João Neves goal spares Arthur Cabral’s blushes with Benfica securing vital three points against Chaves

Benfica 1-0 Chaves

Sport Lisboa e Benfica will consider themselves lucky to have escaped with a narrow 1-0 victory against GD Chaves in a contest that was littered with controversy. In a match where Benfica failed to convert three penalties before the 66th minute, it seemed like it was not meant to be the home side’s night.

Finally, a moment of brilliance from their highly-touted midfielder João Neves proved to be the difference between the two sides. 

Approaching this match, Benfica knew that anything short of a victory at the Estádio da Luz would have been catastrophic considering Sporting held a slight advantage in the tightly contested title race. For Chaves, a team languishing at the bottom of the Primeira Liga table, a result of any kind was vital.

Roger Schmidt’s side dominated for large portions of the match, but once again failed to convert numerous clear-cut chances. Arthur Cabral and Rafa were both poor on the night, leading to more questions about where Benfica’s goals will come from if they do hope to make a late title push. 

Chaves, a team that entered the game languishing in last place in the Primeira Liga, fought valiantly and were unfortunate to leave empty handed.

Benfica team selection 

With upcoming matches against Sporting and Marseille in the next two weeks, Benfica could not have asked the football Gods for a more favourable fixture at this stage of the year. Chaves have been known to pull off the occasional upset, but lead the league in goals conceded with 56 in 26 matches. With a tricky fixture list, Schmidt was offered a chance to rotate and rest some of his star players. .

The German manager, however, opted for a strong team with João Mário and Orkun Kökçü the only two regulars to not start the match. Rafa, Neves, Cabral, Di María, Bah, Otamendi and Neres were all named in the starting lineup.

Defender António Silva missed out due to a one-match suspension after picking up a yellow card in the previous match against Casa Pia. 

Arthur Cabral’s night to forget

The Brazilian striker’s struggles continued with another dire performance. Cabral relieved some pressure on himself after scoring a crucial goal in a 1-0 victory over Casa Pia, but Friday’s display will lead to more questions about whether the 25-year-old is the man to lead this club forward. 

Cabral had his fair share of chances early in the match including a header from a Di María corner followed by a volley that sailed over the bar. A penalty in the 66th minute provided the former Fiorentina player with a golden opportunity to get on the score sheet but a tame effort saw goalkeeper Hugo Souza pull off a massive save. It must have been a combination of relief and gratitude when Cabral realised he would be permitted to retake the penalty due to a Chaves player being adjudged to have stepped into the box. Cabral approached the spot and chose to go in the same direction, missing his second penalty in a span of a few minutes.

Benfica paid a hefty fee to sign Cabral in the hopes that he could fill the void left by Portuguese international Gonçalo Ramos. So far, he has failed to live up to those lofty expectations. 

João Neves continues exceptional form

Benfica’s 19-year-old youth product was fantastic on the night. The energetic midfielder could be found covering every corner of the field and ensured Benfica retained control of the ball for large spells of the game. 

With his team struggling to break through, Neves took his opportunity perfectly in the 68th minute, cleverly clipping a well timed ball from Ángel Di María past the goalkeeper with his head. 

Neves has been one of Benfica’s most efficient and reliable players since breaking into the team during the 2022/2023 season. It is no surprise that some of Europe’s top clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool, are chasing the talented young star. 

Man of the match Hugo Souza 

Chaves’ defensive tactics were expected but without a stellar performance from their 25-year-old Brazilian keeper, the scoreline could have been far worse. Benfica finished the match with 22 total shots and Souza was up to the challenge on the night. 

The confident shot stopper saved a penalty from Di María and then two more from Cabral to keep his side in the contest until the final moments of the match. 

By Sahir Bhojwani


[1-0] João Neves, 68’