FC Porto 0-0 Benfica

FC Porto have loosened their grip on top spot in the Liga NOS after failing to overcome ten-man Benfica in tonight's 'Clássico', as the Eagles held on to a 0-0 draw at the Estádio do Dragão.

The hosts saw their position in first place come under threat after Sporting's 1-0 triumph over Belenenses hours earlier in Lisbon, as they also eyed a potential knockout blow in Benfica's season to go with a reinstated three-point-advantage at the head of the Primeira Liga table.

In a heated game, Benfica were reduced to 10 men after Andrija Zivkovic's red card in the latter stages of the encounter, but Porto would be unable to take advantage of their numerical superiority after a couple of Moussa Marega chances went begging.

For the hotly-contested encounter, Sérgio Conceição turned to his regular big-game look with a packed three-man-midfield, with the Lisbon outfit replying to the Dragons' shape in a 4-3-3 formation of their own, headlined by Eduardo Salvio and Franco Cervi in support of lone-forward Jonas.

It was through Jonas that Benfica found their first glimpse of goal within the first three minutes, as the off-balance Brazilian aimed to loop a header in from a corner before seeing his attempt met by José Sá's assured palm.

Such opportunities at either end proved hard to find as the game progressed, however, with the game stalling at the sight of both clubs totting up fouls throughout the first 20 minutes of play.

Porto looked towards Yacine Brahimi for inspiration and the Algeria international came close to serving up the jackpot on the half-hour-mark, sliding a perfectly-weighted pass through to Marega before the latter could skew his shot wide with Jardel's help.

To VAR or not to VAR controversy

The Dragons perked up en route to half-time, still with little-to-no goal-scoring opportunities to look back on before a good bit of old-fashioned controversy looked to liven up the encounter before the interval. Supplemented by a cross from Marega, a Jardel deflection complicated Luisão's intervention inside the Benfica area and left the Porto players protesting for a handball inside the box.

Such calls were snubbed by the referee, as were the pleas for the VAR's help, with the scores locked at 0-0 going into the break.

The hosts continued to press on with their hunt for the game's first goal in the second period, with Brahimi opening up the body and making Bruno Varela work with an arced shot aimed at the far post in the 51st minute.

Porto garnered more reasons for complaints when Vincent Aboubakar, despite being played onside by André Almeida, was flagged by the linesman prior to Héctor Herrera's disallowed goal on the rebound, with the timing of the officials' decision this time around cancelling out the legal use of the VAR.

Benfica didn't read the signs and were made to take another deep breath in the 58th minute when Marega beared down on goal from the right flank, as Varela did just enough to minimise the Malian forward's angle and shepherd a shot into the side-netting.

Felipe was next in the shooting queue for 'the Blue and Whites', picking up the leftovers from a corner to volley first-time at goal in the 67th minute, with the Brazilian's effort travelling just wide of the post and increasing the wait for the game's first goal.

The Eagles were able to weather the storm, but their ability to continue doing so took a heavy blow when Zivkovic, having just entered the field of play in the 75th minute, earned himself a second yellow card seven minutes later to leave his team reduced to ten men.

Marega misses 

Soon after, Marega had the winner at his mercy when emerging unmarked at the far-post in the 87th minute, but still the stalemate was maintained when the Porto man mistimed his side-footed volley at goal.

With another late cross into the box, Marega was again the recipient in Porto's bid to take all three points from the Clássico before fluffing his lines once more, as he took his header inside the box way over the bar from a prime position.

By the law of the scoreline, both the Dragons and Benfica would remain inseparable at full-time with a 0-0 draw, as Sporting joined the former at the top of the table with 33 points.

The Lions' win, courtesy of a Bas Dost spot-kick, meant that Jorge Jesus' men also distanced themselves from third-placed Benfica, with the latter lagging behind the two league leaders by three points at the top of the Primeira Liga.

 

By Patrick Ribeiro

FC Porto XI: José Sá - Ricardo Pereira, Felipe, Ivan Marcano, Alex Telles - Danilo Pereira, Sérgio Oliveira (Otávio, 59'), Héctor Herrera - Moussa Marega, Vincent Aboubakar (Soares, 76'), Yacine Brahimi

Benfica XI: Bruno Varela - André Almeida, Luisão, Jardel, Alejandro Grimaldo - Ljubomir Fejsa, Filip Krovinovic, Pizzi (Samaris, 65') - Eduardo Salvio (Zivkovic, 75'), Jonas (Raúl Jiménez, 85') , Franco Cervi