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Wednesday, 19 December 2012 23:46

Porto, Benfica and Paços off to winning start in Taça da Liga

Sporting draw at Marítimo, Minho derby ends goalless

RodrigoThe first round of matches in the group phase of the Portuguese league cup were played yesterday and today, with few surprises. Benfica and FC Porto took significant steps to the semi-finals with away wins at Olhanense and Nacional respectively, while Paços de Ferreira continued their fantastic start to the season.

FC Porto coach Vítor Pereira picked a strong starting XI as the Dragons made this season's debut in a competition they have never won in Madeira against Nacional. It was no surprise, therefore, to see a goal in each half from Lucho González and Otamendi give Porto the three points. In the other Group A game Estorial and Vitória Setúbal played out a 0-0 draw in a match that was interrupted due to yet another floodlight failure - fast becoming almost a weekly affliction in Portugal.

In Group B not a single goal was mustered in the Minho derby between Vitória Guimarães and Braga or the Naval vs. Beira-Mar fixture.

Paços unstoppable

In contrast, Group C was the section that produced the most goals. Paços de Ferreira continued their outstanding season with a 3-2 win over Rio Ave in Vila do Conde. A first-half blitz saw a goal from Angulo and a Josué brace put Paços in complete control. Nivaldo and Hassan pulled goals back for Rio Ave in the second half but it was too late and Paços took the points.

Sporting played in Madeira for the second time in four days yesterday, and again the Lions came away with a draw. A fine Wolfswinkel header put the visitors ahead at Marítimo, but Heldon and Rafael Mirando turned it round for the islanders. A goal from Xandão three minutes from time rescued a point for Sporting, who finish the calender year in 2012/13 with 4 victories from 22 matches.

Benfica took charge of Group D thanks to a 2-1 victory at Olhanense. Evando Brandão put the hosts ahead shortly after half time after a blunder from Benfica goalkeeper Paulo Lopes, but Rodrigo equalised and Lima grabbed a late winner for the Eagles, who finish the year in a magnificent run of form - 10 wins and 1 draw in their last 11 matches.

In the other Group D match Académica looked on course for victory when a Wilson Eduardo brace put them in charge away at Moreirense, but a late double from Ghilas meant the points were shared.

The next round of matches takes place in 10 days' time.


FC Porto 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
V. Setúbal 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Estoril 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Nacional 1 0 0 1 0 2 0


V. Guimarães 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Braga 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Naval 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Beira-Mar 1 0 1 0 0 0 1


P. Ferreira 1 1 0 0 3 2 3
Sporting 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
Marítimo 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
Rio Ave 1 0 0 1 2 3 0


Benfica 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
Moreirense 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
Académica 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
Olhanense 1 0 0 1 1 2 0

Group winners qualify for semi-finals:

Group A winners v Group C winners
Group B winners v Group D winners


Comments (6)
Agreed Orlando!
6 Wednesday, 26 December 2012 21:16
I definitely hope we keep Nolito in January rather than either Gaitan or Cesar. Nolito, as you've mentioned countless times, has done really well considering how little he's played in the last season and a half. I was impressed with Cesar last season and thought he did well in the biggest games, but this season he's been poor and hasn't taken the chances he's been given so far.

As for Gaitan, I've wanted him to go since last season already, no disrespect to the guy and I wish him all the best, but he just doesn't seem to care enough, he's got talent for sure, but only ever shows it in glimpses. Perhaps he'd be better suited to another club/league.

But I absolutely agree with you mate, there's much depth in this squad of ours...and as we are fighting on 4 fronts, rotation is crucial....personally in the Taca de Liga I would only play the fringe and B players and give all the main guys a complete rest! Even the EL is a bit of an after-thought to me really, we need to win the Liga this season above all else! And rotating the squad is the key..
Andre totally agree with you and love your formation...
5 Tuesday, 25 December 2012 14:54
I think it is highway robbery not to play the 4-4-2 with the squad we have..

Unlike NJ I will say Nolito is needed to sub for Ola.. because like Salvio they are hard runners and they will tire.. I agree also that Aimar would complement the side well.. but the news on the twitter world.. is that he had a freak injury over Xmas.. playing with his kids toy... whether it is true or not is yet unconfirmed.. but Benfica has so much depth and I like Luisinho on the left and am glad you appreciate him as much as I do.. also Almeida when we need a more defensive line-up has been amazing covering for Maxi.

