Gameweek 22 entered with an intense rubbing of the hands from the northern sector of Portugal, especially after Friday night’s showing from Nuno Espírito Santo’s FC Porto side, who welcomed Tondela, currently at the foot of the table, to the Estádio do Dragão.

The hosts didn’t disappoint the home crowd and powered their way to the top of the Liga NOS table, albeit momentarily, via a 4-0 victory, as they waited in anticipation for Benfica’s potentially tricky away fixture versus Sporting de Braga.

Between both fixtures and still in the distance of this race for the title, Sporting were matched up against Rio Ave in a game that marked Rui Patrício’s 400th appearance for the Lions. The goalkeeper put the occasion to good use, as his team came away with a 1-0 win to hold onto third place.

With the baton placed firmly within the Eagles’ grasp, Benfica kept up with the pace of their rivals – just – thanks to Kostas Mitroglou’s winner in the 80th minute that defined a hard-earned 1-0 victory for the current league leaders. Here’s how the action unfolded.

 

FC Porto 4-0 Tondela

Porto may be in the thick of things in the upper echelons of the league table, but that didn’t stop Nuno resting the likes of Danilo Pereira and Yacine Brahimi for the midweek tie against Serie A high-flyers Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.

The feel-good factor of five wins on the bounce remained, however, with new boy Tiquinho Soares looking to alter the scoreboard as early as the 4th minute with a headed attempt that was palmed wide by Cláudio Ramos.

Tondela’s goalkeeper was called into action once more in the 27th minute when André André picked out Otavio with a short pass, but the Brazilian playmaker couldn’t beat Ramos.

A dose of controversy soon followed, as referee Luis Ferreira took Soares’ side in his appeals for a penalty; a gift put to good use by André Silva who put Porto ahead in the 43rd minute from the spot.

Having already picked up a yellow for the alleged foul inside the box, Osorio was unfortunate enough to collide with Soares once more on the brink of half time. Replays showed that it was the actually the Porto forward who had struck Osorio in the face, but in a time of ‘alternative facts’, the referee dipped back into his pocket to send the Tondela man off for obstruction.

To kick-start the second period, Soares came agonisingly close to doubling Porto’s lead in the 47th minute, as his toe-poke one-on-one with the keeper skipped past the wrong side of the post.

The Dragons came racing towards goal just a minute later, as Jesús Corona squared a pass, again with only the goalkeeper in sight, for André Silva to grab a brace, but the young striker couldn’t maintain his balance when shooting wide with his left foot.

Neves thunderbolt

Rúben Neves then did from far what his compatriot failed to do from close range in the 54th minute, with the midfielder bringing the stadium to its feet with a purposeful right-footed strike into the top corner from 25 yards out.

With Tondela shell-shocked, Corona attempted to lay it on the plate for another of his teammates at the back-post, but this time it was Otavio who failed to hit the target with half of the goal gaping.

In the 63rd minute, Soares made it all look so simple when cutting inside to place his shot into the far corner, putting Porto 3-0 up and adding a fourth to his personal account since joining his new club.

The title hopefuls saved their best move for the outro, as one-touch-football between Óliver Torres and André Silva saw Diogo Jota sing from the same hymn sheet and lash a first-time-volley beyond the goalkeeper’s reach, concluding a 4-0 victory.

 

Sporting 1-0 Rio Ave

Talk of the title is quite some way away from the Estádio José Alvalade, but the fans had their own unique attraction in the form of Rui Patrício’s 400th appearance for the Lions.

Rio Ave’s early dominance will have brought a great deal of suffering to the stands, but Patrício, in hindsight, didn’t mind too much on his special day, as he collected the first shot on goal from Gonçalo Paciência in the 11th minute with a great deal of comfort.

The visitors were in behind the Sporting defence just two minutes later through Filip Krovinovic, but the Croatian’s shot from a tight angle was also dealt with by the Portugal number one.

Jorge Jesus’ side came close to replicating the horror own-goal that placed them a goal down away to Moreirense last week, as an under-pressure Ezequiel Schelotto almost lobbed his own keeper, but Patrício remained privy to the Italian’s intervention and hooked the ball back into Sporting’s control.

Somewhat against the run of play, William Carvalho served as the driving force behind the hosts’ quick counter in the 20th minute, setting up Gelson Martins for a failed shot at Rio Ave’s Cássio, but the rebound was converted by Alan Ruiz for his third goal in as many games for the Lisbon outfit.

‘Saint’ Patrício

The team from Vila do Conde retaliated through Ruben Ribeiro’s arced effort from range, but Patrício continued to stay true to the good form that’s made him a fan favourite over the years with another top save.

January’s Player of the Month, Bas Dost, could’ve contributed yet another goal to add to his collection in the 40th minute, but Gelson’s low cross proved to be a stretch too far for the Dutchman waiting to tap home Sporting’s second of the night.

As the occasions dried up in the second half, Rio Ave were keen to dish out one more ‘heart in the mouth’ moment for their hosts, as Roderick’s equaliser in the 92nd minute, but he was flagged offside by the linesman just as Alvalade threatened to freeze.

