Benfica face a battle for the title on the final day of the season after failing to defeat their rivals Sporting in a 2-2 draw away from home, this Sunday.
The Eagles required no less than a victory to get their hands on the Primeira Liga trophy, but found themselves 2-0 down in the first half as Sporting sought to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification alive.
A 71st-minute Frederik Aursnes header set-up a comeback that was coupled with a João Neves equaliser in stoppage time, cementing Sporting to a fourth-placed finish with a share of the spoils meanwhile prolonging Benfica’s wait for the title.
For the showpiece in the Portuguese capital, the key change in Sporting’s line-up came in goal with Franco Israel deputising, meanwhile Benfica proceeded to fill the gaps left by Alexander Bah’s and Florentino Luís’ absence with Aursnes and João Neves.
Israel’s night got off to a quiet start with all the noise coming from the other end as Sporting sought to spoil their rivals weekend with a dominant start. In the 21st minute, the hosts came a whisker away from taking the lead after Ricardo Esgaio’s cross evaded Pedro Gonçalves inexplicably from close range, letting Benfica off the hook.
The numbers lined up again to try their hand at a Sporting cross, finding its way through to Esgaio at the back-post before his strike in the 32nd minute was palmed over by Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Sporting 2-2 Benfica match highlights
Sporting’s probing finally paid off with an early cross from Nuno Santos bothering the Eagles backline and finding Trincão in behind, with the ex-Sporting de Braga man rounding the keeper and finishing with his second bite of the cherry.
The Lions took full advantage of their dominance, grabbing a second goal from the head of Diomandé to leave Benfica staring at a two-goal deficit going into half-time, complicating their hopes of clinching the title on rival territory.
Roger Schmidt’s men battled on in the second period, making life tougher for Sporting in their bid to get back into the game as Aursnes saw a good chance go to waste in the 56th minute.
The German manager banked on Petar Musa to impose change and the towering striker almost repaid the faith shown in him off the bench with a strong run rounded up by a strike just wide of the mark.
Musa was backed up by Aursnes inside the box and in the 71st minute, the Norwegian was able to make full use of the space afforded to him to claw a goal back with a header into Israel’s far corner.
An important stop from Vlachodimos kept a killer goal from Paulinho out after the Portuguese striker had taken Antonio Silva out of his range before firing at the goalkeeper.
Benfica continued to press, however, and come stoppage time, the hosts finally succumbed to the waves off attack coming from the away end, with João Neves forcing through a 94th minute equaliser from a goal-mouth scramble.
But a draw was as far as the title hopefuls could reach, extending the wait for the much-anticipated title celebrations meanwhile sentencing Sporting to a fourth-placed finish, one game away from the end of the season.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Sporting XI: Franco Israel - Gonçalo Inácio, Sebastian Coates, Ousmane Diomandé - Nuno Santos (Arthur Gomes, 79’), Hidemasa Morita (Dario Essugo, 79), Manuel Ugarte, Ricardo Esgaio (Héctor Bellerín, 72’) - Pedro Gonçalves, Francisco Trincão (Matheus Reis, 72’), Marcus Edwards (Paulinho, 54’)
Benfica XI: Odisseas Vlachodimos - Alex Grimaldo (Mihailo Ristic, 86’), Nicolás Otamendi, Antonio Silva, Frederik Aursnes - João Neves, Chiquinho (Florentino Luís, 81), João Mário (Alexander Bah, 45’) - Rafa Silva (Gonçalo Guedes, 66’), Gonçalo Ramos (Petar Musa, 66’), David Neres
1-0 - Francisco Trincão (39’)
2-0 - Ousmane Diomandé (44’)
2-1 - Frederik Aursnes (71’)
2-2 - João Neves (90+4)