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Sunday, 30 December 2012 20:26

No Taça da Liga respite for Sporting

Cardozo and Moutinho spare Benfica and Porto blushes

In the last professional action of 2012, the second round of Taça da Liga group stage matches saw a number of interesting results – including another miserable outing for Sporting, as well as vital late equalisers from Óscar Cardozo and João Moutinho. Ben Shave rounds up the action. 

Sporting continue to plumb the depths

Despite missing Filipe Augusto and João Tomás (who looks set for a move to Angola), Rio Ave were able to sweep aside Sporting on Saturday night. After a fairly even first half, a harsh straight red card for Eric Dier ‘changed the game’, in the words of Sporting midfielder Adrien Silva. That may have been the case, but the ease with which Tope, Tarantini and Hassan found the net to seal the points for Rio Ave was inexcusable from the Franky Vercauteren's perspective. Sporting go into 2013 having won 19 and lost 18 in 2012.

The other match in Group C saw Paços de Ferreira host Marítimo, a re-run of their entertaining 2-2 draw earlier in December. A late first half strike from Josué put Paulo Fonseca’s side ahead at the halfway point, and the young midfielder added a second deep in injury time to put a gloss on the victory for Os Castores, who continue to impress.

Benfica escape with a point in Moreira de Cónegos

Bottom hosted top in the afternoon’s marquee match, but despite the disparity in Liga table positions, Moreirense matched a near full-strength Benfica stride for stride during an even first half, and their industry was rewarded with a goal shortly before the interval. Renatinho’s ball over the top caught Jardel and Garay completely cold, and Ghilas timed his run perfectly to stay onside before slotting beyond Paulo Lopes.

Benfica were handed a chance to level the scores thirteen minutes after the restart, when Ricardo was adjudged to have brought down Lima. Replays showed minimal contact between the two, but Cosme Machado showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Lima stepped up ahead of usual penalty taker Cardozo, but the Brazilian’s tame effort was saved easily by Ricardo.

Benfica attempted to up the pressure as full time approached, but Moreirense defended stoutly and looked set for a morale-boosting victory – but in second half injury time, disaster struck. A needless challenge from Anílton on Cardozo yielded a second spot-kick for Benfica, with Machado aided by his assistant in awarding the penalty. The Paraguayan duly sent Ricardo the wrong way, and a slightly sheepish Benfica return to Lisbon in control of Group A.

No goals between Académica and Olhanense in Coimbra, with neither of Pedro Emanuel or Sérgio Conceição’s sides displaying much interest in Portugal’s third competition. A 66th-minute red card for Halliche provided the sole talking point.

Moutinho denies Estoril victory

Porto travelled to Estoril without James Rodríguez, handing a rare opportunity to Brazilian youngster Kelvin. The Colombian aside, the Dragões’ stars were present and correct, whilst Estoril coach Marco Silva chose to bench the key quartet of Vagner, Bruno Nascimento, Jefferson and Carlos Eduardo. However, one player who was very much involved was Steven Vitória, and the Luso-Canadian opened the scoring on sixteen minutes with a free kick of trademark magnificence, leaving Helton with no chance.

Porto were sluggish during up to that point, but the goal galvanised them into some more dynamic play in the midfield – though it was a mistake from Estoril understudy goalkeeper Mário Matos that let them back in the game. Instead of punching a long Otamendi ball clear, the youngster failed to connect, and Jackson Martínez was there to nod home smartly.

After an even opening to the second half, the match turned on the hour mark, when Otamendi was penalised for handling inside the box. The Argentine looked to have been attempting to move his arm out of reach, but the contact was undeniable. Vitória stepped up to convert his fourth spot kick of the season.

Porto’s response was sluggish at best, and having lost Martínez to a suspected injury at the interval, they were shorn of their most incisive threat. In the end, it took a long-range peach from João Moutinho to seal at point for the Dragões, who end 2012 in understated fashion.

The other match in Group A saw Vitória de Setúbal notch up their first win of the competition, at home to Nacional. Claudemir put the away side ahead after nine minutes, but two goals moments before half time from Jorginho and Amoreirinha turned the game on its head. Meyong’s fourteenth of the season put the outcome beyond doubt on 67 minutes.