 

Sp. Braga 0-1 Benfica

Good form has evaded Jorge Simão’s side for a hot minute, a team that the manager claims will be aiming to break the three-way-monopoly in Portugal and take the league title for themselves by 2020, so in Benfica they had the chance to lay down a law of their own at the Quarry.

With Benfica needing a win, Braga came close to piling on the pressure through Pedro Santos early on, as the winger’s volley from inside the box crashed against the side-netting of Júlio César’s goal.

The visitors looked to rise to the challenge and grabbed the goal they so desired in the 23rd minute through Kostas Mitroglou, but the linesman’s flag deducted the score back to 0-0.

Benfica’s main man for the night took centre stage once more in the 28th minute, courtesy of Rafa Silva’s cross, but the Greek striker directed his half-volley over in Marafona’s off-putting presence.

Only the post stood between Braga and the lead at the other end, as Rodrigo Battaglia rose highest in the 37th minute to power a header across goal and kiss the frame of the net with his attempt.

The intensity of the first-half withered away following the interval, meaning that it wasn’t until the 76th minute that the deadlock came close to disintegrating, as Rodrigo Pinho rounded off a quick Braga counter-attack with a tame shot into Júlio César’s grasp.

Inspiration was scarce as the clock ticked down, but Benfica had been stuck in these sorts of situations before over the years and, sure enough, Mitroglou was right on cue to pull another set of three points out of the hat.

With the ball at the striker’s feet and back to goal, Mitroglou managed to squeeze between Pedro Santos and Marcelo Goiano inside the box before dispatching the winner past Marafona in the 80th minute, taking Benfica back up to first place on 54 points.

Last season an epic title race went right to the wire as Benfica pipped Sporting to the Liga NOS crown. This year the Portuguese Championship again appears set for a thrilling two-horse race. Who will come out on top? To have a flutter use this bonus code on Bet365.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Gameweek 22

FC Porto 4-0 Tondela

Moreirense 1-1 Estoril

Chaves 2-0 Arouca

Feirense 0-1 Boavista

Sporting 1-0 Rio Ave

P. Ferreira 2-1 Vit. Setúbal

Belenenses 1-1 Vit. Guimarães

Sp. Braga 0-1 Benfica

Monday

Marítimo - Nacional

 

Comments (6)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

A big 3 points for us against a Braga team that always puts in 200% of effort against us, no matter what form they have been in. It was an interesting game, not a lot of scoring chances, but nevertheless an intriguing tactical battle. Could have...

A big 3 points for us against a Braga team that always puts in 200% of effort against us, no matter what form they have been in. It was an interesting game, not a lot of scoring chances, but nevertheless an intriguing tactical battle. Could have gone either way but in the end Benfica's greater individual quality won through. I have given some criticicsm to Mitroglou in the last couple of seasons, but he has that vital knack of grabbing very important goals, as he thoroughly demonstrated last week with 2 huge goals. We've already played the traditional 3 tough visits to the north (Porto, Braga and Guimaraes) and got 2 victories and a draw. This is championship winning form and it's pleasing for everyone connected with the club. We have to keep humble and focused and keep this form going.

I didn't see the Porto match, but was amused to hear that yet again they were awarded a penalty and had an opposition player sent off. A couple of months ago there was this huge furore and hullabaloo from Porto officials and fan groups of the club, about Porto apparently being prejudiced by referee decisions and Benfica apparently being favored by the referees. Yet from the start of the season until now, Porto have had by far the most penalties awarded for them, and by far the most opposition players sent off against them, of any team in the league. And I'm not sure if a single penalty has been awarded against Porto in the league all season. Hmmm clearly sounds like a club being unfairly treated by the refs, doesn't it? Looool!!!

Anyway looks like being an interesting fight for the title at this moment in time. Looking at the fixture list, I still make Benfica the favorites to defend their title. Apart from having to come to the Luz, Porto also have to go to Boavista (local derbi), Braga, Maritimo, Chaves and Arouca, all complicated away fixtures. But this is just theoretical of course, as always we will only know in practice how things will pan out in the end.

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Andre/UK
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Anyone else notice how awful most of these teams look week in and week out, outside of the big 3 of course. Then when they play the big 3 all of a sudden they find their game? Come on.

Moireirense looked like PSG against Sporting and now a...

Anyone else notice how awful most of these teams look week in and week out, outside of the big 3 of course. Then when they play the big 3 all of a sudden they find their game? Come on.

Moireirense looked like PSG against Sporting and now a terrible Braga all of a sudden look like world beaters against Benfica. Braga has been terrible for months now.

Why not play like that every week Braga? You would probably be in 2nd if you did.

Mitroglou is the second coming of Hercules! He wrestles lions, he beats the hydra and he is deadly inside the box. If Benfica go on to tie v Porto and win the season by 1 point they should give Mitroglou something for what he did this game.

