Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers are headed to Wembley as FA Cup semi-finalists after a convincing 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Saturday. Diogo Jota scored one of the goals for Wolves, who are joined in the last four by favourites Manchester City after Bernardo Silva ignited their comeback from 2-0 down at Swansea City.
Elsewhere, Marco Silva secured a huge victory for Everton with a 2-0 win over Chelsea, but there was less fortune for Paulo Sousa who was denied a debut win on the Bordeaux bench by a stoppage time goal. Vieirinha and Orlando Sá lead the goalscoring stories with a screamer and a decisive winner in Greece and Belgium respectively, while there were also goals for Portuguese in Bulgaria, Israel, Holland, Romania, Ukraine and the English Championship.
“It was special” – Neves
For Wolves, a first semi-final in the FA Cup for over twenty years came with a deserved win over Manchester United al Molineux. After a goalless first half, Raul Jimenez and Portuguese winger Diogo Jota got the all-important goals as the home side’s dominance grew as the game progressed, delighting their coach Nuno.
“The FA Cup is the oldest competition there is and we’ve played well and achieved it with the amazing support of our fans, pushing us, believing, and the noise was fantastic,” Nuno said.
Midfielder Rúben Neves backed his manager’s praise of the atmosphere, saying: “It was incredible. The people were unbelievable like usual, but today was a little bit more special, so thanks for them. The fans deserved it. The main thing is we achieved the win and we are at Wembley, to play the semi-final.
“We thought we already deserved a goal and fortunately Raul again scored the first one for us, but I think we controlled the whole game. They didn’t have too many chances to score a goal, we controlled without the ball and fortunately, today, our two strikers again scored, they are playing very well and fortunately we go through.”
Jota is becoming an increasingly eye-catching performer for Wolves, and his selection for Portugal is merited as far as Nuno is concerned. “It’s well deserved, he’s done really good and to go to your national team is a reward, because representing your country is the strongest thing there is,” Nuno said. “We’ve got 10 players of our squad who are going now – so our wishes are they enjoy themselves, play, play well and come back healthy.”
Bernardo leads City fightback
Manchester City are strong favourites for the competition, but the Premier League champions had to come from 2-0 down at second-tier Swansea City. Pep Guardiola’s side trailed 2-0 at the break, but Bernardo Silva started the fightback with a beautifully placed finish with his left foot, before substitute Sergio Aguero levelled from the penalty spot.
With extra time looming, there were just two minutes left on the clock when Bernardo turned provider for Aguero to get the winner. “It’s very important to win these kinds of games as well, not only the games you win four or five-nil, but these games where you have to show character,” Bernardo admitted.
“All the players feel that this season can be special,” he added. “Last season was special in the way we won the Premier League; this season can be special because we've already won one competition, we’re still playing for three. It will be crucial, to make something special and to try to write an important page in the history of this club, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Silva’s half-time inspiration
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was quick to direct praise towards manager Marco Silva after The Toffees beat Chelsea 2-0 at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday. Second-half goals from Richarlison – coming after a shot from Portugal midfielder André Gomes - and Gylfi Sigurdsson gave Silva’s side a much-needed win after their disappointing 3-2 defeat at Newcastle last week.
Portuguese boss Silva has often come under the spotlight for criticism in recent months, but England goalkeeper Pickford was keen to emphasise his coach’s role in the win. “The manager told us we were in a great position for the second half, that if you don’t play well but are still 0-0, it is a great stepping stone,” said Pickford. “And we came back out flying. It was a great start to the second half and after we scored the first goal, we developed some momentum.
“I didn’t have too much to do, really, it was about managing the game until half-time. That is when the manager comes into play and gives us his tactics and we stuck to them in the second half.”
For his part, Silva said the team has gone some way to repaying the fans after last week’s defeat. “We gave our fans what they deserved, they were behind us even in a tough first half,” he said. “This game was really important for us to achieve three points to give our players the confidence we needed and to give the fans three points after our last game.
“I told our players at half-time, they had to do everything different to win the game. We had our plan and strategy to achieve the victory. We had to show we could give a strong answer and take back the points we gave away last week, to put them in our pocket this afternoon and give our fans what they deserved – the three or four thousand who were at Newcastle last week, also.”
“A lot of emotion” - Orlando Sá
Orlando Sá scored his first goal in the Belgian top flight for over a year within a minute of coming on as a substitute in Standard Liege’s incredible 4-3 victory over Beveren on Sunday. The hosts came from 3-0 down to win the match, with Sá on hand to score the winner by converting a loose ball in the penalty area having just emerged from the side-lines.
"It's a goal that brought a lot of emotion,” said the former Porto striker. “I have waited so long, I want to share it with all those who have always believed in me. This season has been difficult for me on and off the field, and I have had some difficult times, not just because of injury or lack of goals.
“I was available for the team but this goal is more than just a moment. It will give me the strength and motivation to go home and wake up on Monday with this desire to continue in the playoffs. This goal takes a few pounds off my shoulders.
“I say thanks to the fans because I felt they were always behind me: I promise to continue to be better in the playoffs. In my first season, I scored a lot of goals but most of them were not vital. This season, I may only get a few but their weight will be bigger. My first playoffs are a big motivation to help the team. I will be happy if any goal helps us become a champion.”
