As expected, Benfica swept aside Santa Clara at the Estádio da Luz this afternoon to become Portuguese champions in 2018/19. Goals from Seferovic (x2), João Félix and Rafa Silva meant Porto’s comeback victory against Sporting was in vain as the Eagles finished on 87 points, two ahead of their northern rivals.

It completes a remarkable turnaround for Benfica. When losing 2-0 to Portimonense in January, the Lisbon giants dropped to 4th place in the table and were 7 points behind leaders Porto. Coach Rui Vitória was sacked, Bruno Lage was put in charge, initially on a temporary basis… and the rest is history.

Here are five reasons why Benfica’s supporters will be celebrating long and hard in the Portuguese capital tonight. 

 

Bruno Lage

It is impossible to overstate the impact the former B-team coach has had on Benfica’s season. His predecessor Rui Vitória had done a more than reasonable job, winning the title in 2 out of 3 seasons, yet his conservative brand of football, especially in the big matches had never convinced the Benfica faithful.

Lage brought a whole new attitude to the team, making Benfica a front-foot outfit no matter who the opposition. Indeed, some of the team’s best performances came against their biggest rivals, the 4-2 hammering of Sporting at Avalade and the crucial 2-1 victory at Porto springing to mind. In double quick time, Lage turned Benfica into an unstoppable goal-machine, scoring an incredible 72 times in the 19 Liga matches when he was at the helm, of which Benfica won 18 and drew one.

 

Seixal Academy, Portuguese core  

Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira had been promising to make the club’s academy a central part of the first team for so long it had almost become a running joke. This season, finally, there has been real substance to back up the president’s long-term goal. João Félix, Florentino Luís, Ferro and Gedson Fernandes have all played key roles throughout the year, while Rúben Dias followed up his breakthrough season with another strong campaign. It may have taken time, but Vieira’s focus on making Seixal the heart of Benfica’s future has been fully vindicated.

With fellow Portuguese players Pizzi and Rafa Silva also enjoying outstanding seasons, it has made a refreshing change to see six or seven Portuguese players in the line-up week after week, when the norm over the last two decades has been one or two.

 

Goals, goals, goals

Benfica have scored more goals in 2018/19 than any team in the league for 55 years – 103, which is not half bad in a 34-game season. The appointment of Bruno Lage was the turning point. He immediately installed Haris Seferovic, João Félix and Rafa Silva as a three-pronged attack, the trio scoring 27, 20 and 21 goals respectively this term.

Brilliant teenager Félix hogged most of the headlines, but special praise must be set aside for Swiss centre-forward Seferovic, who gave no indication he was capable of attaining such heights in a disappointing first season in the Portuguese capital. Indeed, the 27-year-old started the season 4th in the pecking order among Benfica’s strikers, but was rewarded for a first-class attitude, never whinging to the press but rather persevering to prove his worth.

 

Rivals falter

After week 15 Porto were seven points ahead of Benfica and five points ahead of second-placed Sporting, with both Lisbon rivals set to visit the Dragão in the second half of the season. The Dragons seemed set fair to retain their title. However, by early March Porto had frittered away their lead with costly away draws at Sporting, Moreirense and Vitória Guimarães in quick succession, followed by the home defeat against Benfica. While calling it a collapse may be going too far – only Benfica’s incredible winning run managed to rein in the Blue and Whites – the northerners will certainly feel they had the title in their grasp and let it slip.

Sporting may have had a better-than-expected season following last summer’s commotion, but inconsistency has again cost them dearly, while Braga looked like they may be in the hunt until hitting a run of form that had their president António Salvador describing their end of season as “disastrous”.

 

Clássicos

In a league where the top three contenders are historically so far ahead of the rest, the results between Benfica, Porto and Sporting carry a lot of weight in the final outcome of each season. Benfica this season won three and drew one out of their four matches against their two storied rivals, including the decisive blow by beating Porto 2-1 on 2 March at the Estádio do Dragão. It was a result that saw Benfica leapfrog their opponents to go top of the table. They never relinquished first place. 

