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Thursday, 03 April 2014 21:00

Europa League: Benfica with one foot in semi-finals, Porto gain narrow lead

Portuguese rivals beat AZ Alkmaar and Sevilla respectively

mangala-varela-20140403.jpgIt was another positive night for Portugal in the Europa League. Neither Porto nor Benfica put in a barnstorming performance, but both did enough to beat their Spanish and Dutch opponents by a single goal.

Mangala's first-half header gave the Dragons victory over Sevilla, but Porto will be without Jackson Martínez and Fernando in the second leg next week. Benfica coach Jorge Jesus again made a series of changes to his side, but the Eagles came away with a 1-0 win at AZ Alkmaar thanks to Salvio's strike.


FC Porto 1-0 Sevilla

After their 1-0 win against Benfica last week and the 2-1 defeat to Nacional da Madeira last Sunday, FC Porto were faced with mixed feeling towards the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie, but managed to grab a crucial (perhaps narrow) win against a disappointing Sevilla.

Unai Emery's team had previously been on a good run (including the famous win against Real Madrid) but were stopped in their tracks over the weekend by Celta Vigo. Still, their European record were virtually spotless, with the Andalusians going undefeated in 14 of their last 15 Europa League matches. Conversely, FC Porto, despite successively progressing, mirrored in Europe the porous defence they have been presenting domestically (conceding at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 Europa League outings). 
The analysis of a few Sevilla games offered some expectations for this particular match: Individual marking from midfielders and a seemingly excessive reliance on Ivan Rakitic's brilliance. At the Dragão, the suspicions were confirmed, as the Croatian picked up Fernando, the Portuguese centre-back-cum-midfielder Daniel Carriço turned his attentions to Defour and Iborra kept an eye on Carlos Eduardo.
The home team piled on the pressure for the first 25 minutes, even though not as intensely as they did against Benfica (Herrera's presence on the bench certainly did not help), resulting in a succession of corners and half-chances - namely deflected shots or mishit clearances. Sevilla, in turn, seemed more than happy to concede the initiative and soak up pressure, waiting for the right time to pounce on the break (taking advantage of FC Porto's imbalance at times while attacking). However, the Spanish team didn't amount to much offensively throughout most of the match, bar the chance that came about through Fabiano's incomplete save cannoning off Jackson Martínez and Kevin Gameiro's mishit rebound.

Sevilla go retro

If Sevilla's attacking intents didn't impress, the defensive approach was the most baffling, with individual marking that seemed to stretch throughout the match. This meant that the Spaniards often provided no or mistimed coverage when a team-mate was beaten in their individual duel, which in turn opened up a gaping hole in the middle for FC Porto midfielders to sprint into - when they got past Carriço and Iborra, their runs were not picked up by the centre-backs, exposing what could have been a gold mine for the Portuguese champions (which it wasn't).
FC Porto scored on the 31st minute through Mangala, moments after Sevilla's aforementioned half-chance that resulted from Fabiano and Jackson Martínez's scrambling. A corner kick in favour of FC Porto was followed by a foul committed by a Sevilla player. Rather than taking his time, Fernando immediately dispatched it to the unmarked Quaresma, who made use of his trademark trivela to aim a perfect cross at Mangala's head, the French centre-back thus becoming FC Porto's top scorer in this season's edition of the Europa League, on 3 goals. His knack for aerial duels and important moments was once again most welcome (the Dragons, by the way, have scored 5 of their 9 goals in the competition via set pieces). Defour would put the first half to an end (similarly to what Quaresma would do at the end of the contest) with a thunderous shot that forced former Dragon Beto to make a splendorous save.

