Benfica won the Portuguese championship this afternoon after thumping Nacional 4-1 at a sun-drenched Estádio da Luz packed with 60,000+ ecstatic fans. A brace from man-of-the-match Nico Gaitán, and goals from Jonas and Pizzi overpowered Nacional, for whom Salvador Agra scored a late consolation.
The Lisbon giants win the Liga for the third straight year, something they have not achieved for 39 years.
Benfica’s win meant Sporting’s 4-0 thumping of Braga at the Quarry was in vain, as the Lions finished two points behind their city rivals.
Benfica started the match with plenty of possession but nerves were in evidence as they found it hard to carve out clear-cut chances, and those nerves threatened to get even more fraught as news filtered through from Braga that Sporting had taken the lead, putting them momentarily on top of the table.
Less than two minutes later, however, Nico Gaitán, who had been Benfica’s most dangerous player up to then slid an angled shot into the net after a good run by Pizzi.
The goal clearly lifted the pressure from the hosts who began to drive forward with more purpose, pinning the visitors deep into their own half. And the lead was doubled when Gaitán’s long ball over the top released Jonas, who beat Nacional goalkeeper Gottardi to the ball to double Benfica’s lead.
Nacional briefly threatened to make a match of it at the start of the second half, but all doubts were dispelled when Gaitán headed in from close range after Mitroglou had hit the bar when it seemed easier to score.
Pizzi’s powered in a volley to make it 4-0, before Salvador Agra scored a late consolation for the islanders.
After looking out of the title race two months into the season, a record of 24 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat in Benfica’s last 26 matches, and 12 straight victories to round off the season, propelled the Eagles to a memorable triumph.
It is Benfica’s 35th title triumph, a record in Portugal.
By Tom Kundert, at the Estádio da Luz