Diogo Jota is the undoubted hero of the Portuguese Abroad contingent this weekend after scoring a hat-trick – including an injury-time winner – to give Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers a 4-3 win over Leicester City in the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Rafael Leão’s goalscoring run continues in France, but it was substitute Xeka who got the winner as Lille came from behind to beat Amiens in Ligue 1, while on the managerial front there were defeats for Miguel Cardoso in Spain and Marco Silva in England, but Pedro Caixinha secured an important three points in Mexico.

Nuno Espírito Santo selected five Portuguese in his starting line-up for the match with Leicester, with Rúben Neves and João Moutinho again in midfield, while Rúben Vinagre took his place at left wing-back and Rui Patrício kept goal. The Portuguese contingent were dominant from the start, with Neves having a superb shot tipped over the bar, and the resulting corner soon led to Moutinho crossing for Jota to open the scoring at the back post on 4 minutes.

Wolves doubled their lead when Moutinho’s corner was headed in by Ryan Bennett, although it was not all plain sailing for Nuno’s compatriots as prior to that Rui Patrício was almost embarrassed by Jamie Vardy when attempting to adjust his feet in possession. Leicester then caught the hosts cold after half time with two quickfire goals to draw level at 2-2 on 51 minutes.

Nuno’s side re-took the lead on 64 minutes, and it was a fantastic goal made in Portugal. Midfielder Neves clipped a perfect long pass towards Jota, who took the ball down on his chest before beating Kasper Schmeichel with a left-footed finish. Wolves appeared on course for a 3-2 victory, but Leicester equalised through experienced defender Wes Morgan’s header on 87 minutes.

Neves the architect

That left the stage set for Jota to complete his treble with almost the last kick of the game. Again Neves was the architect, catching Leicester out with a driven pass into the channel for ex-Benfica striker Raul Jimenez, who played the ball across the area for Jota to coolly slot home with his right foot. The stadium erupted and Nuno ran the length of the touchline to join the celebrations, leading to the Portuguese coach being sent off shortly after.

I'm so happy for the team and for Diogo”, Neves said after the match. “He's an unbelievable player - he showed that last season as well. This season he's had an injury but he's come back and worked really hard and had a massive game. We are all really happy for him.

“Me? I always try to do my best for the team - I work every day to get better, so that the team gets the best of me. I practice not only with Diogo but with all of the forward options we have. We work during the week with this in mind - to get better and to improve."

I had to hug Jota – Nuno

Jota also received praise from his boss Nuno, who admitted that he was correctly expelled for his celebrations after the winning goal. “I was sent off and rightly so. I had to hug him [Jota], because he came back from injury and he’s worked very hard. Every time he’s on the football pitch he gives 100 per cent and I really appreciate it.”

The man himself was delighted with the result and his contribution when speaking to reporters after the game. “This is the kind of game I watched as a kid and now being part of it is a good moment for me,” Jota said. “In the end, when we win it is the best feeling in the world. A hat-trick is really special. I know it’s not happened in a long time. This is the second of my career, so it’s like giving your team the win, it feels very good.”

Xeca the matchwinner as Leão run continues

Rafael Leão is enjoying by far the best moment of his season with French side Lille, having scored for the fourth consecutive game in Ligue 1 as his team came from behind to beat Amiens 2-1 on Friday night. However, it was midfielder Xeka who scored the vital goal after coming off the bench, as Lille maintained their excellent season that sees them 2nd in the table.

Lille trailed 1-0 for much of the first half to Juan Otero’s 5th-minute strike, and the frustration was exacerbated when star man Nicolas Pepe missed a penalty for the hosts on 39 minutes. However, former Sporting striker Leão ensured the teams went into the break level, firing in from close range with his left foot.

The hosts, who also fielded José Fonte in defence, pushed for the winning goal in the second half, and former Braga midfielder Xeka was thrown on by manager Christophe Galtier with just under twenty minutes remaining. It proved an inspired decision, with Xeca arriving in the box to head home a cross from right-back Jeremy Pied on 85 minutes.

Dalot’s late call-up, Quaresma decisive

Diogo Dalot was a late inclusion in Manchester United’s starting line-up for their 2-1 victory over Brighton on Saturday. Dalot was initially named on the substitute bench for the match at Old Trafford, but injury to Luke Shaw saw the Portuguese drafted in to play left-back for what was a 7th win in a row for the Red Devils.