By Tom Kundert

Related: Benfica clinch title in style - report and video highlights of Benfica 4-1 Santa Clara

 

Comments (17)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Let's hope that Benfica manage to hold on to that Portuguese core, especially the highly promising academy products for at least one more season, and with the likes of Jota, Nuno Tavares, and Tiago Dantas knocking on the door of the A team, we...

Let's hope that Benfica manage to hold on to that Portuguese core, especially the highly promising academy products for at least one more season, and with the likes of Jota, Nuno Tavares, and Tiago Dantas knocking on the door of the A team, we could be looking at a squad overflowing with homegrown Portuguese talent in the 2019/2020 season!

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

You forgot the number one reason of all.
Benfica hasn’t been punished and relegated for blatant corruption such as the toupeira scandal.

Good thing it is a long weekend here in Canada. The cement would have been late Monday morning.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Classic. Porto was 7 points up and still you blame everyone except your own team for this collapse? Ha, that makes me laugh. Clearly you are taking your cues from your scumbag coach, who has no class whatsoever. Speaking of class, salute your...

Classic. Porto was 7 points up and still you blame everyone except your own team for this collapse? Ha, that makes me laugh. Clearly you are taking your cues from your scumbag coach, who has no class whatsoever. Speaking of class, salute your champions and face facts. No matter what Porto does, they will never be Benfica. Porto will always be second best. Chupa!

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Z is a Sporting fan, but it's nice of you to share your petty feelings about Porto. Apparently supporting a "champion" team can't get you class.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Z- you salty?

You must be a tripeiro. Porto, the most corrupt team by far.

If you’re a lagarto…then I actually feel sad for you.

You only see what you want…keep hating. SLB will keep winning titles

Chupa Caralho

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Porto is the most corrupt team by far? Did someone send you an email about that? Or did you read it on a PowerPoint at a weekly Benfica meeting where one of the slides was titled "How to influence the Officials"?

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Re: corruption - No matter what side you are on, talking about corruption is a poor excuse for your team not doing well. Can we please move past it? I believe the big 3 in Portugal have their fair share of calls go in their favor when it comes to...

Re: corruption - No matter what side you are on, talking about corruption is a poor excuse for your team not doing well. Can we please move past it? I believe the big 3 in Portugal have their fair share of calls go in their favor when it comes to games against non big 3 teams. Classicos are crucial, and to be honest, Benfica performed. Having a talent like Joao Felix is a game (and season) changer. I’m a Porto fan, and I’m disappointed that our team could not retain the title. But in all fairness, we didn’t deserve it. Porto doesn’t have to be the “best” team all the time. I will always be a fan. In victory and defeat: Azul e branco é o coração!

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

What a fantastic way to seal the title in front of our own fans, by turning on the style! We only needed a draw to confirm the title, but there was no way this coach and team would play for the draw at the Luz and it was only fitting to finish...

What a fantastic way to seal the title in front of our own fans, by turning on the style! We only needed a draw to confirm the title, but there was no way this coach and team would play for the draw at the Luz and it was only fitting to finish like that after the incredible season half of the season we have played. Well done to Porto for their good season too, they made sure it went all the way to the end of the season and their final tally of 85 points would normally have been good enough to win the league. It's just that Benfica's second half of the season under Lage was nothing short of sensational. 17 wins and a draw is a phenomenal statistic. We scored over 100 goals, beat every team in the top half of the table away from home, won 5 and drew one of the 6 matches against the 2nd, 3rd and 4th teams (including away from home goleadas against both Sporting and Braga). So there can be absolutely no argument that we are not fully deserving league champions.

