With only ten rounds of matches of the season remaining there is a feeling the real Liga Bwin run-in is firmly underway. Benfica continued their status as favourites to lift the crown, overcoming Marítimo to stay clear of nearest challengers Porto.

At the other end of the division Paços Ferreira gave themselves hope in the relegation battle with a vital victory over fellow strugglers Santa Clara. Chaves, Famalicão and Rio Ave were big movers in the table also.

One team with plenty to play for yet is Braga, who remain firmly in the hunt for a top two finish after thrashing Vizela. The return to form of two-goal hero and PortuGOAL Figure of the Week Iuri Medeiros could yet prove the difference in the crucial weeks ahead.

Now 28, Portuguese winger Iuri Medeiros has arguably been among the most talented in the country over the past few years. Coming through Sporting’s academy, it was in loan spells away from the club that he shone in the earlier parts of his career, notably at Moreirense but even more so with Boavista in 2016/17, his 16 Primeira Liga goal involvements making him one of the standout players of that campaign.

A chance with his then-parent club Sporting felt inevitable but things just didn’t gel between the parties, and the further mixed loan spells abroad to Genoa and Legia Warsaw ultimately culminated with Medeiros finally cutting ties permanently with Lions to join 1.FC Nuremberg in the summer of 2019, once more to a an inconsistent effect.

Braga brought Medeiros home on an initially temporary basis back in 2020 before sealing a proper deal the following year. With As Arsenalistas he has looked more his old self, showing the outstanding technical ability on the ball he is capable of.

Hitting double figures for both goals and assists all competitions last season, Medeiros set himself high standards for 2022/23 and while his numbers have been solid, form-wise he has struggled to reach the upper echelons of his potential, particularly of late, a period in which his manager Artur Jorge has withdrawn him from the starting XI on more than one occasion.

This looks to have served as a timely kick up the backside for Medeiros. He was restored to the starting lineup for last weekend’s home victory over Rio Ave following three consecutive appearances on the substitutes bench, only one of which featuring any minutes whatsoever for the winger. 

That performance yielded an assist for the opening goal and it could well prove to be a fillip in Medeiros’ fortunes, especially based on an even better individual display in Saturday evening’s trip to Vizela.

After a slow start to the match, Medeiros and Braga got going as the first half progressed and duly opened the scoring in the 43rd minute. The Portuguese showed quick feet in the buildup, helping the ball on towards Libyan midfield man Ali Al-Musrati, whose initial pass was blocked back into his own path, whereby he unleashed a low drive that beat Vizela keeper Fabijan Buntić.

Early in the second period Braga doubled their lead and it was Medeiros on the score sheet this time, and in sensational style too. The 28 year old swapped passes with maurauding right-back Víctor Gómez before showing sublime skill to trick Vizela’s Samu, and then applying a powerful finish beyond Buntić’s dive.

Buoyed by his first goal since early January, Medeiros’ second of the match duly arrived in the 65th minute to kill the game as a contest, finishing off a sweeping team move by collecting André Horta’s cutback and thrashing an effort into the back of the net.

Ricardo Horta later added further gloss to the scoreline as Braga ran out 4-0 winners, cementing their position of 3rd, and only two points behind Porto above them in Liga Bwin.

Medeiros looks to have recaptured his spark after a few flat months in Primeira Liga, and it could prove timely in Braga’s bid to secure a minimum of a top three finish and with it the possibility of Champions League football next season. If this talented playmaker can match his focus to his ability level, a return to Europe’s top table for the first time since 2010/11 could be on the cards.

By Jamie Farr


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