Second half: much ado about... not too much

In the second period the match opened up a bit more, with Sevilla looking more interested to taking some leverage with them for the second leg. Nevertheless, despite knitting a few more passes together, there was no real end product from La Liga's fifth-placed team, with the exception of Kevin Gameiro's glaring miss on 75 minutes. 
The home coach brought Quintero on for Carlos Eduardo, supposedly to make the most of the game's traits - individual marking, poor defensive coverage, space down the middle - but the Colombian flattered to deceive once more. Herrera also replaced Defour in an attempt to freshen things up, but the situation did not change that much (Ghilas' initiatives notwithstanding).
The second-leg match, to be held in a week's time, should provide a more open contest between two teams whose soft spots seem all too clear for the other side to see (and exploit). FC Porto will certainly find joy if they approach the match a bit more intensely (both in terms of pressing and dragging Carriço and Iborra out of position), while Sevilla may end up finding what they looked for at the Dragão: the moments when FC Porto give the ball away and Rakitic has more freedom to roam. 
As a side note, Jackson Martínez's absence might not be that hard to compensate, with the energetic Ghilas waiting in the wings, but Fernando's might be a bit trickier. Both players are suspended for the second leg.

by Vasco Mota Pereira, at the Estádio do Dragão.

FC Porto:
Fabiano, Danilo, Reyes, Mangala, Alex Sandro, Carlos Eduardo (Quintero, 57'), Fernando, Defour (Herrera, 70'), Quaresma, Jackson, Varela (Ghilas, 77') 

Beto, Coke, Pareja, Fernando Navarro, Moreno, Carriço, Iborra (Diogo Felgueiras, 63'), Reyes (Vitolo, 74'), Rakitic, Marin, Bacca

[1-0] Mangala, 31'

AZ Alkmaar 0-1 Benfica

Despite having the Liga all but sewn up, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus continued his policy of rotating heavily in the Europa League. First-team regulars Oblak, Fejsa, Markovic and Lima were all left out of the starting line-up, along with the suspended Enzo Pérez.

And an out-of-sorts Benfica had an unlikely hero in the opening half hour, with the much maligned Artur showing the excellent form that deserted him around one year ago. The Brazilian goalkeeper produced two excellent saves from Jóhannsson and Berghuis to keep the scores level as Alkmaar dominated the opening exchanges.

The Eagles finally began to get a foothold in the match, and shortly before the interval Siqueira and Rodrigo shot narrowly over the bar from promising situations.

Early in the second half Berghuis again forced Artur into a sharp save with an angled drive, but almost immediately Benfica took the lead. A good move saw the ball worked to Cardozo on the edge of the box. The Paraguayan's shot was stopped by Alvarado, but Salvio latched onto the rebound producing a fine acrobatic volley from 15 yards into the back of the net.

The goal seemed to sap the confidence out of the Dutch team, and Benfica were now dominating possession. The Portuguese side were nearer to extending their lead than conceding an equaliser, Rodrigo, Garay and substitute Lima all coming close.

As the full-time whistle went the Benfica fans celebrated loudly, and nothing AZ Alkmaar showed tonight suggest they can turn the tie around in Lisbon.

The Benfica bandwagon rolls on.

AZ Alkmaar:
Esteban, Johansson, Viergever, Poulsen (Gudmundsson, 50'), Gouweleeuw, Gudelj (Henriksen, 84'), Elm, Berghuis, Ortiz, Johansson, Beerens

Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Garay, Siqueira, Ruben Amorim (André Almeida, 37'), André Gomes, Salvio, Gaitán, Rodrigo (Markovic, 77'), Cardozo (Lima, 65')

[0-1] Salvio, 48'


Comments (26)
Proven wrong no surprise
26 Thursday, 10 April 2014 23:41
I think results speak for themselves.... I think a lot of people owe Tom and the Portugoal team an apology for the false accusations
25 Thursday, 10 April 2014 21:49
I hope todays results have proved how idiotic these "pro-benfica Portugoal" comments were. I mean my god why would you want to play away during the second leg! its obvious that you want to be around your home fans when you need a goal! Which is what Benfica got today while Porto was being slapped around in Spain chasing shadows. And by the way GOD DAMN MANGALA IS TRASH!
24 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:19
So so true, Real were pretty fortunate, I'd say if it goes to extra time then they are done. But yeah, as NJ\SLB expressed in his post, Dumbfounded for me was a perfect word to sum up what I was feeling after reading some of the other comments.
@ Steve, @ NJ/USA/SLB
23 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 01:10
Chelsea proved you both correct today. Dortmund almost did as well....

