Braga's form has been slept on for sometime now but, with Benfica coming to town defending just a three-point-advantage over the fourth-placed side, here stood the chance for 'the Arsenalistas' to gain some much-deserved recognition for their campaign thus far. It didn't work out that way for the northerners, however, as a Benfica side, led by goals from Eduardo Salvio, Jonas and Raúl Jiménez , maintained their excellent form to side-step Braga with a 3-1 victory, as the Eagles neared Sporting in the table.

That was until another hat-trick from Bas Dost set the Lions back off into the distance with a 3-0 home win over Desportivo das Aves, claiming top-spot in the Primeira Liga for the time being.

The two Lisbon outfits then awaited the conclusion of Estoril's clash with league leaders FC Porto last night. The bottom-of-the-table side led 1-0 before the game was abandoned at half-time due to the structural instability of one of the stands. PortuGOAL takes you through the events of Matchday 18.

 

Sp. Braga 1-3 Benfica

Trotting along quietly through their campaign, Braga were now faced with the expectation of conquering Benfica at home in order to leap-frog the title-holders in third place.

Salvio looked to ensure that wouldn't be the case with his opener in the 10th minute, sneaking in behind the hosts backline before finishing first-time past the on-rushing Matheus.

The Eagles held onto their early lead into the second period, where Jardel would commence by heading dangerously against the far-post before Jonas' penalty claim.

Benfica's Brazilian talisman was not to be denied, though, spreading the play wide in the 64th minute for André Almeida prior to ghosting in behind his marker and heading in Benfica's second from the right-back's cross.

With Bruno Varela indecisive between his posts, Paulinho grabbed a goal back for Braga in the 73rd minute with a looping header over the keeper, but Raúl Jiménez extinguished all hope of a fight-back come stoppage time, volleying past Matheus at the back-post to secure a 3-1 win.

 

Sporting 3-0 Desp. Aves

There was plenty of intrigue at the Alvalade, as Jorge Jesus unveiled one of his winter acquisitions in Ruben Ribeiro, lining up in attack with Dost in red-hot form.

The two took just 30 minutes to link up to great effect, as Ribeiro sought the space to deliver a measured cross onto Dost's head which the Dutchman buried, giving Sporting a 1-0 lead.

Jesus' men dominated, but not without their scares - Amilton's near-post header five minutes from the half-time break had the crossbar rattling and the home fans momentarily quaking.

With Gelson Martins being brought down inside the box early in the second half, Dost was given the chance to nab his double from the spot, doing so with a clean finish into the low right-hand corner that left Sporting two ahead in the 51st minute.

Three was the magic number in Lisbon, as Cristiano Piccini raced on down the right channel late on to feed Dost for a third, leaving the ex-Wolfsburg man beaming at the sight of consecutive league hat-tricks and another victory for his team, this time by a 3-0 score-line.

 

Estoril 1-0 FC Porto

(To be continued)

A few worries lingered ahead of Porto's trip to the Estádio António Coimbra da Mota, as the Dragons' attacking sector had to deal with the loss of its playmaker in chief, Yacine Brahimi, to injury.

Estoril surprised their opponents by taking the lead in the 17th minute, Eduardo bending a free-kick up and over José Sá from an angle he had no business shooting from.

Renan then came up clutch at the other with a big stop from close range to deny Vincent Aboubakar an equaliser in the 24th minute, and Diego Reyes went one better to head onto the crossbar on the brink of half-time.

Play in the second period wouldn't resume, however, with the entirety of the away support evacuated onto the pitch for safety reasons, relative to the stand's stability.

An announcement from Liga Portugal, regarding the continuation of the remaining 45 minutes is expected shortly.

By Patrick Ribeiro

 

Matchday 18

Chaves 4-3 Vit. Guimarães

P. Ferreira 1-1 Marítimo

Sp. Braga 1-3 Benfica

Boavista 2-0 Portimonense

Tondela 3-1 Feirense

Belenenses 1-2 Rio Ave

Sporting 3-0 Desp. Aves

Moreirense 2-2 Vit. Setúbal

Estoril 1-0 FC Porto - (TBC)

Comments (5)

  1. Nick J

God, Porto were all over the place and couldn’t get started. A total non-performance by pretty much everyone. Aboubakar was anonymous, Layun and Danilo overrun, Felipe looked shaky without Marcano next to him, Herrera kept giving the ball away,...

