FC Porto 3-2 Benfica
FC Porto have cut the gap at the top of the Primeira Liga table back down to four points after a 3-2 win over Benfica at the Estádio do Dragão kept their title hopes alive, this Saturday.
The two bitter rivals went toe-to-toe in a frenetic, goal-packed first half, initiated by Sérgio Oliveira’s opener and followed up by Carlos Vinícius’ equaliser in the opening 20 minutes.
A controversial penalty, converted by Alex Telles, and a Rúben Dias own goal strengthened Porto’s odds at half-time, prior to Vinícius’ second following the interval, but the Dragons were able to hold onto their slim lead and complete the double over Benfica in head-to-head ‘Clássicos’.
A return to full fitness saw Porto come into this game with captain Pepe slotting in at the back at Chancel Mbemba’s expense, with Moussa Marega also making a comeback into Sérgio Conceição’s plans, whereas the big change in Benfica’s corner came in midfield, following a recent injury to Gabriel which made way for Julian Weigl to deputise. Pepe’s impact was very close to being immediate in the 7th minute, appearing unmarked in the Eagles’ box to head just wide in his attempt to nod in Mateus Uribe’s lofted pass.
Sérgio Oliveira was on hand to solidify Porto’s bright start in the 10th minute as he watched Otávio’s cross float his way, beating Vlachodimos from a central position on the volley and giving the hosts an early 1-0 lead.
Benfica required just one opportunity to make their reply count, however, as Augustín Marchesín thought he had done enough to keep Rafa Silva’s goal-bound glancing header out in the 18th minute prior to Vinícius’ close-range follow-up, levelling the game.
Sérgio Oliveira was gifted with the opportunity to emulate his earlier attempt in the 32nd minute, striking a loose ball low on the half-volley just inside the area before witnessing the shot bounce wide of the mark.
Controversy arrived soon after upon Tiquinho Soares’ header onto Ferro’s hand inside the box, promoting the use of the VAR and enabling the referee to point to the penalty spot. Alex Telles took full responsibility for the spot-kick and made no mistake from the 12-yard-mark, pushing Porto back in front at 2-1.
Matters got worse for the visitors in the 43rd minute after movement in behind from Marega stretched the Benfica backline before fizzing a cross into the mixer, eventually turned into his own net by Rúben Dias in his desperate attempts to deny Soares from tapping in the daisy-cutter.
The Dragons maintained the 3-1 lead going into the break in a chaotic half, dictated by their high-pressing. Benfica weren’t to be discouraged, however, with a strong response coming out into the second period.
In search of a more direct route, Rúben Dias’ ball into the box was met by Rafa, who quickly found Vinícius free with a cute back-heel, leaving the Brazilian striker to do the rest and pull a goal back on his left peg, just four minutes in.
Again through Sérgio Oliveira, Porto looked to amplify the score via a well-positioned free-kick, floating just wide of the mark in the 63rd minute.
Half-chances at either end promised to up the drama even more in the Clássico, as Luis Diaz failed to steer his shot away from Vlachodimos before Benfica’s Chiquinho dragged an effort off target for the visitors moments later.
Bruno Lage exhausted all his attacking options with the introduction of Haris Seferovic and Dyego Sousa, supporting Vinícius in attack, but there’d be no way back into the game for the league leaders in what is now their second league defeat of the season.
By Patrick Ribeiro
FC Porto XI: Augustín Marchesín - Alex Telles, Iván Marcano, Pepe (Chancel Mbemba, 69’), Jesús Corona - Sérgio Oliveira, Mateus Uribe, Otávio (Vitór Ferreira, 85’) - Luis Diaz, Tiquinho Soares, Moussa Marega (Wilson Manafá, 81’)
Benfica XI: Odisseas Vlachodimos - Alex Grimaldo, Ferro, Rúben Dias, André Almeida (Dyego Sousa, 84’) - Rafa Silva, Adel Taarabt (Haris Seferovic, 64’), Julian Weigl (Andreas Samaris, 76’), Pizzi - Chiquinho, Carlos Vinícius
[1-0] - Sérgio Oliveira (10’)
[1-1] - Carlos Vinícius (17’)
[2-1] - Alex Telles (35’)
[3-1] - Rúben Dias O.G. (43’)
[3-2] - Carlos Vinícius (49’)