Ruben brace snatches point for Beira-Mar

With Naval and Braga not meeting until January 2nd, there was just one match in Group B, between Beira-Mar and Vitória de Guimarães in Aveiro. The home side have been in improved form of late, but a tenth-minute strike from young Ricardo put Guimarães ahead at the interval. Ruben levelled the scores ten minutes into the second half, but Marco Matias restored the away side’s lead shortly after. A second from Ruben with eleven minutes remaining ensured the points would be shared.

The final round of matches is scheduled for January 9th.

FC Porto 2 1 1 0 4 2 4
V. Setúbal 2 1 1 0 3 1 4
Estoril 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Nacional 1 0 0 2 1 5 0
V. Guimarães 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Beira-Mar 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Braga 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
Naval 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
P. Ferreira 2 2 0 0 5 2 6
Rio Ave 2 1 0 1 5 3 3
Marítimo 2 0 1 1 2 4 1
Sporting 2 0 1 1 2 5 1
Benfica 2 1 1 0 3 2 4
Moreirense 2 0 2 0 3 3 2
Académica 2 0 2 0 2 2 2
Olhanense 2 0 1 1 1 2 1
Group winners qualify for semi-finals:

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

Ben Shave

Comments (4)
4 Monday, 31 December 2012 20:37
I fully agree that this tournament is favours the big teams with the format. For others reference I have attached it below:

-First Round: Segunda Liga teams separated into four groups of four teams each with each team playing three games. Top two will advance to next round.
-Second Round: Two-legged matches between the eight First Round survivors, the two Primeira Liga promoted teams and six worst from the previous Primeira Liga season.
-Third Round: four groups of four teams each, containing the winners of the Second Round and eight top-placed teams in the previous Primeira Liga season. Only the group winners advance.
-Knockout: Both semi-finals and final are one-legged fixtures.

Outside of this freak year for Sporting where they are low in the liga standing and may have to play next year's addition in an earlier stage, it is potentially setting up a group of death where they could be put in the same group as Benfica or Porto for next year which can add some extra fun. But 99 times out of 100 the top 4 teams will include the big 3 and therefore they only meet in semi or final knockout rounds which I agree bring in bigger ticket TV revenue for the main teams.

I want to add that I like this format as I would hate to see a format that is too similar to the Taca and therefore create two nearly identical tournaments which would make this cup seem even more out of place. I get that your not putting down Benfica's wins over Sporting, Paco's, Porto, and Gil for their titles.

As for your comment on attendance, while the mid-table/low-table numbers are low to put it into perspective a recent Academica game against Gil (which has a closer proximity than Olho) only brought in 2,258 when compared to 906 in this weekend. Both numbers are pretty sad and one of the big issues with our liga. Academica got bad luck that their final match is in our stadium but if it was in their stadium a game against one of the big 4 can draw out enough fans to make the group stage average more fruitful then their average liga match.

Again I think you make a valid point on attendance but for the teams that get to host a big 3 side and are able to make it to the knock out rounds, there is money to be made that they never would get without this cup.

Another sad part of our liga is that our country spent big money on making massive stadiums for the Euro that never get properly used after 04. With the final rotating it can put some stadiums to use. I'm not sure where the final is this year but I know that Leira stadium is currently collecting dust and could use the final to help add some cash to stadium management to hopefully prevent it from just decaying or even throw the final in Boavista this year since it they were one of the original clubs that heavy pushed the idea of this cup.

Anyways, I'm not trying to say it's bigger then our two main cups, I'm just highlighting to our liga gives next to no support to our smaller clubs unless they are playing against our big sides. Since 2 of the 3 matches for each big 3 was played out side of their stadium, those teams got a good benefit then the big teams. With 2 of 4 groups potentially resulting in winners outside of the big 4, there will be smaller teams getting a bit more life in them just like Pacos, Setubal, and Gil have gotten in past cup runs.
"coffee cup"
3 Monday, 31 December 2012 15:26
This is a "coffee cup" that only means something when years from now it get lumped in with all the other Silverware won. The BPL has the Capital One, formerly Carling, Cup so why shouldn't Portugal have it's own. I'm actually surprised that Spain, Italy and Germany haven't followed suit. France also has a league cup.
Like its been mentioned, it should be a nice tourney to showcase youngsters and rest first stars. At least until semis. Hence my surprise to JJ's selection for the match.