This has possibly been the Benfica title that I have enjoyed the most in all the years since I've been a fan. When you consider the mediocre first half of the season we played under a Rui Vitoria who was well past his sell by date at the club, we were in 4th place when Lage took over in January, with many thinking we might not even finish in the top 3 this season. The way Lage transformed the team and style of play and results, and by using all the Seixal talent and trusting in them....and all with a non-assuming humility, was just great to see for all the SLB fans the world over. Lage is the most impressive Portuguese coach at the moment, no doubt about it. Plays expansive, attacking football, gets the best out of young talent and every player in the squad....just look at the transformation of players such as Gabriel, Samaris, Almeida and Rafa since he took over. Almost out of nowhere, we have found the ideal coach for the club.

The usual noise made from rival clubs and fans about referees and corruption, the same old story every season in Portugal. The top two can never win, without a huge diatribe from the other about corruption and help from refs etc etc. It's really getting boring season after season and is a negative blot on our league no doubt. The fact is the bigger teams in any league tend to get the decisions going their way...and it was no different for Porto (least red cards...ZERO....in the league) and Sporting (BY FAR the most penalties awarded in their favour). Did some decisions go in our favor over the season? Yes some did...but some didn't too. In the three matches against Porto this season for example, we finished with 10 men in both league encounters and in the Taca da Liga match we lost to a clearly illegal Porto goal. So people can say all they want as usual about corruption and make excuses....but the statistics show over 100 league goals scored and goleada after goleada. Fully deserving champions!

The whole squad did great in this second half of the season, but special mentions to a few in particular: Ferro: top class CB with a really bright future. Most of the attention has been on our amazing attack, but the defence improved too under Lage and the emergence of Ferro was the main reason. Gabriel: excellent allrounder CM who really looked a different player as soon as Lage took over. Florentino Luis: super talent straight outta Seixal and should be our titular DM next season. Rafa, finally had the season for SLB we all knew he was capable of, Felix, huge talent, perhaps the biggest to emerge from Portuguese football since CR7, Seferovic: a striker reborn this season....but arguably our player of the season was Pizzi. Amaxing season, the heartbeat of the team and directly involved (either scoring or assisting) in 1/3 of all our goals, incredible! But it was all about the team, not individuals. Phenomenal job and achievement by Lage and the team after what had happened in the first half of the season. Carrega SLB!

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Alright. Alright. You got me. I've been trolling all this time and having a go at it, just to hide my deep discontent for my mother who still bakes me dinner and washes my dirty laundry. Her house. Her rules. Anyhow, it's getting past my bedtime...

Alright. Alright. You got me. I've been trolling all this time and having a go at it, just to hide my deep discontent for my mother who still bakes me dinner and washes my dirty laundry. Her house. Her rules. Anyhow, it's getting past my bedtime and I need to drink my medicine. Mother knows best.

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Funny to see all these casuals on here celebrating a Benfica title. Clearly you don't know Z and his undying love for Sporting. Yet it's funny to see so many comment on Porto despite winning.

Benfica won the games that counted, no doubt but...

Funny to see all these casuals on here celebrating a Benfica title. Clearly you don't know Z and his undying love for Sporting. Yet it's funny to see so many comment on Porto despite winning.

Benfica won the games that counted, no doubt but what is also beyond doubt is the clear help Benfica received from officials. In the Rio Ave game, against Braga, really in a lot of games. Yes the big 3 all get calls but Benfica clearly get the most calls of all.

Regardless, they are Champions, and that is what will be written down.

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Every season which ever team wins in this league usually seems to get the most calls mas...Porto tambem teve ajuda. Every single year , every single season the big clubs get breaks...Sem duvidas. I can understand why this year its a bigger...

Every season which ever team wins in this league usually seems to get the most calls mas...Porto tambem teve ajuda. Every single year , every single season the big clubs get breaks...Sem duvidas. I can understand why this year its a bigger talking point..by all accounts 1/2 through the season Porto had this thing all but locked up and Benfica was a mess, no one could have predicted This outcome based on last season and both teams form. I understand how this could seem surreal to a fanatico anti benfiquista. However...claiming corruption... This is nothing new, just a defense mechanism from pockets of fans who will always be too proud to admit defeat to a rival. Porto slipped up and Benfica tool care of business..its really that simple.

