Porto stay alive in the title race after overcoming Casa Pia 2-1 at Estádio do Dragão

Porto’s precarious Primeira Liga title hopes remain alive after leaving it late to beat Casa Pia 2-1 at Estádio do Dragão.

The Dragons were unable to stop the visitors’ frequent counter attacks in the first half, falling behind in added time when Evanilson diverted the ball into his own net.

Sérgio Conceição replaced Fábio Cardoso with Gabriel Veron in the 56th minute, the Brazilian robbing Zolotić and assisting Mehdi Taremi for the equaliser less than 60 seconds after being introduced.

Porto stepped on the gas in the final 20 minutes but had to wait until added time to take the lead, Toni Martínez finding Danny Namaso who bundled the ball over the line.

The victory sees Porto remain four points behind Benfica with two matches to play.

Casa Pia establish a half time lead

Porto created the opening opportunities with Mateus Uribe going close at the back post and Mehdi Taremi’s shot blocked.

Casa Pia were waiting for chances on the counter attack, the first coming to Savior Godwin who went on a long run before his low drive was diverted wide by Diogo Costa.

Fernando Varela headed a corner towards Porto’s goal where Nermin Zolotić interfered from an offside position, Porto sloppy on the ball and not testing Ricardo Batista.

Angelo Neto was injured and replaced by Afonso Taira, but Casa Pia continued to make inroads after winning possession, the action switching from the left flank to the right flank where Yuki Soma was frequently getting forward and making bad decisions.

Stephen Eustáquio missed the top corner but Casa Pia sustained their game plan and should have scored.

It was Soma again, this time winger getting it done by crossing to Godwin, the Nigerian getting in front of Fábio Cardoso and scuffing a glorious chance wide. Godwin had another chance after being released by Leonardo Lelo, stepping inside Cardoso and shooting straight at Costa.

Porto were unable to stop the momentum and fell behind in added time. Wendell gave away a cheap free kick that Derick Poloni delivered into the box, Wendell heading the ball towards Evanilison who diverted the ball into his own net.

Veron makes an impact

The Dragons took their time to return for the start of the second half, Godwin continuing to give Cardoso a torrid time which saw Sérgio Conceição’s hook the central defender off and introduce Gabriel Veron. Mateus Uribe dropped into central defence with André Franco coming into midfield, Veron wide right.

Less than a minute later Porto equalised. It was a disaster from Nermin Zolotić, the centre-back allowing Veron to steal the ball and set up a chance for Evanilson that was saved, Veron finding Taremi who made no mistake.

Casa Pia responded well when Soma got past Eustáquio and delivered a dangerous cross to Felippe Cardoso, his backheeled effort producing a fine save by Costa. Soma’s shot was blocked by Pepe which signalled a shift in the momentum, Porto dominating the game.

Porto come home strong

Filipe Martins sensed the danger and made changes in the 63rd minute, Zolotić and Cardoso replaced by Duplex Tchamba and Rafael Martins.

The Dragons increased the pressure and went close after some fantastic interplay resulted in Galeno’s acrobatic bicycle kick rebounding off the crossbar. Veron smashed a volley over the bar before Cardoso went to his bench again, bringing on João Nunes and Clayton for Varela and Godwin.

Porto went desperately close to equalising in the 83rd minute when Eustáquio’s shot was saved by Batista, the ball falling straight to Taremi who saw his shot blocked by Nunes.

Conceição immediately made a triple switch with André Franco, Eustáquio and Evanilson making way for Marko Grujić, Danny Namaso and Toni Martínez.

Batista saved Uribe’s headed effort with Casa Pia desparately holding on needing to negotiate eight minutes of added time. They couldn’t do it.

Added time magic

A free kick was cleared to Galeno who forced another save from Batista, the Dragons going ahead from the resulting corner.

It was a well worked routine, Pepê Aquino teasing the ball into the danger area where Martínez rose high and headed the ball to Namaso, the young forward bundling the ball over the line to bring the roof off the house.

