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Sunday, 30 March 2014 21:44

Lima sinks Braga and Benfica smell the title

Sporting close in on Champions League, more Porto misery

lima-silvio-20140220.jpgBenfica beat Braga 1-0 this afternoon thanks to an early goal from Lima to maintain their 7-point lead over Sporting with five matches remaining. The Lions had kept up the pressure by beating Vitória Guimarães by the same scoreline on Saturday night, while Porto crashed to their sixth liga defeat of the season, losing 2-1 in Madeira at Nacional.

Benfica's Rodrigo-Lima partnership strikes again

The official discourse from Benfica remains cautious, despite yet another win (their 8th in succession in the liga) at a potentially tricky venue. Lima continued his hot goalscoring streak, slotting into the net in the 13th minute after being set up by strike partner Rodrigo. "Football is fertile in surprises. Real Madrid were top in Spain two weeks ago and now they're third. We'll see where we are at the end of the season," said coach Benfica Jorge Jesus after the match.

Truth be told it would take a collapse of spectacular proportions to prevent Benfica from lifting the championship. The Eagles can even afford to lose their two remaining away games. If they beat Rio Ave, Olhanense and Vitória Setúbal at the Luz, they will lift the crown. And they only have to do that assuming Sporting win all their remaining games. This time it appears Benfica fans can book the Marquês de Pombal and start planning the party without fear of embarrassment.

The Sporting miracle continues

Benfica could be on the cusp of something quite special, but for many the story of the season has been Sporting's incredible resuscitation after last year's debacle. Yesterday's game at the Alvalade was not the Lions' best performance of the season by any means. But the steely attitude running through this Sporting team helped the Green and Whites come through a hard-fought match against a well-organised and determined Vitória Guimarães.

Marcos Rojo's deflected shot early in the second half proved the winner. The Argentine in some ways symbolises the turnaround at the Lisbon club. From looking a complete liability last season, Rojo has become one of the most accomplished centre-backs in Portugal. Other individuals stood out for Sporting, notably a sparkling display from Mané, the tireless performance of left-back Jefferson, the dynamic Adrien, not to mention the mandatory impeccable show of strength and guile by William Carvalho. Now eight points clear of FC Porto, this exciting crop of players are almost certain to have the opportunity to show their talent in the Champions League next season... provided they are not sold in the summer.

Quaresma loses it

FC Porto, on the other hand, are having one of their worst seasons for many a year. The 2-1 defeat at Nacional was the sixth reverse for the Dragons in the liga this season. For a team that had lost just once in the previous three seasons, it has come as a nasty shock to the system. At the start of the campaign nobody would have dared believe Porto would be 15 and 8 points behind Benfica and Sporting respectively with five games remaining.

Tonight Porto paid for a poor first-half display. Candeias gave the islanders a deserved interval lead. Porto hit back in the second half, equalising through Jackson Martínez, but Rondon immediately restored the home team's lead. Porto largely dominated the remainder of the game. Quaresma won a penalty but hit it against the post, Jackson had what looked like a good goal ruled out, and the visitors were convinced they should have been awarded another spot kick at the death.

It wasn't to be, and Porto will surely now put all their emphasis on restoring pride in the cup competitions. It was a particularly disappointing night for Quaresma. Just when calls for a recall to the Seleção were getting louder, the mercurial talent showed several signs of being unable to keep his emotions in check, including completely losing his head at the final whistle. He had to be restrained by team-mates as he attempted to settle the score with his fists.

Weekend Results:

Académica 2-1 Olhanense
Arouca 1-0 Vitória Setúbal
Belenenses 1-1 Paços de Ferreira
Braga 0-1 Benfica
Estoril 0-1 Rio Ave
Gil Vicente 1-1 Marítimo
Nacional 2-1 FC Porto
Sporting 1-0 Vitória Guimarães

by Tom Kundert

Comments (9)
April Fool's Joke?
9 Tuesday, 01 April 2014 20:47
I just saw something that must be an April Fool's joke.
Boavista has been approved to join the Liga Sagres next campaign. This Boavista who currently sits in 5th place in the CN Seniors, Subida Zona Norte.
Freamunde, Vizela, Gimaraes B and Braganca are currently ahead of them.

Call me crazy, but does Boavista have the financial backing to be able to not embarrass itself?
Belem, which dominated last seasons Liga de Honra, is struggling mightily and will most likely go back down.
How exactly is this good for the Portuguese League?
8 Tuesday, 01 April 2014 10:43
It has been a real pleasure watching Manchester United fall this season. Oddly though, Tom has had no time for podcasts because he is shattered that his team have fallen so far from grace. Poor Tom was busy flying that plane over Old Trafford on Saturday that said "Moyes out", so he couldn't podcast this week.