People shouting bias are just angry fans, angry at their team, angry at the world and its Portugoal fault they dont heap praise upon praise to their team of choice, it is silly. Remember last year, Sporting fans were shouting the same thing.

I had both games on TV to watch, i chose to watch the Porto match because I thought Benfica "should" handle their opponents, the Porto match (from a fan/neutral perspective) was more appealing.

I will do the same this time around, i fully expect Benfica to drive home their advantage. Porto will be in tough, in hostile territory and missing Fernando. Sevilla has been on form, they just stomped Espanyol 4-1 and our Portuguese/French star (Gameiro) got 2 goals. Going to be fun!
22 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 09:18
Absolutely spot on as usual ...

It just amazing me to think what the thought process that someone goes through to come to the conclusion that a home win against strong opposition is better than an away win against weaker opposition. I understand that sometimes these people can have a random thought but to translate that into writing like it is a certain fact is just bizarre.

In my opinion It's always the bias, frustrated or delusional fans that claim that other logical realistic commentators i.e. the good people at Portugoal are bias when they are in fact the Portugoal commentator are professional and conveying the feelings of every other non-bias professional for example the beating agencies who make the odds.

Anyways, enough said.... two more games left to win and the party can start. Can't wait :)))

Comical comments
21 Monday, 07 April 2014 17:23
I've been coming back here and there to read some of these and people crack me up. As some have said, a 1-0 win away is always a better result then the same result at home. Secondly Porto will be missing key players for a difficult away game. Porto clearly have a harder path to the semi's then Benfica does.

Personally I hope both advance. Nothing would be sweeter then a Benfica v. Porto EL final. It would be great for Portugal's ranking and it would give the winning fan base some amazing bragging rights.
20 Monday, 07 April 2014 13:21
If you have to explain how a 1-0 road won is more valuable than the same result at home, in European play, well then it's just not worth advancing the conversation.
19 Sunday, 06 April 2014 16:24
brad messado (england)
They will be fine in the second leg as long as they keep the possession statistics up and keep feeding the flanks as Quaresma was causing a lot of problems for Sevilla especially with the trivela. Crucial to the game is if Porto can grab a goal in the first half as Sevilla will then need 3 goals to progress and will panic no doubt.
My thoughts
18 Sunday, 06 April 2014 13:19

Sorry I really enjoyed reading your posts but I have to say that I dissagree on a lot of the points you made. I think you are being a bit harsh on the Portugoal team as well by claiming they are bias in their views quote "you guys are so bias against Porto...".

In my opinion, the Portugoal team are extremely professional and I for one totally agree with their headline "Benfica with one foot ... porto with narrow lead". I think it is a fair reflection of the current situation

The book makers agree with my assessment and in case you have not read them then here they are;

Benfica win - 1.4
AZ win - 10
Draw - 5

Porto win - 4.5
Sevilla - 3.6
Draw - 4.5

OK so it seems as though the professionals agree with Portugoal as well. On another note, I guess the above makes
this comment quote "If anything Porto are in a better position" rather perplexing and to be honestvstrange and illogical.

It is really a no brainer, statistically most home teams win at home. It is just logic and I dont even think I need to provide stats or elaborate further as this as it is just common knowledge. Typically, a draw is seen as a good result away and a win is a bonus. Being at home with the croud cheering you on can inspire teams to achieve greater things.

The other obvious factor you overlooked is Benfica were huge favourites going into the tie with AZ whilst Porto were either 50/50 or slight favourites. I'm sure if the games were reversed and Porto had of won away and Benfica at home then the headlines would have been reversed.

My final point is that Benfica have not lost a game at home this year in any competition and have won most of their home games. I cannot see AZ changing this situation whereas Sevilla just beat Real Madrid at home recently so I think they have a decent chance.

We all want and hope for Portuguese teams to do well in Europe and progress to the final stages but lets keep it real and not allow our own bias cloud our opinions and judgement.

