too early to reserve the Marques. Portimonense beat us in Algarve during the primeira volta and Rio Ave showed against Porto that they are no pushovers in Vila do Conde.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“After the final whistle, I saw what I most wanted to see - the joy of our fans and our players.”

Bruno Lage
(Benfica coach after title-clinching victory against Santa Clara) 

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