Braga beat nine-man Benfica to lift Portuguese Cup

Braga 2-0 Benfica

Sporting de Braga have won the Taça de Portugal for the third time in their history after defeating nine-man Benfica 2-0 in Coimbra, this Sunday.

The Eagles got the showpiece off on the wrong foot following Helton Leite’s 17th-minute dismissal, facilitating the Arsenalistas’ route to the game’s first goal via Lucas Piazón.

Braga doubled their advantage late on in the second half through Ricardo Horta, steering them clear against an oft-frustrated Benfica, who’d end the clash reduced to nine men after a tempestuous end-of-game brawl.

Coming into the contest, Jorge Jesus stuck with his three central defenders against Carlos Carvalhal’s like-minded system, handing an opportunity to young Brazilian defender Morato in place of the injured Lucas Veríssimo.

Much of the planning behind the scheme was undone as early as the 17th minute, however, as Helton Leite’s challenge against an on-rushing Abel Ruiz was penalised with a straight red card.

Carvalhal’s men began tightening their control over proceedings, threatening initially through Galeno and André Castro shots that, ultimately, only served to warm Odisseas Vlachodimos up, deputising for Leite between the sticks.

2020/21 Portuguese Cup final highlights: Braga 2-0 Benfica

Benfica had bigger worries when an Al Musrati pass sliced right through the backline and into Ruiz’s feet, with a clear avenue to square it to an open Ricardo Horta prior to Nicolás Otamendi’s crucial intervention in the 40th minute, hooking away the ball destined to be stroked in.

Julian Weigl came close to benefitting from an inaccurate Diogo Gonçalves shot, falling kindly for the German in the 45th minute before seeing his effort beaten away by Matheus.

No less than two minutes later, Braga issued their response on the brink of half time with Piazón’s opener, catching Vlachodimos off his line and guiding a lobbed effort over the former Eagles number one.

Vlachodimos was a busy boy coming into the second period, seeing his resolve tested by strikes from Castro and Galeno within the opening five minutes.

A cross played into Ruiz in the 54th minute looked sure to convey even more danger for Benfica’s under-fire keeper before an outstretched leg from Jan Vertonghen seemed to do just enough to put the Spanish striker off, hitting it wide off his shin.

Galeno could and probably should have made it 2-0 on the hour-mark after burning past the Lisbon outfit’s defence down the left flank, lacking only the accuracy behind his lob to complete the move.

Horta stepped up next to turn heartbeats into a frenzy after arriving just fractions late to an early Ricardo Esgaio cross in the 64th minute, as the search for a second goal intensified.

The game began to gather a whole host of agonising emotions after Ruiz, yet again, failed to get a shot off on target inside the box, having turned a tired Vertonghen in the 83rd minute.

But just before Benfica could even begin to mount a late, great escape, Ruiz was on hand to set Horta clear in front of goal for one final crack at killing the game off, with the winger making no mistake when powering at goal.

Adel Taarabt summarised the mood in the Benfica camp with a late boil-over, clashing with Braga players and staff to earn himself, as well as the opposing Piazón, his marching orders, with the trophy belonging to the Bracarenses at full time.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Sp. Braga XI: Matheus - Nuno Sequeira, Tormena, Raúl Silva - Galeno, André Castro (João Novais, 71’), Al Musrati (André Horta, 75’), Ricardo Esgaio - Ricardo Horta, Lucas Piazon - Abel Ruiz (Andraž Sporar, 87’)

Benfica XI: Helton Leite - Jan Vertonghen, Nicolás Otamendi, Morato (Chiquinho, 81’) - Alex Grimaldo, Julian Weigl, Adel Taarabt, Diogo Gonçalves (Nuno Tavares, 57’) - Everton (Rafa Silva, 57’), Pizzi (Odisseas Vlachodimos, 21’) - Haris Seferovic (Darwin Nuñez, 57’)



[1-0] - Lucas Piazon (45+3)

[2-0] - Ricardo Horta (85’)