Dragons stay alive

Sérgio Conceição was missing two important players to suspension, Iván Marcano and Otávio replaced by Fábio Cardoso and André Franco. Cardoso had a hard time dealing with Savior Godwin, was replaced early in the second half and Franco’s impact was minimal.

Porto were below their best in the first half but the tactician deserves credit for his side turning around, despite getting a huge helping hand from Nermin Zolotić. Attacking the southern end occupied by their most boisterous supporters, three substitutes combined for the goals.

Porto have to win at Famalicão and hope Sporting Clube de Portugal beat Benfica at Estádio José Alvalade which would narrow the gap to one point. The final Matchday sees the Eagles host cellar dwellers Santa Clara and the Dragons welcome Vitória Guimarães to the big city.

Casa Pia waiting for the season to end

Casa Pia had a fantastic start to the season, showing defensive strength with a back three formation and employing a devastating counter attack led by Nigerian speedster Savior Godwin. The club were promoted with 22 goals conceded in 34 games and continued to shut down opposition attacks in the Primeira Liga.

The team was seemingly derailed in early February when they suffered an unlucky 5-2 extra time defeat against Nacional in the Taça de Portugal quarter-finals.

Filipe Martins’ side have been handicapped by not being able to play at Estádio Pina Manique due to a prolonged renovation, making do with a temporary residence at the sparse Estádio Nacional. Their first ’home’ game was held at Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa in Leiria, against Benfica, where they battled hard in a 1-0 defeat.

Casa Pia threatened to finish fifth and earn a spot in the Europa Conference League play-offs. It would have been a remarkable achievenment, but the dream ended after winning just three of their previous 18 Primeira Liga matches. They all came at Estádio Nacional against Santa Clara, Paços de Ferreira and Marítimo.

More anger off the pitch

Following Namaso’s match winner, Porto sporting director Luis Gonçalves got into a ugly confrontation with one of the assistants in Casa Pia’s dugout, seemingly reacting to an earlier incident which deserved retaliation.

Referee Manuel Oliveira failed to send them off, an occurrence far rarer than the angst and abuse that frequently appears in Portuguese football.

The sparring contest continued after the final whistle, embarrassed employees holding them back from charging into each other like two bucks fighting for females.

Sérgio Conceição briefly joined the spectacle before putting his arm around Filipe Martins and escorting the pair towards the centre circle. He said: “Nothing happened with Filipe Martins. At the slightest thing, at the slightest word, as has already happened with Vítor Bruno or Engineer Luís Gonçalves, getting up from the bench or saying something, it’s a yellow or expulsion.

“Today that didn’t happen with Casa Pia. I don’t know if it is right or wrong, but it’s not consistent. It should be the same rules for everyone.”

Martins talked about the tension, saying: “It’s football. You have to understand that when people are on a football field, their heart rate... is exacerbated.”

On his embrace with Conceição, he said: “Let’s not make a case of this. It was a situation that happened and in the end people recognised that they did not act well. I always try to maintain my emotional stability. What Mr Conceição told me is between me and him. Both dugouts were to blame. Everyone went too far. I also think it wasn’t anything from another world.”

Analyising the situation without qoutes from managers that attempt to justify confrontation and defend these sorts of outbursts, it’s nothing short a disgrace.

Leaders should set an example about respect, fair play and sportsmanship. What we see in football and many other sports worldwide is juvenile and abusive behaviour which becomes normalised outside the professional arena.

The reputation of Portuguese football already descended to new lows, especially the incident in May 2018 when a group of thugs broke into Sporting Clube de Portugal’s Alcochete training complex, entered the changing rooms and violently attacked players, coaching and medical staff.

Who could forget five players being sent off at Estádio do Dragão in February 2022, four of them in an aftermatch brawl that overshadowed a thrilling 2-2 draw between Porto and Sporting CP.

The incidents resulting in managers and assistants getting sent off are beyond a joke and can’t keep being excused. There should be higher fines and tougher sanctions to change the behaviour. It’s an embarrassment for Portuguese football and Portugal as a nation.

By Matthew Marshall

Porto 2-1 Casa Pia highlights