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. 

Much has been written about the dubious quality of the Liga NOS this season, but there is no lack of excitement as the season heads towards its climax. With everything still up for grabs, bettors who claim the offer with the bet365 bonus code and correctly predict who will lift the championship crown and qualify for Europe are in for some bumper winnings.

 

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

Comments (3)

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As I have mentioned on this site a few times this season already, Bruno Lage did wonders in winning us the league last season, but the reality is that football is about the here and now and most of this season simply hasn't been good enough from...

As I have mentioned on this site a few times this season already, Bruno Lage did wonders in winning us the league last season, but the reality is that football is about the here and now and most of this season simply hasn't been good enough from him, I'm afraid. Yes we have beat most of the Liga opposition, but those matches don't count as much as our performances in the bigger matches. In the bigger matches Lage has been even worse than Rui Victoria, which says it all really. And I was reading today that indeed this terrible run of form we have been in recently (just 1 win in last 7 matches) is the worse run of form the club has been in since the days of Quique Sanchez Flores, so worse than any period under Vitoria.

More errors from Lage against Moreirense. In the previous match against Shakhtar in Europe, he didn't play a three man CM which he should have against such demanding opposition and it cost us dearly defensively. Then at home to Moreirense, Lage decides on the 3 man midfield! Wtf? What is a more demanding match? Shakhtar or Moreirense? Against a team that's gonna sit back all match, Lage decides to play with 2 holding CMs and we struggled to dominate offensively as a result. His substitutions in the second half were suspect too. He's just full of errors at the moment and doesn't seem to be learning from his mistakes. He better soon or we're gonna end up giving this season away.

The real problem for me though is the president and the board. Yes Lage has made errors but this is the squad he's been given by the president and board. And as the season has passed, we've seen how limited the options are. Felix was sold for a fortune last summer, 120 million, money which should have been spent on boosting the whole squad. Instead we have a squad full of limitations. When are the signs that a squad doesn't have depth? When players continue playing badly and continue starting every match. Ferro and Grimaldo have both been in terrible form for a long time already, yet both continue to play every minute, why? Presumably because there are no alternatives....when we made 120 million from the sale of just one player last summer? Where were the defensive reinforcements in January when it was so clear we needed them? I've had enough of LFV already and have mentioned so on this site for a few years already. 17 years in charge is enough already and we need new direction and new ambition. I can only imagine how burned out I'd be if I were a Porto fan and see a president who's been in charge there longer than I've been alive! That's a proper dictatorship! But even at Benfica, it's been long enough already with the same guy in charge, and this is never healthy, things need to become fresh and updated or else they start getting stagnant. And we badly need someone to take over who's gonna bring more ambition and stability to the club, and take us to the next level. Because LFV seems content with us simply being a big fish in a small pond, and that's not enough for most SLB fans, we badly want to see the club become relevant in Europe again, but that's unlikely to happen with LFV. Here's hoping we finally get new leadership at the next club elections!

Anyway there is still all to play for this season, and with 11 matches still to play and just a point of difference at the top of the table, it's still very much in the balance. What Benfica need to do is find form very quickly, if we can get back on a winning run then we can still salvage the season because I still think Porto will drop points. But Lage has got to change whatever he's been doing lately because it obviously hasn't been working. We need a big response this coming weekend!

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Benfica have no teeth up front Andre. No midfield presence and swiss cheese defense (outside Dias).

Renato was never replace nor was Felix but worse than that, they never replaced Jonas, Mitroglou, Salvio and Jimenez which they lost in the span...

Benfica have no teeth up front Andre. No midfield presence and swiss cheese defense (outside Dias).

Renato was never replace nor was Felix but worse than that, they never replaced Jonas, Mitroglou, Salvio and Jimenez which they lost in the span of 3 years? Seferovic had a good run of form for a while but anyone could see he was not even close to any of the names i mentioned.

Anyhow chin up, could be worse you could hire a guy with 10 months experience and a good run who crashed out of Europa so hard he got a concussion and are about to re-hire the worst president in the history of Liga NOS (and that is saying something), which you green rivals are about to do.

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@Val: Yeah you are right. We have issues all over the pitch this season, main problem has been in defence of course (absolutely incredible that not a single defender was bought in January).. but also no second striker was brought in to replace...

@Val: Yeah you are right. We have issues all over the pitch this season, main problem has been in defence of course (absolutely incredible that not a single defender was bought in January).. but also no second striker was brought in to replace João Felix (in January yet another centre forward, Dyego Sousa, was brought in instead of a second striker), no reliable back up goalkeeper, even in midfield we weren't so stacked with options to justify loaning out the very talented Gedson Fernandes (still can't believe that decision from the board), Gabriel getting injured straight away demonstrated what an error it was was to let Gedson go.

This is all the fault of the president and the board. Lage is green and inexperienced and is making the inevitable errors that come with that, this is to be expected I suppose from a coach who's basically just started his first senior coaching position. The real problem at this club is the stale leadership that keeps ensuring that every season it seems our squad depth and strength is increasingly weaker than the previous season. We have made something like over half a billion euros on player sales this decade alone, last summer Felix alone left for a whopping fee, where has all this money gone to? Not into making our squad any stronger, that's for sure! We are producing great young talent in Seixal, but we can't only have local kids in the squad, there has to be investment in more experienced and established players to balance out the squad.

There is a lot of revenue coming into this club, apart from the player sales, we are also in the CL every season, the stadium is almost full every match...but we have a cheap ass president and board, who try to do everything on the cheap. A perfect example? Jorge Jesus is arguably the best coach we've had in the last 20 odd years. Why did he leave the club in the end? He asked for an improved salary and contract from the club, something he felt he deserved (and did) after taking us to two successive European finals, almost winning an unprecedented quadruple in 2014 etc etc. Of course LFV turned him down and so he left, and we've never been as good since. To repeat again, the problem with this club is this stale and stagnating president and board, and to get to the next level of progression (for example becoming relevant in Europe again), we badly need fresh and more ambitious leadership.

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