With the international break just around the corner, the fixture machine offered us a double header between two of Portugal’s most fervent footballing regions, as Benfica trekked up north to face Vitória de Guimarães prior to Sporting de Braga’s reverse trip to Lisbon, where they met Sporting.

Away from it all was FC Porto, who’d have an emblematic case of their own in sight with Belenenses in town, as the Dragons reaffirmed themselves as Primeira Liga leaders with a 2-0 victory at home.

Benfica passed their test with flying colours, blitzing Guimarães by 3-1, whereas late drama at the Estádio José Alvalade would deny the three points to both sides, as Sporting and ‘Os Guerreiros’ battled to a 2-2 draw. PortuGOAL gathers this weekend’s top action:

 

FC Porto 2-0 Belenenses

With the scene in the UEFA Champions League beginning to tranquilise itself for Porto, the Dragons could again set full focus on the league, where they’re yet to be touched by defeat at the top of the table.

It was perhaps no surprise then to see Sérgio Conceição’s side dominate from the very early stages of the encounter, with both Héctor Herrera and Hernâni going close to breaking the deadlock within the first ten minutes prior to Muriel starring between the sticks.

Belenenses thought they had weathered the storm for the half, but with 42 minutes on the clock, Herrera found a way through with a low volley that couldn’t be kept out by the Belenenses shot-stopper at his near-post, as Porto took a deserved one-goal-advantage into the half-time break.

The hosts played much to the same tune in the second period, despite a greater volume of threat also coming from Belenenses’ end.

Muriel kept the Belém outfit in the game with a crucial double stop from Sérgio Oliveira’s burst into the area in the 86th minute before Vincent Aboubakar killed the encounter in the face of stoppage time.

Taking on Herrera’s pass, the Cameroonian striker cut inside expertly from the left before dinking an effort over the goalkeeper, sealing a 2-0 for the league leaders late on.

 

Vit. Guimarães 1-3 Benfica

Vitória have lagged way behind where they’d expect to be found in the league table this season, but Pedro Martins’ side still hold a thorny facet to them when it comes to playing at home, as Olympique Marseille found out in their 1-0 defeat last Thursday.

A big effort was to be required from Benfica, whose margin for error is already scraping the limits in their hunt for a fifth consecutive Primeira Liga title. Jonas got the Lisbon giant off the ideal start, striking first in the 22nd minute with a routine tap-in from André Almeida’s teasing cross.

The chase for a second was then on, leading the Eagles all the way through to the 75th minute where Andreas Samaris would find the bottom-right corner, courtesy of some Jonas magic for the assist.

And with the second came the third, as Eduardo Salvio beared down on goal three minutes later to dink an effort into the far-post, leaving Vitória goalkeeper Miguel Silva looking questionable and Benfica racing through to a 3-0 victory.

There was still time for a consolation goal on Vitória’s behalf, found by Rafael Martins in the 85th minute, and a stoppage-time penalty miss by the home side, but a 3-1 win at full-time for the visitors applied pressure on second-placed Sporting from Benfica in third.

 

Sporting 2-2 Sp. Braga

With Porto and Benfica both winning and Marítimo tightening on fourth place, both Sporting and Braga had it all it play for at the crux of this weekend’s action, following gruelling continental commitments in midweek.

Taking on a competitive start to the game, Braga limited themselves to pot-shots from range at Rui Patrício’s goal, whereas the all-important final ball seemed to evade Sporting’s arsenal at the other end in the rare openings they mustered. Both Sebastian Coates and Bruno Fernandes then forced Matheus into action with a couple of chances for the hosts, but the Brazilian responded with two splendid saves and a 0-0 stalemate is what the two sides would take with them into half-time.

Braga had the ball in the back of the net almost instantly following Fransérgio’s run into the box in the second half, but both the referee and the linesman had already ruled the midfielder as offside before putting away his chance, controversially relinquishing the visitors of a much-needed hand from the VAR after replays showed the Brazilian was onside.

At the other end, Bas Dost was sending warnings to the Braga backline in the 62nd minute, as the Dutchman just failed to guide Bruno César’s cross in from a desperate slide. The Sporting talisman wouldn’t need many more invitations to strike home, with Bruno Fernandes’ ball into the near-post allowing Dost to lose his marker before side-footing the opener in the 66th minute.

The ex-Wolfsburg striker would later join Marcos Acuña as an injury casualty, meanwhile tactical changes from Braga’s end turned up the heat on the hosts. The danger would go on to manifest itself into a spectacular turnaround for the ‘Minhotos’, as Danilo Barbosa earned his side an 85th minute penalty for Dyego Souza to convert.

From Danilo’s left boot and a wicked deflection via Braga old-boy André Pinto, the visitors then took a 2-1 lead in the 89th minute, as Sporting stared at their first defeat in the league square in the face.

That was until the game took yet another twist, as a clumsy intervention from Ricardo Horta on Alan Ruiz culminated into a second spot-kick being awarded, with Bruno Fernandes making no mistake from 12 yards to equalise.

The action concluded itself at 2-2, with Sporting, despite salvaging a result, trailing top spot by four points and seeing third-placed Benfica close in to within a point’s touching distance.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Matchday 11

Vit. Setúbal 0-1 CD. Aves

Moreirense 1-1 Portimonense

Tondela 3-2 Boavista

Estoril 0-2 Rio Ave

FC Porto 2-0 Belenenses

Feirense 0-1 Marítimo

Chaves 4-2 P. Ferreira

Vit. Guimarães 1-3 Benfica

Sporting 2-2 Sp. Braga