God, Porto were all over the place and couldn’t get started. A total non-performance by pretty much everyone. Aboubakar was anonymous, Layun and Danilo overrun, Felipe looked shaky without Marcano next to him, Herrera kept giving the ball away, Ricardo looked like he didn’t know what his position was, Jose Sa showed once again why he isnt a top class keeper by impersonating David Seaman…
Awful.
Estoril fully deserved their goal and were the better team. This showed the FCP squad isnt very deep and with no Brahimi to keep possession/link up play/carry the ball to the opposing team it was left to Marega. The midfield was poor and was bypassed quite easily by Estoril.
I know he had to rotate but Sergio got it wrong.
With Marcano out of contract in summer/Telles attracting interest from the vultures in England they’ll need to look at the defence.

Fixture pile-up awaits!

PORTO!

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  1. jon/usa

That was an excellent all-around performance and a much needed away win for Benfica. Away matches at Braga are never easy, but I felt Benfica were clearly the better side. The game got a little nervy after Varela's mistake, but apart from that...

That was an excellent all-around performance and a much needed away win for Benfica. Away matches at Braga are never easy, but I felt Benfica were clearly the better side. The game got a little nervy after Varela's mistake, but apart from that error, Benfica looked quite solid.

As a Benfica fan, I'm a lot more optimistic about our chances of winning the penta than I was a month ago, especially since there has been a significant improvement in the way we play since Rui Vitoria switched to the 4-3-3 to accommodate Krovinovic (he is having a Renato-esque impact on this team!). Grimaldo appears to be back at his best, Ruben Dias and Jardel are developing a strong partnership at the heart of our defense, and Andre Almeida is quietly having a superb season. Fejsa is as solid as ever, Krovi has been brilliant, Cervi and Salvio are finally showing some consistency, and Jonas has continued to thrive as a false 9.

That being said, I would go as far as to suggest that Benfica are favorites. Porto and Sporting were more consistent over the course of the Primeira Volta and rightfully deserve their place in the standings; is just that I feel Benfica are starting to gel into a far more cohesive unit now that they are growing accustomed to the 4-3-3. The fact that we have no European or cup football also gives us a slight edge with the regards to the campeonato. We have also played the away fixtures against every club in the top half of the table apart from Sporting (Porto, Braga, Rio Ave, Maritimo, Chaves, Guimaraes, and Boavista). Therefore, theoretically, our second half of the season should be a bit easier than our first.

I'm not surprised that Porto went in to the half against Estoril with a 1-0 deficit. They should still have more than enough quality to turn it around when the second half is played, but without Brahimi (in my opinion the most dynamic, create something out of nothing type of player in the league), they become extremely dependent on crosses and set-pieces to create any sort of danger.

Sporting on the other hand seem to get deeper and deeper with every week. Bruno Fernandes, Piccini, Mathieu, and Coentrao have all proved to be excellent acquisitions. Ruben Ribeiro was a great steal, but I didn't think he'd be thrown straight into the starting 11, and by all accounts, he had a great match. Like Benfica with Jonas, they are still overly reliant on Bas Dost for goals, but with the likes of Gelson, Podence, Fernandes, Ribeiro, and Acuna, they've got plenty of play-makers at their disposal.

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  1. Nick J    jon/usa

Krovinovic looks good doesn't he? He stood out to me when I watched the Braga game.
Benfica seem to be getting it together at the right time and as you say no other distractions means they should make a strong run to win the title in the second...

Krovinovic looks good doesn't he? He stood out to me when I watched the Braga game.
Benfica seem to be getting it together at the right time and as you say no other distractions means they should make a strong run to win the title in the second half of the season.
Porto don't have the squad depth - e.g. Corona should get more game time, the Estoril match was perfect for him - so I'm expecting Sporting to make the best run for the title. They seem the best organised to me though an injury to Dost might change things.

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  1. Brandon

Porto were really all over the place. It's hard to criticize S.C. with all the success this season, but we have great players that do not get the game time they should. Corona and Torres are standouts. They both have the potential to be world...

Porto were really all over the place. It's hard to criticize S.C. with all the success this season, but we have great players that do not get the game time they should. Corona and Torres are standouts. They both have the potential to be world class footballers and should have a more regular position in the team. Especially with Brahimi out of the game, we needed someone with an attacking mentality who can organize a play. Otavio is definitely missed as a backup attacking midfielder. Layun and Ricardo should not be put that high up the pitch and should be played in their more natural defensive positions.

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  1. Nick J    Brandon

Good post. SC doesn't rate Torres and rarely plays him from what I've seen. Andre/Otavio would get more game time injuries permitting but I get the impression he's been playing Layun to encourage bids for him.
Corona should defo play if Brahimi...

Good post. SC doesn't rate Torres and rarely plays him from what I've seen. Andre/Otavio would get more game time injuries permitting but I get the impression he's been playing Layun to encourage bids for him.
Corona should defo play if Brahimi doesn't otherwise we don't really have anyone who can carry the ball forward into dangerous areas.
Hopefully this game will have showed him that!

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