Thanks Steve
17 Sunday, 06 April 2014 12:02
Exactly! I'm not doubting Porto's ability, and I hope they win, but I'm not 100% confident they will. Sevilla is a tough opponent. But if they play like they did last game (and no red card in the 5th minute), then they should be fine!
Porto fans crying ha ha
16 Sunday, 06 April 2014 10:01
OMG look at all the Porto fans crying lol. As Victor Pereira would say Vasco speak the true! He said Fonseca was a disaster way before other people.

If you want to read that Porto are best at everything stay to reading O Jogo!
15 Saturday, 05 April 2014 19:38
that malaga game porto played with 10 men for like 80 minutes. and they still managed to mount aggressive attacks having 2 goals called off i believe. not the proper game to be used as reference. under normal circumstances porto takes that tie easily.
14 Saturday, 05 April 2014 13:39
Apologies, I realised after I wrote the comment that Benfica could draw and still progress, but Porto can lose by 1 and still go through, unlike Benfica, a clean sheet at home makes all the difference
13 Saturday, 05 April 2014 11:22
I've been getting that vibe a lot from Vasco who's a supposed neutral? I don't know, thought it was just me but obviously others have picked up on it too. Can't say I'm a massive fan, other articles on the site and podcasts I've heard included (I'm not just going off this article).
Anyway, great to see both clubs playing well in Europe! This will evidently reflect well on our coefficient next season and I feel we could be seeing another all-Portuguese final! I know there's Juve, and you can't count out Basel, but I'm feeling it! Early days, I know, but it'd be a terrific spectacle!
12 Saturday, 05 April 2014 01:40
You guys (Portugoal) really need to get some professional reporters, with natural views.
You guys should be happy, that two portugese teams had good results.
11 Saturday, 05 April 2014 01:34
Benfica can tie 10-10 and still progress. The only way they can get eliminated is if they actually lose the match at the Estadio da Luz. Any type of draw or win sees them progressing (not just a goaless draw).

Who has the bigger advantage? I'd say Benfica. Whenever Porto wins 1-0 at home, I always remember them losing 2-0 at Malaga last season in the champions league. While it's always good to not concede away goals, only scoring 1 goal at home could be bad business, especially against a side that recently beat Real Madrid.
Benfica, on the other hand, just needs to not lose. I think we only lost once all year (to Porto), at the Estadio do Dragao. I think Benfica are in a much more comfortable position, where they can sit back, whereas Porto should really try to score an away goal.

Either way, hope both teams go through. Would love to see a Benfica-Porto final.
10 Friday, 04 April 2014 20:51
Benfica went to AZ and only scored one goal, now they have to go back to Lisbon and for the whole game make sure they don't concede, because one early away goal will completely change the tie.

Porto played at home, and didnt concede any away goals, and can go to Seville and play an attacking game, knowing that any goal they score will count for more.

Just look at it statiscally, Porto have more permutations to win than Benfica do, Benfica have to either play out a goalless draw, or win the match to go through. Porto can either have a goalless draw, a scoring draw, a win, or lose by 1 (excluding a 1-0 loss which would send them to extra time. The only way they can go out in 90 minutes is by losing by more than 2.
9 Friday, 04 April 2014 19:17
JJ continues to rotate squad, which will hopefully maintain fresh legs while supplying the hunger for silverware.
Amorim's injury is a concern, since he's been a great sub.

Happy to see Porto notch the win. Maybe more importantly, they kept a clean sheet at home.

Against my better judgement, Jonah, your comment is teh same as PortuGoal.

"If anything Porto are in a better position because they played at home first and didn't concede any away goals!"

Meaning away goals are huge. So Benfica winning 1-0 on the road, puts it in a much better position than Porto winning 1-0 at home.
You actually agree with PortuGoal.
Anthony Lopes
8 Friday, 04 April 2014 15:10
Fernando / Waterloo
Anthony lopes was fantastic versus juventus this guy deserves to make the plane to Brazil. Between the current form of Beto and lopes we have very good coverage for Patricio.

Btw does Quaresma know how to do a regular cross or only his trivela?
Porto Dominance
7 Friday, 04 April 2014 14:42
it seems like no matter how dominant porto is at home they always end up with a 1-0 win. Napoli, Benfica and now Sevilla. each of those first legs looked more like 3-0 games.

