Portugal midfielder João Mário was the standout Portuguese performer in Europe this weekend, with Inter’s previously forgotten man scoring his first goal of the season with a brilliant left-footed finish and playing a part in three other goals as the Nerazurri beat Genoa 5-0 in Italy.
Meanwhile, Vítor Pereira stands on the verge of securing Shanghai SIPG’s first-ever Chinese title win, while Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk beat Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine’s big clash and there were goals for Flávio Paixão, Daniel Candeias, Christian Ponde and Rúben Neves.
For João Mário, a statement performance having been reintroduced to the fold at Inter this week. The former Sporting man had been somewhat unceremoniously sidelined this season as Inter look to sell the midfielder, with the 25-year-old left out of his club’s European squad registration list and only making his first appearance last Monday against Lazio.
The showing against Lazio clearly impressed coach Lucian Spalletti, who praised João Mário’s performance given his lack of playing time, telling the Italian media that the midfielder “is very mentally strong” and the Portuguese was handed another start for Inter’s home match with Genoa, for whom Pedro Pereira and Miguel Veloso featured.
Inter ran amok in front of 70,000 supporters against a hapless Genoa side to secure a 7th straight Serie A victory, with João Mário playing a part in Robert Gagliardini’s opener and the second for Matteo Politano. The Portuguese got his name on the scoresheet to make it 4-0, finishing brilliantly with his left foot during stoppage time, before his cross was headed in by Radja Nainggolan a minute later.
Pereira on brink of glory
Vítor Pereira is hoping to become the second Portuguese manager abroad to win a major trophy in the space of a week as he looks to follow Pedro Caixinha’s Copa MX Apertura triumph by winning the Chinese CSL title with Shanghai SIPG. The former Porto boss saw his team produce an astonishing performance to beat perennial champions Guangzhou Evergrande 5-4 away from home on Saturday.
Ex-Porto striker Hulk was among the goals for Shanghai, who now have a 5-point lead at the top of the table with just two matches remaining. The result leaves Pereira, who has recently served a touchline ban, one win away from securing a first-ever title for his team, which could come on Wednesday against Beijing Renhe.
90 minutes all-round in Germany
This weekend saw Portugal’s Bundesliga contingent all make important steps in their season by playing crucial full matches for their teams. Most significantly, Raphaël Guerreiro not only played his first 90 minutes of the season for Borussia Dortmund, the left-back was widely praised for his performance in their 1-0 win at Wolfsburg.
For the ever-improving Renato Sanches, there was a first 90 minutes since September, as the former Benfica midfielder started Bayern Munich’s home draw with Freiburg – a result that allowed Dortmund to extend their lead at the top to four points. Elsewhere Bruma, who has struggled for game-time recently, started and finished a Bundesliga match for the first time this season as RB Leipzig ran out impressive 3-0 winners at Hertha Berlin.
There was also a first La Liga start for Gelson Martins in Spain with Atletico Madrid, with the former Sporting forward playing 88 minutes of the 1-1 draw at Leganes. Elsewhere in Spain, Gonçalo Guedes returned for Valencia after almost a month out in their surprise 1-0 home defeat to Girona, while injury kept André Silva out of Sevilla’s goalless draw at Real Sociedad.
Lille beaten in Paris
High-flying Lille travelled to champions Paris Saint-Germain this weekend, and manager Christoph Galtier opted to stick with inexperienced striker Raphael Leão in his starting line-up, following the 19-year-old’s debut goal last weekend. José Fonte and Xeca also started for the visitors, who were beaten 2-1, with Rui Fonte replacing Raphael Leão early in the second half.
Defeat for Lille saw Montpellier move above them into second place with an impressive 3-0 win over Marseille on Sunday, although Portugal defender Pedro Mendes missed the game due to a midweek red card in the French Cup. In Ligue 2, Portuguese coach Rui Almeida saw his Troyes side come from 2-0 down to beat Valenciennes 4-2, with three goals coming in the dying minutes.
