Match day 20 of the Liga NOS brought with it much to play for at both ends of the table. Leaders Sporting were looking to keep their two point advantage at the top of the pile as they took on a struggling Académica side at the Alvalade. Meanwhile, Porto travelled to mid-table Estoril on Saturday evening before Benfica rounded off Sunday’s action with a trip to Moreirense.
At the other end, there was the proverbial “six pointer” as basement club, Tondela, travelled to Madeira to take on 15th placed Nacional. Boavista played host to 4th placed Braga and a Marega-less Marítimo rounded off the weekend’s programme by welcoming Belenenses to Funchal.
Estoril 1-3 Porto
A healthy crowd at António Coimbra da Mota was swelled by a good following from Porto but the visiting fans were silenced in just the 4th minute when Estoril took a surprise lead. Brazilian centre-half Diego Carlos rose highest to outjump Bruno Martins Indi and powerfully head home a corner from the right. It was not the start that José Peseiro’s side were hoping for but they didn’t have to wait too long to get themselves back into the game.
Having created very little to trouble Kieszek in the Estoril goal, the Dragões did then find the net courtesy of Cameroon striker, Aboubakar. The big striker, who is rumoured to have been the subject of an approach from an English Premier League side this week, was played in neatly by Mexican, Layún. The through ball on the edge of the box found Aboubakar just ahead of his marker but comfortably onside, and he slotted the ball past Kieszek to bring parity to the contest.
On 26 minutes, Maxi Pereira fired a low drive in towards the near post which Kieszek could only parry. André André was alert to the rebound but was again thwarted by the Polish stopper who, this time, tipped it behind for a Porto corner to keep the status quo.
It was, however, a stay of execution as Porto seized the advantage to go 2-1 ahead on 33 minutes. As with the first goal, Layún was again the provider as he swung a corner in from the right. It bent outwards and found the rising Danilo Pereira who headed home.
André André then uncharacteristically missed a gilt-edged opportunity to increase the Porto lead further on 38 minutes. A superb ball behind the Estoril back four from Aboubakar was seized on by the midfielder. His deft touch beat Kieszek all end’s up but crept just the wrong side of the far post.
At the beginning of the second half, both sides traded punches. Layún saw his drive sting the hands of Kieszek before both Marion and Gerso went close with powerful drives for Estoril. Ultimately, neither forced Casillas into a save though. And on 77 minutes came the miss of the match when Maxi Pereira drove a low cross in from the right which found Aboubakar unmarked and only 2 yards out from goal. It seemed harder to miss, but that’s exactly what the Cameroon striker did as he blazed the shot over the bar.
Porto finally put the game to bed on 82 minutes when Corona shot from just inside the box. The ball was parried out to the right by Kieszek where André André was waiting, unmarked. The midfielder slid in to put the ball back across the goal and beyond the despairing reach of the Pole to make it 3-1, sealing the points for the Portistas.
Sporting 3-2 Académica
Académica visited the Alvalade sitting in 16th place and with just four wins to their name this campaign. A goal difference of minus 16 also told a story and, if you were a betting fan, you’d likely have said all bets were off on this game. However, Jorge Jesus’ men were made to sweat for their victory on Saturday night, in a game that had a little of everything.
Somewhat surprisingly, it was the strugglers who drew first blood in the 9th minute. Rafa Soares opened the scoring to stun 40,000-plus Sportinguistas. A well-rehearsed corner kick found the former Porto B full-back in acres of space with a run from deep. Soares struck the ball from the penalty spot which beat Rui Patrício low down at his right-hand post. Stunned silence and 0-1.
In the 13th minute, Islam Slimani and Carlos Mané combined in the Académica penalty area. However, just before latter could pull the trigger for a clear shot on goal, he was bundled to the ground from behind by Académica winger, Hugo Seco. Referee, Cosme Machado, waved play on and the visitors maintained their lead.
Bryan Ruiz and Adrien Silva both had chances to equalise for Sporting on 28 minutes. The first effort was palmed away superbly by Trigueira, before the Sporting captain fired well over with his follow-up. But just two minutes later, Silva made amends when he cut inside from the left and fired a powerful shot across Trigueira and off of the far post. Sporting were deservedly level, much to the delight of the large crowd.
