Benfica 1-1 FC Porto
Sporting have been left just two points away from clinching the Primeira Liga title after Benfica and second-placed FC Porto played out a dramatic 1-1 draw at the Estádio da Luz, this evening.
Everton Cebolinha broke the deadlock for Benfica in Lisbon in a game the hosts needed to win to strengthen their chances of automatic Champions League qualification, sitting four points behind their opponents before kick-off.
A second-half strike for Matheus Uribe levelled the game for Porto, in search of a win to claw themselves back into the title race, before late drama with a disallowed Pizzi goal that had threatened to undermine the Dragons’ season.
The 1-1 draw, leaving Porto eight points behind table-topping Sporting, all but kills their hopes of becoming back-to-back champions, meanwhile Benfica’s ambitions of climbing up to second also take a big hit with just three league games of the season to go.
For the showdown at the Luz, Jorge Jesús reverted to a familiar five-man defence, filled up by Lucas Veríssimo, Jan Vertonghen and Nicolás Otamendi, meanwhile Porto, in their standard 4-4-2, covered Jesús Corona’s absence with Luis Diaz and Otavio operating on the flanks.
In a cagey affair, it took Porto 20 minutes to really widen the eyes with a goalscoring opportunity after Marega was set free down the right channel before feeding Mehdi Taremi with a cross - one that would bounce awkwardly behind his outstretched leg at the time of execution.
Benfica’s response was a prompt and clinical one as Everton wriggled through the Porto set-up, with Pizzi’s help, before deceiving Augustin Marchesín with a curled effort in at the near post, breaking the deadlock in the 23rd minute.
The visitors resumed their wait for a mere shot on target in the 35th minute, threatening through Taremi’s blocked shot on the swivel that was succeeded by a powerful volley by Uribe inside the box, floating high and over the bar.
Benfica came close to landing a bitter blow to Porto on the brink of half time after a quick break that saw Rafa Silva initially earn a penalty up against Wilson Manafá, only for the VAR to catch the Eagles forward offside and cancel out the spot-kick.
Sérgio Conceição’s men were dealt a similar scare ten minutes into the second period after Diogo Gonçalves tried to rake in another penalty, having collided with Zaidu Sanusi inside the box, but the VAR wasn’t to be convinced by the home side’s pleas once more.
The Porto manager backed João Mário to breathe new life into the game and the young Portuguese man repaid the faith shown in him just five minutes later, skipping by Haris Seferovic down the right flank before assisting Uribe for the equaliser, finding the top corner via a cut-back in the 75th minute.
With a 1-1 draw no good for either side, Benfica came whiskers away from making the most of a frenetic end to the game, with Darwin Nuñez feeding Adel Taarabt on the edge of the box before the Moroccan’s strike ricocheted under Marchesín and onto the bar.
The Eagles thought they had dramatically gone one better in the 93rd minute, firing ahead through Pizzi’s accurate strike across goal, but, yet again, the VAR was there to pour rain on the hosts’ parade and spot an offside in the build-up.
With both sides locked level at 1-1 come full time, Sporting, now eight points clear of second-placed Porto, require just a win to seal the Primeira Liga title.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Benfica XI: Helton Leite - Jan Vertonghen, Nicolás Otamendi, Lucas Veríssimo - Alex Grimaldo, Julian Weigl (Gabriel, 68’), Pizzi, Diogo Gonçalves - Everton Cebolinha (Darwin Nuñez, 85’), Rafa Silva (Adel Taarabt, 68’), Haris Seferovic
FC Porto XI: Augustin Marchesín - Zaidu Sanusi (João Mário, 69’), Pepe, Chancel Mbemba, Wilson Manafá - Luis Diaz, Sérgio Oliveira (Francisco Conceição, 83’), Matheus Uribe, Otávio - Mehdi Taremi (Evanilson, 83’), Moussa Marega (Toni Martinez, 69’)
[1-0] - Everton Cebolinha (23’)
[1-1] - Matheus Uribe (75’)