“We believed in ourselves until the end” - Fonseca
Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk opened up an 8-point lead at the top of the Ukrainian Premier League after a dramatic 95th-minute winner saw them beat Dynamo Kyiv on Saturday. Fonseca’s men trailed at half time, but goals from Junior Morais (54’) and Viktor Kovalenko (95’) gave them a precious win.
“The late goal resulted from our believing in ourselves to the very end,” Fonseca said after the game, emphasising that he relished the open nature of the game. “These kinds of games are worth watching. A very emotional encounter for the fans. Over the recent period vs Dynamo, it was probably the most open football. Perhaps since the Kyiv side also needed a victory.
“At certain moments, the game got really balanced, and we gave the initiative away to Dynamo, resulting in more space available for launching attacks. At the same time, I must say that we encountered a great team. At some points of the game, Dynamo were better; with us proving better at other moments. Good football. The emotional and enjoyable match - the right kind of game worth watching.”
Wolves edged out
Nuno Espírito Santo refused to be downhearted after his Wolverhampton Wanderers side lost 3-2 at home to Tottenham Hotspur in what was the West Midlands club’s third consecutive league defeat. Rúben Neves scored a penalty for Wolves who threatened a remarkable comeback having trailed 3-0 at one stage at Molineux.
“We had the character and in the end we could have drawn, you never know, but it was well played. There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy, all the players gave everything,” said the ex Porto coach.
The result was perhaps harsh on Nuno’s side given Wolves had what appeared a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside with the score at 2-0. “It could have made a big difference,” said Nuno. “You never know what can happen after that in the game. The ball went inside and it’s so clear so it’s hard not to feel it’s a little bit unfair.
“I saw it and the referee is going to see it, but it’s a tough job and we know there are going to be mistakes. It’s a fantastic move from my boys and goes in the net.”
There was better luck elsewhere for the Portuguese managers in England, with José Mourinho securing another victory with Manchester United thanks to a last-gasp 2-1 win over Bournemouth. Meanwhile, Marco Silva selected André Gomes in midfield as his Everton side beat Brighton 3-1 at Goodison Park.
In the English Championship, João Carvalho was a decisive figure in Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United. With the match goalless midway through the second half, former Benfica youngster Carvalho beat a defender before crossing for Lewis Grabban to head home and earn a crucial three points in Forest’s chase for promotion.
Paixão, Candeias on target
Flávio Paixão continues to enjoy a prolific start to the season in Poland with Lechia Gdansk, with the veteran forward the match-winner again this weekend with a superb finish in a 1-0 win at Lech Poznan to keep his team top of the Ekstraklasa. Close behind Gdansk are Ricardo Sá Pinto’s Legia Warsaw after a 4-0 win over Gornik Zabre, with Portuguese winger Cafú assisting during the victory. Legia are ten games undefeated in all competitions and Sá Pinto's mean are two points off the leaders.
In Scotland, Daniel Candeias came off the bench to break the deadlock for Rangers in their 2-0 win at St Mirren. The former Nacional man scored with a long-range effort from the right flank, before later being sent off for receiving a second yellow card – both bookings coming for his celebrations after the goals.
More good news for Portuguese bosses
Pedro Caixinha completed a joyous week in charge of Cruz Azul by following his Copa MX Apertura win by reassuming leadership of the Liga MX in Mexico. Caixinha’s Cruz Azul went a point clear at the top of the standings with a 2-1 win at Pumas. Meanwhile, Antonio Conceição’s CFR Cluj are flying in Romania and remain two points clear after a 5-1 win over Botosani, with Portuguese defender Camora captaining the side.
In Ukraine José Morais, former assistant to José Mourino, picked up his third successive win with Karpaty. Former Sporting forward Cristian Ponde has scored in all three of those games, and got the opener in this weekend’s 2-1 win at Olympik Donetsk. Finally, another win in Greece for Pedro Martins, with his Olympiakos edging a 1-0 win at Aris with Daniel Podence and José Sá in the line-up.
Ponde's strike for Karpaty:
By Sean Gillen