Benfica have moved back to an eight-point advantage from second-placed FC Porto after defeating relegation-threatened Marítimo 3-0 away from home this Sunday.
The Eagles rushed into a dominant first half display but were made to wait until the brink of half-time before getting their noses in front, courtesy of a David Neres finish.
Having missed a first-half penalty, João Mário made amends with goal number two for Benfica before Neres, in the 57th minute, concluded a comfortable win for Roger Schmidt’s men.
In good shape following a midweek triumph against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League, granting Benfica access to the quarter finals, the visitors at the Estádio dos Barreiros were hoping to double-dip their joy and resume their rich vein at the top of the league, with Marítimo desperate to prevent them.
João Mário neared the opener for the Eagles on not just one, but two occasions in the opening 17 minutes, sending both pull-backs from Frederik Aursnes and Alexander Bah over the bar.
The Portuguese midfielder would be handed an even greater chance to crack the deadlock after a foul on Aursnes earned Benfica a penalty, but again João Mário would fluff his lines by missing the target completely with his 30th minute conversion.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the former Sporting man, however, starring on the brink of half-time with an assist for Neres’ 48th minute goal that would facilitate Schmidt‘s pending team talk.
Redemption came for João Mário in the second half after Alex Grimaldo’s low cross evaded all, including the goalkeeper inside the box to leave the 30-year-old with an empty net to tap into in the 50th minute.
Benfica amplified the score with a devastating move down the left, involving Grimaldo once more before Neres crowned the play off with goal number three, securing the league leaders’ 21st league victory in 24 Primeira Liga games.
By Patrick Ribeiro