Following Jorge Jesus’ sending off in the 42nd minute, Sporting rallied and gained the upper hand a minute later. Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz helped himself to a low cross into the 6 yard box by Carlos Mané. The former Fulham man had a simple tap-in at the far post to make it 2-1.
Into the second half and on 58 minutes, the unthinkable… Académica grabbed an equaliser courtesy of an Ewerton own goal. A long ball was pumped into the Sporting box and João Real jumped with the Brazilian centre-half (who had replaced Naldo just after the half hour mark) who was unable to do anything but divert the ball past Patricio and into the net for 2-2. Referee Cosme Machado validated the goal after consulting with his linesman, erroneously as TV replays showed an offside should have been awarded.
Slimani and Ruiz both had chances to put Sporting back in front but, in the 80th minute, Aderlan saw red for Académica. The right-back received a second yellow card and his marching orders for bringing down Gelson just outside of the Académica box.
With their numerical advantage, Sporting turned the screw which saw Adrien Silva miss a chance before Montero met João Pereira’s cross from the right to guide the ball past Trigueira and give Sporting all three points in the chase for the title. It’s a result that keeps Sporting 2 points clear of Benfica and 5 points clear of Porto in 3rd.
Moreirense 1-4 Benfica
Sunday’s fixtures were rounded off in Moreira de Conegos when Benfica took on Moreirense at the Comendador Joaquim Almeida Freitas for the second time in five days. The Lisbon side ran out convincing 6-1 winners at the same stadium on Tuesday night in the Taça da Liga and were looking for a similar outcome this time around.
Rui Vitória decided to start with Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou up front alongside Jonas while Nélson Semedo took his place on the bench, having played in the Taça da Liga fixture. André Almeida got the nod over Semedo this time around, while hat-trick hero Talisca also had to be content with a place on the bench.
And it was Benfica who started the brighter of the two sides with Pizzi failing to make the most of a chance inside the first 10 minutes. However, the healthy Benfiquista presence inside the stadium didn’t have long to wait for a goal as Jonas opened the scoring on 16 minutes. A superb cross from the right by Pizzi found the head of Jonas and the Brazilian’s thumping header left Moreirense stopper Igor Stefanovic with no chance. A stadium that was at least two thirds Benfica supporters went wild and expectations of another comfortable win were evident.
Moreirense struggled to create chances for themselves, although on 23 minutes, Iuri Medeiros force a near post save out of Benfica stopper Júlio César. The striker also created a chance on 38 minutes when he beat Eliseu for pace down the right and managed to hook an effort across Júlio César, but the Brazilian was just about equal to it and palmed it away from danger.
Just prior to the break, Benfica doubled their lead through Mitroglou who got on the end of a superb cross by Eliseu. The full-back had to work hard to keep the ball in play and had to go to ground to get the ball into the box. Mitroglou then displayed superb technique to hit the ball on the volley and leave Stefanovic with no chance.
After the interval, Medeiros again created a half chance for himself, but it wasn’t troubling Júlio César as he watched it float harmlessly past the far post. And it was then left to Jonas to put the game well beyond Moreirense and grab his brace and Benfica’s third. A neatly weighted ball into the box found the on-rushing Jonas who rounded Stefanovic and slotted the ball into an empty net.
In the 75th minute Benfica grabbed a fourth goal. This time, Jonas turned provider and played a lovely give-and-go with Nico Gaitán for the Argentine to hit the ball low past Stefanovic. 0-4.
Receiving a second drubbing by Benfica in the space of a week, Moreirense did find a reason to smile in stoppage time. A high ball forward was nodded down by Evaldo and that man Medeiros latched onto it before rifling past Júlio César to give the home side a consolation.
Week 20 Results
Vitória Guimarães 3-1 União Madeira
Estoril 1-3 FC Porto
Sporting 3-2 Académica
Nacional 3-1 Tondela
Rio Ave 2-1 Vitória Setúbal
Arouca 2-2 Paços de Ferreira
Boavista 0-0 Braga
Moreirense 1-4 Benfica
Marítimo - Belenenses - Monday’s game
by Paul Gellard