Rounding up some of the last action of 2019, it proved a typically mixed weekend for some of Portugal’s main coaching exports. The biggest story saw Jorge Jesus and Flamengo push European champions Liverpool to extra time in the World Club Cup, before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat in Doha on Saturday.
Elsewhere, there was better news for Paulo Fonseca at Roma and Andre Villas-Boas at Marseille, both of whom are enjoying fine form with their new sides, while in Greece champions PAOK top the table at Christmas after Abel Ferreira’s side hammered Atromitos 5-0 to reach the summit of the Super League at the expense of Pedro Martins’ Olympiacos.
"We showed we are a great team" - Jesus
For Jorge Jesus and Flamengo, the World Club Cup final against Liverpool proved one step too far after a sensational season for the Brazilians with the former Braga, Benfica and Sporting boss at the helm. Roberto Firmino’s extra time winner gave the English Premier League leaders the trophy and denied Fla a remarkable treble following their Brazilian title and Copa Libertadores triumphs.
"Once again Flamengo played a great game,” Jesus said after the match. “Flamengo played against the best team in the world, but here you could not tell they are the best team in the world. Here were two great teams and whoever scored that goal would win. I am very proud to be the coach of these players.
"Flamengo has shown that we’re a great team. I am very proud of my players and my team. Our opponent are ten points ahead in their league but today they were as close to winning as losing because they played against a great team in Flamengo. Brazilian football has shown today that it can rise to the level of the great teams of the world.”
Flamengo returned to Rio de Janeiro to be greeted by hundreds of supporters, having captured the imagination of the entire continent during the season with their results and a stunning brand of football. The players will now take a month off, while Jesus is left to reflect on a special period of his long career.
"It was the best season of my career, clearly,” he said. “Today was the icing on the cake. We almost won these three trophies [championship, Libertadores, Club World Cup] and I am very proud to have worked with these players, to have taken this option to coach in Brazil. Today I am a much better known coach across the world because of these players. It’s frustrating but of course every final you want to win.”
ITALY: Roma flying under Fonseca, Ronaldo frustrated in Super Cup
Roma boss Paulo Fonseca was thrilled with his side after they hammered Fiorentina 4-1 away from home on Friday evening to continue their strong form in Serie A. Goals from Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo gave the Giallorossi a comfortable victory and the capital club impressed with the standard of their football.
“I must say that I am very satisfied with the performance,” Fonseca admitted post-match. "It was a very important victory, we prepared well and did exactly what we had planned, which is not easy. Fiorentina played well against Inter, Juventus and Atalanta, but today we put in a very good performance.
“I just look to the next match, that is always the most important. Over the last few months, we have done well, but at the end of the day we still have to improve, to learn and that means focusing on the next game. I still feel we can control the ball better, as we lost it cheaply at times. The evolution of this team is good, the players have confidence, they believe in our ideas and that is the most important thing for me.”
Roma dominated the game in Florence, recording around 58% possession of the ball and Fonseca says his players are gaining greater understanding of what he wants. “It’s not easy for a team in Italy to have a lot of possession, but the team is slowly understanding how important it is to have the ball and open up the passing channels. We are slowly changing the mentality of the players.
"We have to be balanced in our evaluations. Just because we are in fourth place now, it doesn’t mean we’ve achieved anything or that everything is sorted out. We aren’t even halfway through the season.”
Ronaldo and Juve beaten
Champions Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo were not in league action this weekend, instead travelling to Saudi Arabia to take on Lazio in the Italian Super Cup in Riyadh. The Portugal captain was left disappointed as Lazio upset Maurizio Sarri’s side by running out 3-1 winners, with Ronaldo’s shot parried into Paulo Dybala’s path for Juve’s goal.
The defeat was Ronaldo’s first in a final for over 6.5 years, since he and Real Madrid were beaten by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Copa Del Rey in 2013. Since then, Ronaldo won 12 consecutive finals for club and country, including four Champions Leagues, a European Championship and this summer’s UEFA Nations League.
He doesn’t do 2nd place pic.twitter.com/mati0eZrUx— Sean Gillen 🇵🇹 (@SeanGillen9) December 22, 2019
FRANCE: Jardim still uncertain despite big win
Monaco’s clash with Lille in France on Saturday night was always destined to have high Portuguese involvement, and Gelson Martins was on the scoresheet as Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco surprised many with a 5-1 victory.
Lille arrived at the Stade Louis II having won their last four Ligue 1 matches, during which time Christophe Galtier’s men had conceded just once, and things looked to have started well when Victor Osimhen’s 13th-minute strike put them 1-0 up at Monaco. However, Jardim’s side drew level ten minutes later when former Sporting man Gelson showed electric pace to fire home from Wissam Ben Yedder’s throughball.
Keita Balde put the hosts 2-1 up and the second half saw Monaco rip their opponents apart on the counter attack, with Ben Yedder scoring twice and Kamil Glik adding a fifth from substitute Adrien Silva’s free-kick. Gil Dias played the full 90 minutes for Monaco, while José Fonte and Renato Sanches were in the travelling Lille team.
Despite the victory, rumours of Jardim’s future being insecure have failed to dampen, especially after Monaco vice-president Oleg Petrov gave an interview after the match and spoke critically about the team’s overall performance so far this season. Monaco currently sit 7th in Ligue 1 after seven rounds, having improved on a disastrous start to the campaign.
“The team didn’t listen to all the noise, they didn’t let go of the coach and we had a good intense match,” Jardim said. “I haven't spoken to anyone [about my future] but I don’t know why there’s all this talk. This surprises me a little. Many people are trying to distort the truth. I'm not going to be stressed for my future. I like my job. We just won 5-1. We are in good form. We're going to come back [in the New Year] and work. Now it's family, friends and forgetting about football."
Elsewhere in France, Andre Villas-Boas and Marseille made it 22 points from the last 24 on offer with a 3-1 win over Nimes. Marseille opened up a 5-point advantage over Rennes – who have a game in-hand – in second place behind Paris Saint-German. “Everyone has changed their mentality, which allows us to be second,” Villas-Boas said after the match. “Because the team is almost the same as that which played the final of the Europa League (2018), and which finished fifth last year. Now we have a break coming and that's good, we will be able to rest a little.”
Paulo Sousa’s Bordeaux have lost form heading into the break, with a 1-0 defeat at Rennes their fourth consecutive loss in all competitions and means they drop to 13th place. French football returns on the first weekend of January with the French Cup.
Goals: Vieirinha, Quaresma, Rafael Lopes on target
PAOK Salonika head into the winter break in Greece as table-toppers thanks to a 5-1 win over Atromitos. Vieirinha opened the scoring with a deflected free-kick for his third goal of the season as Abel Ferreira’s men went two points clear at the top of the Super League after 16 rounds. Olympiacos, coached by Pedro Martins, drop to second following a 0-0 draw at Volos with goalkeeper José Sá and Rúben Semedo in the line-up.
In Turkey, Ricardo Quaresma scored his second goal of the season but missed a penalty – twice! - as Kasimpasa lost 4-3 to Gaziantep. Quaresma’s goal on 57 minutes from close range brought the score to 4-2 but the veteran Portuguese failed to draw his side closer to parity when he missed a penalty twice after a re-take for encroachment.
Finally to Poland, where striker Rafael Lopes ended somewhat of a goal drought in Cracovia Krakow’s 2-0 win over Slask Wroclaw. The goal was former Boavista striker Lopes’ 7th in the Ekstraklasa this season but his first in two months.
By Sean Gillen