SL Benfica 1-1 Casa Pia AC
Prior to Saturday’s encounter against Casa Pia, Benfica manager Roger Schmidt was asked by a reporter if he felt his job was at risk after a series of poor results in the European Champions League. "No, I don’t think so," responded the German confidently. The disappointing 1-1 home draw versus Casa Pia will only add to the recent criticism of the second-year manager.
Defending Portuguese champions Benfica were held to a frustrating draw at the Estádio da Luz on Saturday night. While the Eagles dominated possession for large portions of the game, they missed several clear chances before giving up a late equaliser to Casa Pia against the run of play.
Midfielder João Mário scored a phenomenal goal in the 44th minute to give Benfica an advantage going into half-time. They continued to push with Rafa, David Neres and Mário all looking dangerous, but the team failed to score a second goal. Their inability to finish came back to haunt them after a long ball from Beni Mukendi found Spaniard Gaizka Larrazabal who was able to squeeze his shot in from a tough angle to level the match.
After seven consecutive league wins, Benfica dropped points for the first time since their opening day loss to Boavista on 14 August. The Lisbon club are top of the table on goal difference but dropped a golden opportunity to take a two point lead over rivals Sporting. Casa Pia secured a vital point after managing just one point from their previous three league matches. Manager Filipe Martins will be delighted with his team’s performance. Casa Pia are 10th in the standings after recording 10 points over nine matches.
João Mário scores a sensational goal to give Benfica lead
It has been a difficult season for Mário who was considered one of the club’s star players during their 2022-23 championship campaign. The Portuguese international scored 23 goals last season, including six in the Champions League. Entering this match, he had only recorded one goal this season against the lowly fourth-tier side Lusitânia in the Portuguese Cup.
Mário will be delighted to get off the mark in the league. After some fluid build-up play down the right side, the ball fell to the midfielder on his right foot. He took his opportunity well, striking a perfectly placed shot to the left side of the goal. Benfica will hope that this is the first on many goals for Mário, who has been a key figure for this attack over the previous three seasons.
Gaizka Larrazabal delivers for Casa Pia to earn a draw
In a surprising move, Casa Pia manager Filipe Martins opted to leave out the team’s top scorer Clayton. The Brazilian had three goals in eight league matches coming into this match and has been in exceptional form.
Casa Pia started with Felippe Cardoso up front with Yuki Soma and Jajá supporting on the wings. Martins may have been regretting his decision after Felippe missed a penalty in the 54th minute. The Brazilian went for placement over power and was denied by an excellent save by keeper Anatoliy Trubin.
In the end, it was up to Larrazabal to play the role of hero. The speedy midfielder latched on to a perfectly placed long ball from Mukendi and was able to beat Trubin with a low shot in the 81st minute.
Benfica had several chances late in the match, but an organised and disciplined Casa Pia defence held on for a well-deserved draw.
The return of Ángel Di María
Benfica supporters were relieved to see Ángel Di María brought on for the final 30 minutes of the match. The World Cup winner has been out with a thigh injury for three weeks but looked lively when brought on.
Di María is the club’s leading scorer this season with seven goals in all competitions. Benfica will hope the return of their star player can provide a much-needed spark to their attack.
Roger Schmidt under pressure after another disappointing result
It’s has been a difficult few months for Roger Schmidt. After losing their opening game of the season to Boavista, the club has failed to reach the highs of last season. Benfica’s results in the league have been strong but their performances have been unconvincing. They have lost all three of their Champions League matches and have failed to score a goal in any of those games.
Schmidt opted to go with Brazilian striker Arthur Cabral, who is yet to score in the league this season. The 25-year-old joined the club on a massive €20 million fee (plus add-ons) and has failed to live up to expectations. Cabral was once again disappointing and only had one shot on target over his 73 minutes on the pitch.
Ukrainian goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin, another of Schmidt’s signings, was at fault for the late goal. The keeper was poorly placed and will feel extremely disappointed after missing out on a routine save.
Benfica face Chaves in their next league match before travelling to Spain to face Real Sociedad. The club then face rivals Sporting in a highly anticipated clash on November 12. This will be a critical 15-day stretch for Schmidt, who will need to make adjustments in the coming days.
By Sahir Bhojwani