Over 60,000 fans at the Estádio da Luz saw Benfica put in their best performance of the season to shatter Vitória’s erstwhile 100% record with a thumping 4-0 victory.
The match was over as a contest by half time with Benfica one man and three goals up thanks to a Jorge Fernandes own goal, strikes by Di María and Kökçü, and a red card for João Mendes.
Man-of-the-match Fredrik Aursnes put the icing on the cake with a fourth goal in the second half.
Benfica coach Roger Schmidt made a change at centre-forward with Petar Musa getting the nod over Arthur Cabral, while João Neves was preferred to Florentino in midfield.
Vitória came into the match with morale high after three wins from three had put the northerners joint top of the table.
Fast start by both teams
A fast-paced first 10 minutes with chances at both ends suggested a well-matched and exciting game was in the offing.
Jota threatened in the very first minute for Vítoria shooting over from a promising position. Soon afterwards Di Maria wasted a golden opportunity when Otamendi’s long through-ball put him clean through but the Argentinian got his attempted lob all wrong with Varela easily plucking the ball out of the air.
Play soon switched to the other end with Jota racing through, his low shot beating Soares and thudding back into play off the post.
But the complexion of the match completely changed in the next 10-minute period. Benfica were catching Vitória out with simple passes behind their defence, and made it count in the 11th minute. Another fast break released Di María on the right flank, the World Cup winner’s cross with the outside of his foot headed spectacularly into his own net by the unfortunate Jorge Fernandes.
Mendes sent off
Benfica continued to pour forward with Rafa and Musa coming close to doubling the home team’s lead. Vitória then suffered a big blow in the 19th minute when João Mendes was given a straight card for a dangerous high kick that made contact with Otamendi’s head near the halfway line.
Down to ten men, Vitória disappeared as an attacking force, while their defence continued to look easily penetrable. João Mário was denied by a sharp Bruno Varela save on the half-hour mark.
It was only a temporary reprieve for the away team as Benfica struck with a well-worked quick-passing move. The lively João Mário won the ball high up the pitch, slipped a lovely pass through to Rafa Silva who in turn played a perfect square pass into the path of Di María who had the simple task of knocking the ball into an open net.
As the interval approached Petar Musa was denied by a fine diving save by Varela after excellent work to make space for himself and shoot on the edge of the area.
Kökçü scores a stunner
Moments later the crowd erupted in joy again as Orkun Kökçü scored his first goal for the club. An excellent lay-off by Di María set up the chance with the Turkish midfielder producing a sumptuous first-time finish from 20 yards that gave Varela no chance.
Vitória were no doubt relieved to hear the half-time whistle with Benfica threatening to run riot, but less than one minute into the second period it was 4-0. Skilful play by Rafa set up a chance for João Mário. Varela saved but the rebound fell to Aursnes whose shot into the ground bounced over the goalkeeper and into the net.
With Benfica pouring forward, things looked like they were about to get very ugly for Vitória with Musa smashing a shot against the bar from point-blank range after a perfect assist by Aursnes, Neves skimming a shot just wide and Varela saving superbly with his fingertips from João Mário.
Fortunately for Vitória, with the game won the hosts took their foot off the pedal in the final half hour and the chances dried up.
Late VAR interventions
Vitória thought they had pulled a goal back through Nelson da Luz after the substitute bundled the ball into the net in the 77th minute, but the referee chalked it off after a VAR check that revealed he had knocked the ball into the net with his arm.
In stoppage time it was Benfica who were feeling aggrieved with VAR as the referee reversed his original decision to award a penalty for handball.
After a somewhat turbulent start to the season, Benfica fans go into the international break with a smile on their faces.
By Tom Kundert, at the Estádio da Luz
[1-0] Jorge Fernandes (o.g.), 9’
[2-0] Dí Maria, 33’
[3-0] Kökçü, 45’+4’
[4-0] Aursnes, 46’