Cristiano Ronaldo was again the saviour as Juventus continued their unconvincing run of form in Italy with a 1-1 draw at home with city rivals Torino. The Portugal captain rose to head home with five minutes left on the clock to earn a point for the Serie A champions, who have now won just one of their last six matches.
Elsewhere, Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco remain on the slide in France’s Ligue 1, with another defeat despite an early goal from Gelson Martins leaving them three points above the relegation play-off. Paulo Sousa’s Bordeaux are also struggling in France, but there was better news for Nuno Espírito Santo and Marco Silva in England with both securing wins as the season nears a close.
Ronaldo keeping his head at Juve
For Ronaldo, another important goal and another goal scored with his head. The veteran Portuguese has scored seven of his last ten goals in the air, with the most recent saving Juventus from defeat to local rivals Torino, who led for much of the game through Sasa Lukic’s 17th minute goal. Ronaldo levelled things in the 84th minute when he guided Leonardo Spinazzola’s cross past Salvatore Sirigu in the Torino goal.
Perhaps a remaining target for Ronaldo is to challenge Sampdoria’s experienced forward Fabio Quagliarella for the honour of Serie A’s leading marksman. Ronaldo was the clear favourite for the title when he joined Juve last summer, but with 21 goals the Portugal man finds himself four goals away from Quagliarella with three matches left to play.
Jardim calls for “cool heads” as Monaco stutter
Monaco’s alarming slump in recent weeks has led to Leonardo Jardim’s side being pulled back into the relegation battle in France’s Ligue 1. Jardim’s men were beaten 3-2 at home by Saint Etienne on Sunday, with the result leaving Monaco without a win in six matches and just three points above the relegation play-off place.
The meeting with St Etienne began well for the hosts as Portuguese forward Gelson Martins scored his first goal since February with a brilliantly taken opener. Gelson controlled a lofted pass from Jemerson before beating Stephane Ruffier with a precise right-footed finish on 15 minutes. Monaco led 1-0 at the break but the match changed on several key points in the second half.
Jardim lost his goalkeeper Daniel Subasic to injury ahead of the second period, while Brazilian defender Naldo blazed over the bar from close range to pass up a glorious opportunity to double Monaco’s lead. The visitors drew level just before the hour mark when Monaco defender Fode Ballo Toure dreadfully miscued an attempted clearance and sliced the ball into his own net, and St Etienne were 3-1 up before the 80-minute mark.
Carlos Vinicius scored a late consolation for the Monegasques but Jardim was left to rue turning points in the second half. “The game did not switch on the own goal, it changed when Glik headed against the post and Naldo put the ball over the bar from three meters,” the Portuguese boss said after the final whistle. “Then we get the counter punch. The score going to 1-1 when it could have just gone to 2-0 motivates the opponent.
“In the first half we were compact in a close game. It’s tough because we had the opportunity to end the suspense in the game. We tried to get the second goal when it was 1-1 but our opponents have good transition players and they hurt us on the counter attack.”
Adrien Silva and Rony Lopes joined Gelson in the starting line-up for the defeat, which leaves Jardim’s side with a 3-point advantage over Caen in their target to avoid 18th place and a relegation play-off. Caen, who beat Monaco in March, have found form of late and have taken seven points from their last three matches in Ligue 1.
“We still need some points to achieve our goal,” Jardim said. “We have to play two matches of the last three away from home, but this season we have been better away from home. It’s life; it’s sport. It will be difficult but now we must keep cool heads."
Sousa critical of Bordeaux after defeat
Also struggling for results in the French top flight is Paulo Sousa, who watched his Bordeaux lose for the fourth successive match with a 1-0 reverse at home to Angers. The Portuguese has just one victory from his eight matches in charge so far, with Bordeaux not yet safe from relegation with an 8-point gap between them and Caen, who they travel to on the final day.
Speaking about the loss to Angers, Sousa told reporters: “Our first half was very bad. We were slow in our build up. There was no movement; no intensity. The players were waiting for the ball, which we should not do. We played backwards too much. Our opponents reduced the space well but we made it too easy for them. We also lacked quality in finishing in the final area.”
Next up for Sousa’s side is a trip to Lille, who took a huge step towards securing second place with a 2-2 draw at Lyon. José Fonte started for Lille while Rui Fonte and Rafael Leão were introduced as substitutes, while Lyon had Anthony Lopes in goal, with the Portuguese telling the press after the match that the mixed nature of his team’s performance was “a summary of our season”.