We have so much depth this year way over and above.. and there are a whole host of B Team players that deserve a look. Unfortunately of late I think they have been under-performing because they have played so well and there never was a reward of a call-up that they actually played in.

If anyone is to go out it should be Gaitan & Cesar.. Gaitan has played well.. and if we could convert that into cash at the expensive point in the season I would welcome it because of our depth.. and Cesar has just been horrible.. if we could get rid of especially Cesar that would make JJ's job easier. Gaitan.. likes big games.. and plays well in them.. so unless the money is right I wouldn't let him leave either.

It will be interesting to see what JJ does with Gomes now that Perez is back.. there is a lot of flexibility there and I hope JJ rotates out guys more like Salvio & Ola.. to keep them fresh and to have all these star players play and perform. He can easily mix Perez, Nolito, & Gomes in there and give Matic a break with Almeida.. so that we are firing on all cylinders all the way to a Liga title. You could even use Malgarejo on the left.. in his natural winger role..

Anyways time will tell.. but this Benfica squad is super strong..
On a side note
4 Friday, 21 December 2012 09:52
No comments on the match because I didn't see it, but definitely good to keep up this impressive winning run! The point I want to make is regarding the issues of formation of our team. Funny how quickly things can change, all of last season I was preaching how much i thought a 4-2-3-1 was the best way to go for SLB in most matches. This of course was when Garcia was our DM!

This season however, with the current personnel in the squad...and primarily due to Matic being a much better DM than Garcia, and Gomes proving to be a very solid all-rounder in the middle...I actually now think 4-4-2 is the best way to go for us in most matches. Cardozo and Lima make a great strike partnership, and with Rodrigo also having a lot of potential, you really want to have 2 of these 3 on the pitch most of the time. There will still be many tough away matches where 4-2-3-1 will be a better shape to play...but certainly for all home matches, 4-4-2 would be best.

I would say that this line-up and formation is arguably the strongest we have at the moment with this current squad, or at least is a line-up I would like to see JJ play soon:



--Enzo-------Matic------A. Gomes------O. John


I also think Aimar will be a welcome inclusion and option to the midfield when he finally returns from injury. I´m a big fan of his and I certainly haven't shrugged him off as too old, like some others have, and I think him and Matic together have the potential to be a very strong central midfield duo.. or with Andre Gomes, the 3 together in a 4-2-3-1 would very strong also. Great to have all these options in this strong squad!
some thoughts
3 Thursday, 20 December 2012 13:20
The Taca is still meaningful silverware, so I'm happy with result. I like Benfica's depth and they're in a good run. I'm always weary of January signings due to inflated prices, so sitting pat isn't a bad thing.
Nico and Bruno's drop off is a bit troubling. I wouldn't be surprised if Nolito was loaned out, especially with Ola's current run. The way Gomes is playing I would love to take a look at Enzo out wide with Ola on the other side. Let's hope nobody swoops in for Matic (ala Ramires) or Garay.

4 wins out of 22 matches. That's not even mid table fodder. Unbelievable. I've said it before, it's gone from hilarious to funny to sad. Complacency and Irrelevance are the only things left.

I saw the great Iturbe might be loaned out. From shooting to falling star.
Taca de Liga
2 Thursday, 20 December 2012 03:34
It's always great to add another trophy to the cabinet, but this particular competition should only be used to give fringe/B team players a shot in the starting 11. I actually watched Benfica's game today and I was surprised to see how seriously some of the players were taking it. Olhanense was pressing hard throughout, preventing Benfica from dominating the game, but I still think the win was deserved.

Very few players were at their best against the side from Algarve. Nico Gaitan and Bruno Cesar were dreadful throughout most of the match. Nolito looked dangerous when he had the ball, but his end product was usually poor

Andre Gomes and Enzo Perez were probably Benfica's best players. I'm really glad to see Gomes continue to play with such confidence and class. Perez definitely offers a little more spark and energy in the final third, but Gomes is better suited to play as the #8.
The train keeps chugging away
1 Thursday, 20 December 2012 02:16
Benfica is on a great run of form, and is beginning to show some character by coming back to win games and making good tactical adjustments at halftime. The infusion of new blood and the squad rotation also helps.

On a side note, as bad as Sporting has been, why was Wilson Eduardo never given a chance? Was the loan to Academica a 2 yr loan? Or did they want to develop other talent on the wings. He looks to be a capable player. Also, their B team ran circles around Benfica B and made a "statement win" a few weeks back. Why are none of these burners given a chance. What is their to lose?

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