Our play in the final third needs an overhaul next season. we desperately need an attacking winger that likes to cut inside and shoot. Varela and Quaresma are way too content with just settling for a cross every time. we need an added dimension like we used to have with Hulk.
6 Friday, 04 April 2014 14:40
Steve/New Biege
I agree with Jonah. Unless I watched a different game, FCP hit the post...twice. Almost sounded like they didn't deserve to win.
benfica keep it going
5 Friday, 04 April 2014 11:42
Once again benfica put in another solid effort. The first 20 min went all to az but from then on it was all benfica. Everybody played organized, and even with many of our top guys out, it still shows we have the quality to rotate and still get a good result.
My one concern is cardozo. Since coming back from injury he has been a total ghost. 90% of the time you forget he is even there. Today was Probably his better performances since he's come back which says alot since it still was a big disappointment. Hopefully with the time he's getting in the EL he can regain that form that made him such a threat on the field.
Now we just got to play like we always do at home and get the result that we know we can get. BTW good game by porto to get a nice advantage going into the second lag. Not a porto fan by any stretch but I am a big fan of portuguese soccer so any portugese wins is a plus in my book. Carrega benfica nd forca portugal
4 Friday, 04 April 2014 11:23
Manny B \ Kearny \ FCP
I have seen goals gone through porto with central defenders. When Mangala first stepped into Porto, I still clearly remember in 2011 when we got knocked out by Zenit because of him. I was so upset because we had such great defenders go through Porto in the past 10 seasons. (Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Costa, Pepe, Bruno Alves) I thought how can Porto get this guy? Slanky, lost in the field, What a waste of money. All of a sudden he sat in the bench for a year and half. VP put him back in the starting line up beg. of Jan 2013 and I thought what is wrong with VP?? I suddenly started to see a different Mangala. A determined, motivated, cheerful, and fast. He has kept Porto in this liga europa this far. As of now he has changed what I thought about him. I hope he can continue to do what he's doing and if he ever moves on to a different club I wish that guy the best. Forca Porto !!!
3 Friday, 04 April 2014 10:20
Yet another fine Benfica away performance in the EL, our third in a row now. Solid and organised and doing just enough, just what you want for away matches in Europe. We've won 4 out of 6 away games in Europe this season, impressive! Really happy that JJ continues to rotate for this competition and keep our regular starters fresh for the Liga.

AZ started the match brightly, and like I thought, if they have reached this far then they have some quality, Artur took his chance well with some good stops, and this should bring some of his confidence back. Benfica, with all the changes, took a while to get going. However in the second half we took control of the game, as AZ faded and looked tired from their first half exploits. In the end we could've scored more and finished off the tie early. I'm totally satisfied with the result though, meaning we can rotate more again for the second leg. Salvio took his goal superbly, but is still some way from full fitness/sharpness. The two Andre's both did very well. Gomes gave a strong performance, particularly in the second half, and Almeida did very well too at DM, considering he hasn't played in so long. Hopefully Amorim's injury isn't too serious.

Didn't see Porto's game, but another solid result for them to take to the second leg in Spain. Not conceding away goals is key in Europe. However they still have a lot of work to do at a ground where Real Madrid lost recently. Sevilla are strong at home and will be confident they can turn it around, especially with 2 such key players missing for Porto. Should be a hot rematch!
Wow, you're not even hiding your bias now.
2 Friday, 04 April 2014 07:02
You guys are so biased against Porto its not even funmy.... Porto and Benfica both play and get the same result, yet your headline claims Benfica have one foot in the semis but Porto have a 'narrow lead' ? If anything Porto are in a better position because they played at home first and didnt concede any away goals!
1 Friday, 04 April 2014 01:35
Good result for both teams. Better for Benfica, obviously, with the away goal, but I was happy with both results. Surprisingly, AZ really dominated the aguias in that first half, and Artur was exceptional. He deserves his due.

Porto dominated Seville most of the game and deserved at least a 2-0 win.

But both should be content and use these results as incentive to go all the way.


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