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I also find it laughable that a large and vocal minority of Portistas continue to blame all of their failures on the officiating, especially when the actual statistics suggest that they (and Sporting) have benefited from more game changing calls...

I also find it laughable that a large and vocal minority of Portistas continue to blame all of their failures on the officiating, especially when the actual statistics suggest that they (and Sporting) have benefited from more game changing calls (pks, red cards, etc) than Benfica. Porto only have themselves to blame for the end of the season collapse.

Benfica were an absolute mess during the first half of the season. Our two new center-forward signings (Ferreyra and Castillo) flopped big time. We couldn't defend a counter-attack if our lives depended on it, we were completely incapable of building out of pressure, and we looked disjointed and out of ideas with when attacking a disciplined defensive block. Enter Bruno Lage and Benfica, seemingly out of nowhere, look a completely different side. There were still some issues at the back, but the new-look 4-4-2 build around the brilliance of Joao Felix proved unstoppable.

Porto had there injury problems, but more importantly in my opinion, Sergio Conceicao wasn't able to shake things up when the smaller sides in league started to catch on to Porto's extremely direct, cross and set-piece oriented approach. A game plan centered around Alex Telles crosses into the box will only take you so far. Therefore, it's shocking that Oliver Torres, by far, Porto's most incisive passer never seemed to lock down a starting position for an extended period of time, even though he generally played well whenever given the opportunity.

It'll be interesting to see what path Porto decide to take going into preseason. Will they follow Benfica's lead and finally start integrating the likes of Romario Baro, the Diogos, etc into the first team? Or will they continue to waste their money on big names on the wrong side of 30...

If I were a Portista, I'd be rooting for the former -- the talent is certainly there, but going after established albeit declining stars is understandably tempting, especially when the higher ups are so desperate for short-term success.

The same can be said for Sporting. They will likely use a decent chunk of the money they make on an inevitable Bruno Fernandes sale on some quality talent, but they too have a handful of promising young academy players who are just waiting for an opportunity to prove their worth on the first team.

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Jon, if you want to speak in absolutes and sweep things under the rug, that's your call. It doesn't change reality. You will not see me shy away from criticizing my club. The Apito Dourado showed that Porto were clearly engaging in corrupt...

Jon, if you want to speak in absolutes and sweep things under the rug, that's your call. It doesn't change reality. You will not see me shy away from criticizing my club. The Apito Dourado showed that Porto were clearly engaging in corrupt actions and if you ask me, the penalty was not sufficient.

If I can be honest about this, why is it not one single Benfica fan can ever admit that they are the recipients of the most beneficial calls than anyone in the league?

Most Benfica fans go quiet and say nothing when things like the E Toupeira scandal is mentioned. Not one act of punishment for some very clearly corrupt approaches to influence referees. Instead the guy who unleashed the emails is the one facing jail time.

Did you read my full comment? Benfica won when it mattered and Lage managed to perform a miracle. But you cannot convince me that the officiating didn't help in games against Braga, Rio Ave and even Moreirense. Difference makers when it comes to points.

I'm also the first one to criticize Sergio Conceicao. He is passionate and great to watch when winning, but a prick when he loses and he's tactically limited. He's shown that time and again. Porto would be well served to stop selling their best players and get a manager with proper tactical nue.

There would be no issue if many Benfica fans were as honest and critical of their own team as they are of Porto and Sporting.

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Benfica would be celebrating the sixth championship if it wasn't for the football surroundings.

There are no comments posted here yet
Load More

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

      

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to thank every fan who was at the Dragão supporting us. Step by step, game by game like a united family. Dragons united, we will fight like brothers.”

Alex Telles
(Porto left-back after big win against Vitória Setúbal after fans gave the team their full backing despite a poor start to the season) 

Partners