Just when you thought the "Maca Podres" had hit bottom, they manage to dig a little deeper. Guys are now playing badly, so they get kicked out of town. It's amazing whats taking place. Relegation, for me, is still out of question but out of European play is not. Sad.

I'm sure there will be screams of conspiracy over the penalty call(s) at Moreirense (love the kit). I do think that Cardozo was on his way down, flopping due to tug. But the defender for some crazy reason kicked his right leg out, making it look like a trip. Brought the call onto himself. Yes, "big" teams get those calls.
I wasn't overly happy with JJ's selection. He has the Taca match to give the guys a run. I thought more subs could have seen playing time. I'm also worried about Enzo's injury.

Porto had their own struggles. Their lineup also surprised me.
I was happy for Estoril and their overall performance this season. If they beat Nacional, they should go through if Porto gets the needed win verse Setubal.

I so want to root for Guimaraes. Great, sometimes crazy, fan base that hates Braga. Perfect. But they are so badly run. How were they ever allowed a B Squad when they still owed back wages to players?
I have a soft spot for Beira Mar. Love the stadium and kits.
2 Monday, 31 December 2012 13:09
Hi Mdot,

You make some good points, and I admit to being a bit of a cynic about the competition. Here's why...

The argument that it holds more prestige because of the teams that are in it is OK, but if you look at how the Taça da Liga is structured it's essentially designed to do one thing: ensure more games between Benfica, Porto and Sporting for the TV cameras. All the other teams involved in the competition (some of whom played their first Taça da Liga game in July!) are basically an unfortunate but necessary barrier to those Clássicos, and the money that goes along with them. To me, that's not right.

For example, look at the first tournament in 2007/08. The format was designed to ensure that Liga de Honra teams could make it through, and enjoy the paydays you mention. Beira Mar and Penafiel joined Vitória de Setúbal and Sporting, Setúbal eliminating Benfica along the way. Setúbal eventually won on penalties.

What happened? The format was modified, seeding was introduced, and Benfica have won every tournament since. I'm not saying they wouldn't have anyway, but the point is that the grandes already enjoy so many advantages over Portugal's other clubs, that for Liga and TV executives to actively help them by modifying the tournament format...ain't right.

Also, on the extra cash point. Moreirense no doubt got a windfall yesterday, but before the Benfica game, they'd had 438 and 286 at their Taça da Liga matches, plus a trip to Feirense (which was seen by 464). Does one sell-out cover the losses made on those games? Did Gil's run to the final cover the losses made through the whole tournament? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. And what about the teams who don't draw a grande in their group? These games drain them of resources, and they get nothing in return. Académica-Olhanense was watched by 906 people yesterday. Why? Because both coaches all but admitted they didn't have the resources to prioritise the Taça da Liga, and fans decided to save their money. I don't blame them.

I think if you're Benfica, Porto or even Sporting and Braga, the Taça da Liga is great. Coaches can rotate thanks to the two Portuguese players rule, fans can see some unfamiliar players, and someone gets to lift a trophy at the end of it all. Even if you lose, you still win because of the extra TV money. But for everyone else, it's slightly unfair, and unless you pull off something remarkable, a bit pointless too.

All that said, yesterday's games were great!

Close race
1 Monday, 31 December 2012 12:08
Very close race in the Taca de Liga. Each year this cup keeps turning out some interesting results and surprises.

Ben based on your twitter comments, I get that you think this tournament is a bit rubbish. However I would argue that it's a great addition to our liga. While it doesn't carry the history or European spots of our Liga and Taca, it is still a title between the first two divisions. I hold it to higher value then the Supercup given the number of teams are entered and that it's played throughout the season vs. friendly season. The biggest benefits are monetary for our smaller clubs. Moreirense was able to play a nearly sold out game when they typically don't average a big crowd, that alone is a big help. The winnings of 1 million euros may not be ground breaking for a club like Benfica but last year Gil made 350k winnings for just making the final. Throw in the cash likes of a cash from tickets/other sales Gil or Pacos made on their cup runs and for those clubs in Portugal this cup does have a good economic impact. Considering that Guimarães, Beira-Mar, Setúbal, and Paco's could all use a little expect cash, a good cup run could be what it takes to help some of these clubs balance their budgets this year. Lately we have gotten some extra classico's that have been played between Sporting, Porto, and Benfica over the years and it's added a little extra excitement in our liga.

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