PortuGOAL Figure of the Week: Aziz unstoppable as Rio Ave stun Porto

Matchday four of the Liga Bwin is done and dusted after a round of matches punctuated by some major shocks in Portugal’s top division, the first of which being promoted Chaves stunning last season’s runners up Sporting at Estádio José Alvalade.

Portimonense continued their fine form with a third straight win, whilst another of the league new boys Casa Pia also secured consecutive victories in the top flight, impressively winning away at Vitória Guimarães.

The other aforementioned shock though was in some ways bigger than the first, defending champions Porto humbled by Rio Ave after a devastating first half display from the Primeira Liga returnees. The display was lit up by a sensational striker’s performance from Aziz Yakubu, our PortuGOAL Figure of the Week.

Despite only being 23 years of age, Ghanaian forward Abdul-Aziz Yakubu may feel he has a lot to prove in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. He excelled in the second tier in previous loan spells at Estoril two years ago, and Rio Ave last season, his goals helping both sides to promotion to the top table.

Rio Ave managed to turn his initial loan from Vitória Guimarães permanent this summer, with both player and club looking to make the transition to the next level and Aziz particularly looking to prove himself in more esteemed company. Whilst there were struggles in the first two matchdays, green shoots of promise were seen last week as Aziz scored his first top flight goal as the team battled to a 2-2 draw against his former club Estoril.

Being the sole focal point in attack has probably helped Aziz, a move necessitated by André Pereira’s injury and the returning Emmanuel Boateng still building fitness. Despite the improvement shown against Estoril, matchday four presented a still winless Rio Ave with the most daunting of tasks in the division: an encounter with defending champions Porto.

Sunday evening’s clash looked set to only go one way, Porto having a 100% record against the league newcomers who only had a point to their name. What followed is surely one of the biggest shocks in recent memory as Aziz inspired a first half demolition job to blow away the heavy favourites. 

The warning signs were signalled inside the first minute as young winger Fábio Conceição tested Diogo Costa from range. It buoyed the home side and they duly took the lead in the 22nd minute. Conceição was involved again, a superb first time through ball around the corner picking out the run of Aziz, who confidently reverse-finished past the onrushing Costa.

A little over ten minutes later Rio Ave shocked their opponents further by extending the lead. Aziz was central again, showing great skill to beat Iván Marcano before sliding in a fantastic cross to the awaiting fullback Pedro Amaral to side foot into the net.

Aziz then completed a dream half for him and his manager Luís Freire by nodding in his second of the game, perfectly meeting a terrific ball into the box from Pedro Amaral, returning the favour for their earlier combination.

Rio Ave and Aziz were understandably less of an attacking force in the second half as they looked to preserve what they had, and they ultimately did so by securing a famous victory, their first since returning to the top flight.

The team have already reported to have fended off interest in the services of Aziz, most notably from Saint-Étienne. His list of suitors will have extended after this top level performance and Rio Ave will be hoping to make it past deadline day with Aziz still at the club. The Ghanaian will be one to watch this season, wherever he ends up playing his football.

By Jamie Farr