Late goal denies Sousa debut win; Jardim's Monaco flying
Paulo Sousa took charge of his first match as new boss of Bordeaux, with the Portuguese facing the difficult challenge of hosting Rennes, who have been catching the eye in Ligue 1 this season. The match almost followed a perfect script, with Sousa’s team leading 1-0 heading into injury time thanks to Francois Kamano’s strike just before the hour mark.
However, Rennes snatched a point when Mbaye Niang smashed in from inside the box following a corner, leaving Sousa disappointed but happy with what he saw from his players. “When you coach a team, it's to win,” he said. “Everything we worked on this week, everything I asked them and everything I wanted, I saw on the field.
“There was quality on some concepts, including defensive. I saw the mentality that I look for, ambition in the players. We created opportunities. I congratulated my players for that.
“In the second half, it was more physically difficult, the lines were wider, the gaps were bigger and the opponent had more space. We had a good game and we could have won and we tried for a second goal.
“It is a mistake of inattention, it is necessary to be more concentrated on the game. On this corner, we defended well on the first ball, but not on the third one. We must be more attentive."
Monaco beat Lille in battle of Portuguese
Also in Ligue 1, Leonardo Jardim and Monaco are up to 16th and 8 points clear of the drop zone following a huge 1-0 win at 2nd-place Lille. The home side had been unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year, but a last-minute goal from January arrival from Rio Ave Carlos Vinicius, gave Jardim’s side the win.
The match featured seven Portuguese players, with Lille starting José Fonte, Xeca and Rafael Leão, who was replaced by Rui Fonte for the final 15 minutes. For Monaco, Adrien Silva, Rony Lopes and Gelson Martins all started, with Lopes subbed in injury time just after Vinicius struck.
Juve lose without Ronaldo; struggles continue for Silva, Sanches
Cristiano Ronaldo’s importance to Juventus was underlined again this weekend without the Portugal captain even setting foot on the field. Without their star man, previously unbeaten Juve surprisingly went down 2-0 at Genoa in Serie A.
Ronaldo was given the weekend off following his exploits in the Champions League, while João Cancelo was selected by the Bianconeri. Cancelo had warned during the build-up to the match that “the magical night has already passed and now we need to be focused, determined and win this match,” but Juve were beaten by a Genoa side containing on-loan Benfica defender Pedro Pereira, while Miguel Veloso emerged as a late substitute.
Meanwhile in Italy, Lazio’s 4-1 hammering of Bruno Alves’ Parma afforded them the opportunity to give 25 minutes to 19-year-old prospect Pedro Neto, the longest yet of the Portuguese forward’s three Serie A cameos. Elsewhere Cédric Soares was not called from the bench by Inter as the Nerazurri won the Milan derby 3-2 at San Siro.
A Portuguese who was given the chance to impress was André Silva, who was restored to the Sevilla line-up for their trip to Espanyol. However, Silva was replaced just after the hour with his team 1-0 up and has now gone ten appearances without finding the back of the net. In Germany, Bayern Munich hammered Mainz 6-0 in the Bundesliga, but Renato Sanches was an unused substitute for the champions.
Vieirinha screamer leads Portuguese goals across Europe
PAOK’s march towards a first Greek Super League title in 34 years continued as they came from behind to secure a 2-1 win at Panaitolikos on Saturday. Club captain Vieirinha scored a vital equaliser for PAOK with another sensational long-range effort in the second half, while Sérgio Oliveira also played for unbeaten PAOK. Pedro Martins Olympiakos saw their derby with Panathinaikos suspended.
Elsewhere on the goals front, well-travelled Portuguese midfielder David Caiado scored the winner for Gaz Metan in their 2-1 win over Romanian giants Dinamo Bucharest in Liga I. In England, Marco Matias scored for Sheffield Wednesday in their 4-2 win over Blackburn in the Championship, finding the back of the net for the first time since December.
Fortuna Sittard – one of the livelier sides in the Dutch Eredivisie – got back to winning ways after a brief slump by beating Emmen 3-1 with Lisandro Semedo getting their second. The Championship round of the campaign in Israel’s Ligat Ha-al is underway, and Hapoel Be’re Sheva were 1-0 winners at Maccabi Netanya thanks to a goal from former Benfica defender Miguel Vítor.
In Bulgaria, midfielder Tiago Rodrigues scored the opener for CSKA Sofia in their 2-0 win over Beroe, while former Sporting defender Nuno Reis scored at the wrong end for Levski Sofia in their 4-3 victory at Vereya. Finishing in Ukraine, former Sporting man Cristian Ponde scored an equaliser for Karpaty in their 1-1 draw with Mariupol.
Portuguese bosses: Back-to-back defeats for Morais
José Morais, who left Karpaty to during the winter to head to South Korea, lost for the second time in the space of a few days with new club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, with their 1-0 defeat in the Asian Champions League to Thai side Buriram United followed by a 1-0 reverse at home to Gangwon in the KL1.
In the English Championship. José Gomes' Reading are one point above the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw at Stoke City. Gomes, has seen improvement since his side were in the bottom three and three points adrift of safety back in December, said the game was "not beautiful" but "for sure this point will be important for our position in the table at the end of the season."
Meanwhile, in Poland Ricardo Sá Pinto’s Legia Warsaw survived a red card to Portuguese midfielder Cafú as they beat Slask Wroclaw to remain two points behind leaders Lechia Gdansk. In Mexico, Pedro Caixinha’s Cruz Azul have three wins in a row after a 4-1 hammering of Pachuca has the team hitting their stride in the Liga MX Clausura.
By Sean Gillen