The former Porto defender assisted what proved the winner for Marcus Rashford, later telling MUTV: With 15 minutes to go I knew I was playing. Those who are on the bench need to be prepared and I was and I was happy to play. I feel comfortable in every position as long as I can play, players in United we need to be able in every position, I was comfortable and it was good for me. I tried to give the ball to Marcus and he did the rest it was an amazing goal, very good. He is on fire!”

Meanwhile, in Turkey Ricardo Quaresma marked his first start for Besiktas in around six weeks with an assist in their 3-1 victory at Akhisarspor. The 35-year-old winger’s superb free-kick delivery was converted by Gokhan Gonul just after half time to put Besiktas 2-0 up and well on their way to victory in the Super Lig.

Cardoso suffering in Spain

Miguel Cardoso’s Celta Vigo lost from a winning position for the second consecutive match in La Liga on Saturday, after going down 2-1 at home to Valencia. Celta took the lead five minutes before half time at the Balaidos Stadium through Mexican defender Nestor Araujo, and the hosts’ lead remained intact until twenty minutes from time.

However, goals from Fran Torres (71) and former Benfica striker Rodrigo (84) consigned Cardoso to a fourth straight league defeat. Celta are currently 17th in La Liga, one point and one place above ever-improving Rayo Vallecano. The former Rio Ave boss is without a win in Spain since Celta’s victory at Villarreal on 8th December.

“We didn’t perform at our best” – Silva

Marco Silva was honest in his assessment of his Everton side after the Toffees lost 2-1 to Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday. After a goalless first half, Everton fell 2-0 down in the early stages of the second period, with James Ward-Prowse scoring a long-range goal and an unfortunate own goal from Lucas Digne putting the visitors behind.

Gylfi Sigurdsson grabbed an injury-time consolation, but it was too late for Silva, who selected André Gomes in midfield but withdrew the former Benfica man before the hour mark. Gomes has now been substituted in five of his last six appearances in the Premier League as he struggles to recapture his earlier form.

“I said last week [following the win over Bournemouth] how we were strong and showed character and personality,” said Silva. “This afternoon we never gave up again. But, of course, before the goals they scored we should have played differently to achieve a good result.

“They were better than us in the first half, we spoke at half-time and changed some things and started the second half like we wanted to, to fight and compete in the match like we wanted and we created chances. Of course, after that, from one long ball and one second ball they scored a fantastic goal, from out of the box.

“It allowed them to play like they wanted on the counter-attack. But we didn’t perform at our best level to create enough chances to equalise.”

Portuguese bosses: Caixinha, Martins victorious

Pedro Caixinha’s Cruz Azul bounced back from a shaky start to the Mexican Clausura with an impressive 1-0 win at Tigres on Saturday evening. Caixinha’s men, who won the Copa MX and were runners up in the Liga MX in the Arpetura stage, suffered back-to-back home defeats recently in league and cup. However, Elias Hernandez’s first-half penalty gave Cruz Azul a precious win at regular champions Tigres.

Over in Greece, there was another win for Pedro Martins’ Olympiakos, who are on a run of seven wins and two draws from their last nine Super League games. With José Sá in goal and Daniel Podence in midfield, Olympiakos won 2-1 at Pas Giannina, with Podence assisting the winning goal for Lazoros Christodoulopolous.

Vieirinha, Morais on target

Martins' Olympiakos still have much work to do if they are going to challenge Greek league leaders PAOK, who enjoy an 8-point advantage at the top of the table. PAOK dispatched Panionios 3-0 in Thessaloniki on Saturday, with experienced midfielder Vieirinha getting the second on the stroke of half time.

And of course a Portuguese Abroad Round-Up is rarely complete without Nuno Morais scoring from the penalty spot in Cyprus. The veteran defender, who turns 35 next week, converted in the second half to net his 10th league goal of the season and give APOEL a 1-0 away win at AEL, for whom former Belenenses defender André Teixeira was sent off.

By Sean Gillen

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Cristiano takes better free kicks than me, but I try to do my best…”

Bruno Alves
(Portugal veteran after scoring a beauty for Parma against Milan) 

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