Benfica 4-3 Sporting
Sporting have failed to keep their invincibility record alive after going 32 league games unbeaten, suffering a 4-3 defeat to Benfica at the Estádio da Luz, this Saturday, in the penultimate game of the season.
The champions were stunned coming into the encounter, accumulating a three-goal deficit to a rampant Jorge Jesus side in the first half, prior to Pedro Gonçalves’ first of the evening.
Benfica were quick to add to their lead coming into the second half before two goals in response from Sporting finalised a 4-3 victory that leaves the hosts a point away from FC Porto ahead of the latter’s game against Rio Ave, tonight.
In their bid to remain invincible at the Estádio da Luz, Sporting came into the encounter without the trusted João Mário and João Palhinha in the middle, against a packed Benfica midfield and back three to mirror the Lions’ habitual system.
Far from the cagey affair often expected on such occasions, the two city rivals engaged themselves in an open contest, fuelled by a potential penalty call early on for a foul on Pizzi, overruled by the linesman’s flag for offside.
The hosts breached Sporting’s high line again shortly after their initial scare, with Seferovic poking the ball over the on-rushing Antonio Adan before a desperate Nuno Mendes helplessly turned the ball into his own net in his attempt to clear off the line, 12 minutes in.
Rubén Amorim’s men were quick to reply, attacking through former Benfica man Nuno Santos down the left flank, with Pedro Gonçalves arriving late to the winger’s dangerous cross in the 15th minute.
The Eagles remained a step ahead of their opposition, however, hitting Sporting for seconds with another cute dink from Pizzi, assisted by a cute back-heel from Everton Cebolinha in the 29th minute.
Sporting were left muted seven minutes later after Lucas Veríssimo, beating Sebastian Coates in the air from a corner, glanced in a third for Jorge Jesus’ men against the newly-crowned champions.
Benfica 4-3 Sporting match highlights
Seferovic came close to lending the ‘Green & Whites’ a hand when flicking a header towards his own net, roaming just wide, but Sporting would eventually manage to claw a goal back through Pedro Gonçalves, finding the bottom corner from the edge of the area on the brink of half-time.
The visitors couldn’t have asked for a worse reintroduction into the half after the glimmer of hope initially offered by Pedro Gonçalves, cancelling the effort out by conceding a penalty early for a foul on Alex Grimaldo.
In a direct dispute for the golden boot with Pedro Gonçalves, Seferovic was quick to sweep up the ball and step over the penalty spot, making it 4-1 to Benfica by landing his 20th league goal of the season.
Sporting were keen to go down fighting, however, landing a second goal through Nuno Santos after attacking Paulinho’s cut-back on the half-volley in the 62nd minute.
As the table-toppers grew in confidence, Everton had the golden opportunity from Grimaldo’s long free-kick to kill off any hopes of a comeback, but the Brazilian, one-on-one, was caught in two minds between shooting and squaring the ball to Seferovic, consequently spurning the chance.
The nerves peaked in the 78th minute at the Estádio da Luz after Lucas Veríssimo brought Pedro Gonçalves down inside the box, with the man himself slotting away the spot-kick to take the score to 4-3.
No less than a couple of minutes later, Pedro Gonçalves had both sides of the city on edge with a left-footed shot, laid off by Jovane Cabral inside the box, crashing against the outside of the post in a breathless period of the game.
Sporting's threat stifled there, with Adan later denying Benfica from scoring a fifth home goal before running out as 4-3 victors in the final derby of the season, leaving the Eagles in anticipation of a potential Porto slip-up in the current battle for second place.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Benfica XI: Helton Leite - Jan Vertonghen, Nicolás Otamendi, Lucas Veríssimo - Alex Grimaldo, Adel Taarabt (Gabriel, 53’), Julian Weigl, Diogo Gonçalves (Nuno Tavares, 82’) - Everton Cebolinha (Gian-Luca Waldschmidt, 90'), Pizzi (Rafa Silva, 82’) - Haris Seferovic (Darwin Nunez, 90')
Sporting XI: Antonio Adan - Matheus Reis (Jovane Cabral, 69’), Sebastian Coates, Gonçalo Inácio - Nuno Mendes, Daniel Bragança (João Palhinha, 45’), Matheus Nunes, João Pereira (João Mário, 45’) - Nuno Santos, Pedro Gonçalves - Paulinho
[1-0] - Nuno Mendes O.G. (12’)
[2-0] - Pizzi (29’)
[3-0] - Lucas Veríssimo (37’)
[3-1] - Pedro Gonçalves (45’)
[4-1] - Haris Seferovic (pen.) (48’)
[4-2] - Nuno Santos (62’)
[4-3] - Pedro Gonçalves (78’)