A Gonçalo Ramos brace has kept Benfica firing at the top of the Primeira Liga table after defeating Famalicão 2-0 on Friday night, with Sporting following up their rivals with a win away to Portimonense, this Saturday.
Two goals either side of the interval from Ramos powered Roger Schmidt’s side to a routine triumph at home, but Sporting’s night in Portimão looked to be anything but smooth sailing on a wasteful evening down south.
Having hit the woodwork twice, following on from a Pedro Gonçalves penalty miss in the first half, the Lions called on a 77th minute winner from substitute Paulinho to earn an hard-fought victory, applying some much-needed pressure on third-placed Sporting de Braga.
Benfica 2-0 Famalicão
Under the Friday night lights, the Estádio da Luz welcomed Famalicão to the capital ahead of the latest chapter in Benfica’s hunt for the title, with Eagles keen to extend their lead at the top by 11 points, prior to FC Porto’s encounter away to Chaves.
The game fell short of its promise with both sides cancelling each other out for the early exchanges, but Benfica were able to take their chance when it came as Gonçalo Ramos tucked away the opener from close range in the 35th minute.
Roger Schmidt’s side took the one-goal advantage with them into the interval, with Ramos’ goal inspiring more opportunities from David Neres and Rafa Silva, with the latter being denied by the crossbar in the 69th minute.
The hosts would have to wait until stoppage time to add heath to their lead, again through Ramos, who’d react quickest to a rebound from Alex Grimaldo’s strike to secure a 2-0 victory.
Portimonense 0-1 Sporting
Even with a tasty Europa League fixture versus Arsenal just over the horizon, Sporting refused to look beyond a Portimonense side that was keen to add the Lions as a big scalp.
The visitors always looked the likeliest to break the deadlock, however, with both Pedro Gonçalves and Marcus Edwards scuppering the chance to edge Sporting in front after wayward efforts within the first half-hour.
A foul on Nuno Santos inside the box promised to facilitate life for the Lisbon giants on the stroke of half-time but even a spot-kick wasn’t routine enough for the misfiring Pedro Gonçalves, blazing his conversion over the bar in the 42nd minute.
As the second half went on, it became more and more apparent that the night Pedro Gonçalves was about to endure was a torrid one with his next effort on the volley being denied agonisingly by the post, just moments after the crossbar had prevented Park Ji-soo from scoring an own goal.
The nightmare ensued for Sporting’s top goalscorer after Kosuke Nakamura got the better do the Portuguese attacking midfielder from a one-on-one position midway through the second half, but alas Pedro Gonçalves crossed paths with redemption in the 81st minute, assisting Paulinho’s well-taken finish with a lifted pass.
Rúben Amorim’s men would look no further than the 1-0 score-line on an emotionally-difficult night in front of goal, closing the gap to just two points between themselves and Braga, in action next against Rio Ave on Sunday night.
By Patrick Ribeiro