“Dr Nuno” ending season on high with Wolves
Nuno Espírito Santo was presented with an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Wolverhampton prior to Saturday’s clash with Fulham. Nuno wore the traditional robe and hat on the Molineux pitch as he was made a doctor of sport, due to his bringing “pride and recognition to our city on an international scale,” according to the University Vice-Chancellor.
Wolves marked the occasion by beating Fulham 1-0 to win for the third match running and guarantee 7th place in the Premier League. Rui Patrício, João Moutinho, Rúben Neves, Diogo Jota and substitute Ruben Vinagre were all involved by Nuno, who accepted his honour in typically modest fashion.
“I will never forget,” he said. “I’m very, very honoured. It’s a privilege for me to receive that from the university. I’m not a doctor, I’m a simple man. I will always be a simple man. It’s something I will never forget. It’s for my players, the staff, everybody. I’m very thankful. Thank you.”
Elsewhere, Everton are also aiming to end the season in a positive run of form, although Wolves’ victory ended Marco Silva’s side’s hopes of finishing in 7th spot. Everton, without the suspended André Gomes, made it five wins from their last seven games with a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Goodison Park on Friday night.
Goals: Vezo on target in Spain, Miguel Cardoso strikes in Russia
Rúben Vezo has two goals in four matches for Spanish side Levante after getting the second in his team’s crucial 4-1 win over Rayo Vallecano. Vezo’s superb header helped Levante to a vital victory to keep the team three points clear of the drop-zone. In the race for the top four, Valencia had the luxury of substituting Gonçalo Guedes at half time as they beat Huesca 6-2. Los Ches were 5-0 up at the break when Guedes was removed in order to focus on this week’s Europa League tie with Arsenal.
There were plenty of Portuguese goals elsewhere in Europe. Miguel Cardoso scored in the Moscow derby in Russia, with CSKA Moscow and Dinamo Moscow drawing 2-2 in the capital on Sunday evening. Former Tondela man Cardoso made it 1-1 in the first half to draw Dinamo level, and the point could prove valuable in his side avoiding relegation.
In Belgium, Charleroi lead the Europa League play-off table after former Braga defender Núrio Fortuna scored in their 2-0 win over Sint-Truiden. On the theme of goal-scoring defenders, Pedro Eugénio found the net for the third match running and the 4th time in 5 matches for Bulgarian side Beroe as they held champions Ludogorets to a 1-1 draw. The dropped points for leaders Ludogorets gave CSKA Sofia the chance to close the gap at the top to three points, which they did with a Tiago Rodrigues goal in their 3-1 win at Cherno More. Midfielder David Caiado scored as Gaz Metan beat Hermannstadt 4-1 in Romania.
Trophy-winners in Poland, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia
Last Thursday saw a significant trophy for Portuguese Abroad as veteran forward Flávio Paixão helped Lechia Gdansk to the Polish Cup with a dramatic last-gasp 1-0 win over Jagiellonia Bialystok. Paixão provided the cross from which Artur Sobiech scored the winning goal in the 96th minute to give Lechia the cup for the second time in their history. Defender José Nunes also played in the match for Lechia.
“It’s the best moment of my career,” Paixão told the Portuguese press. “We won the cup, I have 15 goals, we are in the fight for the championship and we can expect bigger things to come. We built a new team with ambition and hunger to bring success to this club. For me, ever since I came to Poland I wanted to win something. It’s my first trophy and I want more.”
Meanwhile, Nuno Morais is another defender who has been prolific this season and the 35-year-old scored his 13th league goal of the season as APOEL secured the Cypriot title in impressive fashion on Saturday. Morais got the second goal for APOEL in their final day clash with title rivals Apollon, with Morais’ side running out 3-0 winners and crowned champions for the 7th consecutive season.
In Saudi Arabia, Pedro Emanuel’s Al-Taawoun caused an upset by beating favourites Al-Ittihad in the final of the King’s Cup in Riyadh. It is the second time former Porto defender Pedro Emanuel’s side have shocked one of the major forces, with their crushing 5-0 win over Al-Hilal in the semi-final the biggest defeat for the champions in 30 years and leading to the resignation of the club’s president.
For Al-Taawoun, the triumph is first ever major trophy while it also represents the third country in which Pedro Emanuel has won the domestic cup competition. The 44-year-old won the Taça de Portugal with Académica in 2012 and the Cypriot Cup with Apollon in 2016.
By Sean Gillen