Maybe he's too busy trying to find the perfect picture on line so he can't do podcasts. Wait, I'm confused. So... I think Tom is a hack but I'm also complaining he doesn't do enough podcasts. This does not compute. You win this round Tom!!! You hack!!! You just wait until I work out my own confused logic and I'll be back! And when I return, you'd better have all pictures of Porto REMOVED from this website, before I report you!
7 Monday, 31 March 2014 22:22
Bubba Zanetti SCP
Mad bro? You seem very angry and stressed out, let it out, then take a deep breath.
6 Monday, 31 March 2014 18:49
Benfica with another tidy win. Wish that Rodrigo could have gotten his goal, because it was deserving. Looking at the remainder of the schedule, Benfica is in good shape.

Surprised that Sporting has been able to keep it going. The remainder of their campaign is pretty straight forward. They finish at Nacional and host Estoril on the final day, which could be tricky.
The best case scenario has fallen on Sporting's lap. Finishing second, should allow them greater financial flexibility. Guaranteed Champions League group stage money and prestige should help in Transfers, both buys and sells.

Porto is fortunate that Estoril has slipped up. If Estoril had won the last two very winnable matches, they would only be one point back.
For all the recent Quaresma love in, it seems that people are finally realizing exactly what they've got with him. Keep in mind that five of Porto's six league losses, have come with Quaresma in the lineup.
That being said, I'm hoping that Porto will be able to deal with the Champions League qualifiers better than Sporting would have. We'll see.

Sad to see that Belem will most likely go down. I'm afraid that the loss of van der Gaag (health reasons) really did them in. Shame.
5 Monday, 31 March 2014 16:50
Erm... we're doing podcasts more regularly this year than last http://www.portugoal.net/index.php/podcasts

I live tweet most about Sporting, then Benfica because they are the stadiums I go to regularly.

But hey, continue seeing what you want to see.
4 Monday, 31 March 2014 15:16
It has been a real pleasure watching Porto fall this season. Poor Tom hasn't had much time for podcasts or live tweeting lately while his precious Porto have been dropping points left and right. But, hey, I did see him tweeting during the midweek taca match. Perhaps he is too busy trying to find that perfect Porto photo to put on the cover of his next book. It's kind of tough to find one this year. Perhaps you could use a photo of that overrated clown Quaresma going after a bunch nacional players. You hack.
Important 3 points
3 Monday, 31 March 2014 12:18
A huge win for us last night! It was not a great performance from us in truth, was quite flat and uninspired. Braga dominated the midfield for the most part, and probably deserved a draw out of the match, but they were also unable to really create any proper scoring chances, so perhaps they also can't have too many complaints to have lost. Benfica did the minimum required to get the win and this essentially has been the biggest change this season from previous ones, we are able to grind out wins even when not at our best this season.

Lima is turning out to have another great season for us. The season didn't start too well for him, or perhaps our expectations were too high after his excellent début season. But in recent months he has steadily been improving every match and he is once again our most reliable source of goals this season. Great signing for the club! The defence was solid yet again, Garay and Luisao rocks in the centre. And the depth we have at fullback position means it doesn't really matter who plays on the left or the right, the level doesn't change much.

Well this was a very important win, but we still have to remain grounded. I agree with the comments from JJ and the players, things can change quickly in football and we can't lose our focus from simply the next match coming! We are very close now though, I believe 2 wins and 2 draws (8 points) from the next 5 matches will guarantee the title because of our head-to-head advantage over Sporting. And this is assuming Sporting win all their remaining games, that alone remains to be seen, they face some potentially tricky fixtures (derbies with Belenenses and Estoril and a trip to face Nacional in Madeira). So things are looking strong for SLB at the moment, but again let's keep grounded and not focus beyond the next match coming our way.
2 Monday, 31 March 2014 12:07
Islam Slimani should've been sent off for two bad dives very disappointing and Quaresma poor dive for the penalty at 1-1 was shameful too, he needs to keep his cool can't risk that kind of dumbass behavior at Brazil.

Looking foward to seeing Sporting in the Champion league still remember that 12-1 battering from Bayern. The last time Sporting were at the Champions league.
Growing confidence
1 Sunday, 30 March 2014 23:29
To me a great relief, this win versus Braga, just like the win at Maritimo last year....
No, let's finally forget what happened last year, JJ has learnt his lesson, SLB is more solid now, they look very determined, but I'm curious what attitude and players we'll see in Alkmaar on Thursday.

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