They are not all like this. There seems to be a different attitude with Boavista, Moireriense, Chaves and Feirense. These four squads even though not the most talented give it 100% every game. Good on them. Setubal and Braga need to be overhauled, if i was their coach I would rip them a new one for the tame efforts in recent months.

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Val
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Andre, I do find it quite ironic that Porto, a club that has become synonymous with corruption, has been crying about what they perceive as some sort of pervasive pro-Benfica bias among the referees. I think anyone who regularly watches the...

Andre, I do find it quite ironic that Porto, a club that has become synonymous with corruption, has been crying about what they perceive as some sort of pervasive pro-Benfica bias among the referees. I think anyone who regularly watches the Primeira Liga will admit that the level of officiating is embarrassingly poor, but at the end of the day, each of the big three are going to benefit from poor officiating and each of the big three are going to be screwed by poor officiating. Benfica are tricampeoes because they have been the most consistent team in Portugal over the past three years. They don't always play the most beautiful football, and they don't always dominate quality opposition, but when their backs are up against the wall, they deliver.

Sporting gave us one hell of a fight last season and I expect Porto to be just as competitive this season. After a rough start under a new coach, they finally appear to be gelling into a quality side. Nuno has made Porto one of the most defensively disciplined sides in all of Europe and in Tiquinho Soares, they now have a two reliable goal scorers. Many are saying that the title will be decided when we play each other at the Catedral in early April, but as Andre mentioned, both sides still have quite a few tricky games against some of the lesser sides that could very well prove just as decisive. May the better team win!

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jon/usa
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Jon, I agree with you on those two basic points. Firstly, I also definitely find it quite rediculous how anyone associated with Porto can even talk about referees and possible corruption. The vast majority of Portuguese people who are not Porto...

Jon, I agree with you on those two basic points. Firstly, I also definitely find it quite rediculous how anyone associated with Porto can even talk about referees and possible corruption. The vast majority of Portuguese people who are not Porto fans (millions and millions of them), have a pretty similar opinion of Pinto Da Costa and his various corruption scandals down the years. But I'll leave it there.

I'd rather focus on your second point, which I agree with completely and have mentioned on this site quite a few times in the last few years. The standard of refereeing is very poor in our Liga, well behind the other major leagues in Europe. Always errors, often major ones. And more often than not it's the big 3 who benefit most from the decisions. But clearly not always, as Porto and Sporting made a lot of noise earlier in the season. While Benfica in recent weeks have had a lot to complain about too (i.e certainly one and maybe even two of the Boavista goals at the Luz should've been disallowed, one of the Moreirense goals was clearly offside in the Taca de Liga semi, and we had a clear penalty claim turned down in the last minute against Setubal). I think the bottom line is just a very poor level of officiating in our Liga.

Yes at this point the title fight is really looking like going down to the wire, as it's currently just a one point difference. But it may not also, things change very quickly in football, you just never know. Porto definitely seem to have the more difficult run in, with particularly the fixtures I mentioned in my other post. Benfica have already played the 3 tough fixtures in the north (can even add Chaves too, who are having a good season) and have been to Madeira twice already. Our toughest remaining away fixtures would appear to be Sporting and Rio Ave. Again this is all in theory, only on the pitch will anything ever be resolved. Vamos ver!!!!

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Andre/UK
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Jon and Andre, will you guys be ordering some cheese to go along with your whine?

Benfica never get any type of rub or preferential treatment. That's why Luis Felipe Vieira demanded and got an emergency meeting with the head of the referees...

Jon and Andre, will you guys be ordering some cheese to go along with your whine?

Benfica never get any type of rub or preferential treatment. That's why Luis Felipe Vieira demanded and got an emergency meeting with the head of the referees association right?

Porto are the corrupt one and the ones who complain, yet your own President just had emergency talks with the ref commission to do exactly what you both just complained Porto did.

Sounds like some Benfica insecurity if you ask me.

Despite your usual trash talk, I wish Benfica the best in the Champions League and hope they progress as far as possible in the Champions League. As I also wish with Porto.

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Chris
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Hey, Chris. I can't speak for Andre, but I will definitely be rooting for Porto tomorrow against Juve. The Italian side are undoubtedly the favorites, but they certainly aren't without their flaws. I have nothing against Porto -- I simply find it...

Hey, Chris. I can't speak for Andre, but I will definitely be rooting for Porto tomorrow against Juve. The Italian side are undoubtedly the favorites, but they certainly aren't without their flaws. I have nothing against Porto -- I simply find it amusing when some of their fans (and especially their president) spread these outrageous conspiracy theories regarding wide-spread corruption and pro-Benfica bias among Portugal's referees. I also have zero toleration for Benfiquistas (LFV included) who cry and complain about the officiating. Unfortunately, poor officiating has become the norm in our league, so it's just something we are all going to have to endure until significant changes are made. I personally wouldn't be opposed to hiring well-respected foreign referees. Many people have also proposed implementing goal-line technology and video replays, but I'm still not quite sold on the latter.

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jon/usa
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