FC Porto leapfrog Benfica in the title race before Sporting disappoint once more

FC Porto have assumed command of the Primeira Liga after a 1-1 home draw for Benfica versus Moreirense enabled the Dragons to go a point clear at the top on Monday night.

Sérgio Conceição’s men applied pressure on the Eagles with an earlier victory against Santa Clara in Azores, clocking up a 2-0 scoreline, before Benfica took to the stage.

After going a goal down, Bruno Lage’s men could only salvage a draw late on via Pizzi to step down from pole position in the league for the first time this year.

Elsewhere, Sporting de Braga firmed up their third-place classification with a 2-1 win away to Marítimo, meanwhile Sporting, trailing in fourth, succumbed to a further upset (or not) with a 3-1 defeat away to Famalicão. Here’s how all the action at the top unfolded. 

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Marítimo 1-2 Sp. Braga

Having seen their European dreams shattered by Rangers in midweek, the coveted Rúben Amorim and his Braga team were out to make amends against a Marítimo side found deep in the league table.

The visitors took just five minutes to begin feeling avenged, with the opening goal falling fittingly to Francisco Trincão for his fifth of the season following Ricardo Esgaio’s cut-back.

Amir almost landed his side in greater trouble with inaccurate passing from his own goal but, fortunately for the Iran international, Ricardo Horta forgot to bring his shooting boots after cutting in on his favoured foot and sending his effort over the bar in the 32nd minute.

The Arsenalistas were strong out of the blocks in the second half, but Marítimo would find a way back into the game after a long shot was spilled by Matheus to enable Correa in the 64th minute to scramble the ball in.

Big chances at either end saw Paulinho and Erivaldo almost tilt the balance for their sides in the final ten minutes of the game, before Marítimo also saw a late goal ruled out for a marginal offside.

The game had one more moment in store for Braga in their final attack of the game, taken by Paulinho at the near-post with a header squeezing in off the frame of the goal to secure a dramatic 2-1 victory in the 98th minute.


Santa Clara 0-2 FC Porto

Thursday’s elimination from the Europa League will have left sections of the Porto support disappointed but Monday’s clash away to Santa Clara, with the title race finely poised, served as the perfect distraction for the visitors.

João Afonso was lucky not to give the Blue & Whites an early advantage in the 3rd minute, heading the ball against his own post, meanwhile the frame of the goal made a second appearance to deny Costinha’s free-kick from dipping in and handing Santa Clara the lead.

Wilson Manafá’s penetrative run from full-back, complemented with a quick one-two on the edge of the box, powered Porto to a 1-0 lead, as the defender’s shot found its way in via the far post in the 37th minute.

The woodwork’s involvement didn’t end there, as Lincoln’s free-kick in the 53rd minute crashed against Augustín Marchesín’s post before Alex Telles, from the penalty spot, was robbed of the chance of doubling Porto’s advantage via the same fate as his compatriot at the opposite end of the pitch.

Iván Marcano was on hand to seal all three points in the 76th minute, rising highest from Sérgio Oliveira’s free-kick before heading home, as Porto took control of the league table momentarily.


Benfica 1-1 Moreirense

The Eagles were obliged to win against Moreirense at home if they wanted to maintain their run at the top of the table, having just witnessed Porto raise the stakes with a victory against Santa Clara.

Moreirense weren’t to make it easy, however, causing their fair share of danger through Fabio Abreu on a couple of occasions before João Aurelio, on the half-hour mark, sent Bilel’s cross over the bar with his head after being found unmarked inside the box.

Benfica replied through Rúben Dias, attacking Rafa Silva’s cross at the back-post with an outstretched leg that would fizz across goal, meanwhile Alex Grimaldo almost caught the goalkeeper out with a volleyed cross crashing against the near post before half time.

In chaotic fashion, the Eagles kicked off the second half with a Pizzi penalty miss and a goal chalked off for handball from the Benfica skipper himself - all within the opening five minutes.

Moreirense silenced the Luz in the 67th minute with a move crowned by Fabio Abreu, bundling Abdu Conte’s cross in from close range and giving the visitors, who could’ve seen their advantages doubled by Pedro Nuno in the 80th minute, a shock 1-0 lead.

A foul on Franco Cervi inside the box gave Benfica a route back into the game in the 90th minute, secured by Pizzi after initially missing a second penalty before following up on the rebound. A goal a piece is how it’d remain, however, changing the scenery at the top of the table.


Famalicão 3-1 Sporting

In a game widely-tipped to be Jorge Silas’ last in charge of Sporting, the fourth-placed Lions took to the Estádio Municipal with a six-point advantage over Famalicão in the race for European spots.

The prospect of that gap halving began looking increasingly likely after Uros Racic’s sublime first-time volley made its way past Luís Maximiano from range, taking the hosts just five minutes to break the deadlock.

That lead was soon doubled in a stunning start from João Pedro Sousa’s side after Diogo Gonçalves was spotted alone inside the box by Fábio Martins, enabling the ex-Benfica man the time to drill home a second goal in the 8th minute. 

Sebastian Coates clawed a goal back for the Lions on the brink of half time, making use of a big leap to glance in Marcos Acuña’s free kick in good time.

Luciano Vietto could and probably should have equalised for Sporting in the 58th minute, with Acuña again the architect with a deep cross, miss-kicked by the former Atlético Madrid man at the back post.

The Green & Whites were made to pay no more than ten minutes later on the counter, finished off by Diogo Gonçalves after taking Luís Neto out of his way and finding the bottom corner for 3-1.

There'd be no way back into the encounter for Sporting, falling four points third-placed Braga and handing their opponents a route out of a winless run of six league games.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Matchday 23

Portimonense 0-0 Vit. Setúbal

Rio Ave 0-0 Belenenses

Boavista 0-1 Gil Vicente

Desp. Aves 1-3 P. Ferreira

Marítimo 1-2 Sp. Braga

Vit. Guimarães 2-0 Tondela

Santa Clara 0-2 FC Porto

Benfica 1-1 Moreirense

Famalicão 3-1 Sporting