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Monday, 07 April 2014 21:34

Liga round-up: Benfica close in on title

Top spots all but defined

cardozo-celebs-20140407.jpgThe top four in the Liga ZON Sagres all won this weekend and it now looks certain that the top positions in the 2013/14 season are defined. Benfica's resounding 4-0 demolition of Rio Ave tonight - the 9th successive Liga victory for Jorge Jesus' men - means the Eagles need just five points from their final four matches to claim the title.

Benfica continued their imperious march towards the title with a 4-0 thrashing of Rio Ave at the Estádio da Luz tonight. Any hopes the visitors may have had that Benfica would take it easy ahead of their Europa League match against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday disappeared as a powerful performance from the hosts led to a thumping win. Nico Gaitán was the main man in a tremendous first half from Benfica, providing the assist for Rodrigo to finish off a wonderfully worked opening goal and scoring the second himself. Two Oscar Cardozo penalties in the second half completed the rout.

Sporting took a big step towards securing second place with a 3-1 at Paços de Ferreira. The Lions have struggled at the Mata Real in recent years, winning only once in the previous five seasons before Saturday's match. But this year's Sporting is a different beast, and goals from William Carvalho, Rojo and Adrien gave Leonardo Jardim's side the three points. The Paços goal was scored by the rejuvenated Bebé, the Manchester United striker continuing his spectacular form (6 goals in 6 games) and waging a personal battle with Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patrício throughout the 90 minutes.

Porto overcame Académica 3-1 at the Dragão last night, with Ghilas showing once again that all may not be lost should Jackson Martínez be sold this summer. The Algerian provided a beautiful assist for Jackson before scoring a neat goal himself to put Porto in control early on. A Jackson penalty after Quintero had been felled in the box made it 3-0 at half time. Marco Paulo pulled one back for Académica in the second half, but the result was never in doubt.

On Friday night Estoril came from behind to beat Vitória Guimarães 3-1 at the Dom Afonso Henriques, Bruno Lopes bagging a brace and Gerso scoring a third after Alex had given the hosts an early lead. Marco Silva's side are all set to achieve their highest ever finish - fourth.

With things looking defined at the top, much of the interest in the closing weeks will centre around the race for fifth place and the final Europa League berth, and the fight to avoid relegation. Nacional, Braga, Marítimo and Vitória Setubal are in the mix for Europe. Nacional currently hold the position, but all three of their pursuers are gathering momentum.

Only the bottom club gets automatically relegated, and the smart money is on Olhanense staying there. As for penultimate place, which leads to a playoff against the 3rd placed team in the second tier (excluding B teams) to remain in the top flight, Belenenses gave themselves hope of avoiding such a fate with a 1-0 win at Gil Vicente. Paços de Ferreira and Arouca are 2 and 4 points above the Belém club respectively.

by Tom Kundert

Comments (13)
Sporting Keep On Trucking
13 Thursday, 10 April 2014 18:18
Sporting has been showing their steel and continue to win, getting results with maturity! And thats exactly what this club is supposed to do. I've been really happy with Sporting this whole season, we had a couple small slips some calls not go our way, but despite that the players have done everything to show their quality and the class of the club. Its great that Sporting is synonymous with winning again, and the signs are that the club will continue to improve even more. CL qualification would be a great boost because with the new wiser leadership, players would be managed better for the overall and long term good of the club too. Long story short, the home grown stars are better protected, and the club would be looking to achieve something with them first too rather than just selling them off at the first opportunity.

William is such a boss in the midfield, that goal that play was amazing! Definitely a starter for Portugal, he's the best defensive mid of Portugal. And Adrien's goal was outstanding too! Great rocket into the top corner! A bunch of us Sporting fans have been saying it forever, and I will say it again, Adrien definitely deserves to be on the national team! Plain and simple he's one of the best top midfielders in the league. He's a sure starter, consistent, and one of Sporting's best players. He's a real lion, charismatic, energetic, full of heart, works hard, has great technique, skill, passing, vision, contributes in both attack and defense. There is no better Portuguese number 8 in the league.

I saw Jon/usa a while ago sorta switch his opinion (cause he used to be a huge Adrien fan) and say how Ruben Amorim is better for national team. Lol. Adrien is a better player than Ruben Amorim. Amorim is a basic player. Too often for Portugal we see the need for players to step up and change the game. There needs to be more game changers players with skill and heart to do great things. Amorim doesn't have that quality. Yes he can keep the play moving along tidely, and yes he can have great defensive positional awareness etc. But Adrien is more than that because he can change games in attack. He may go forward a lot and then leave a gap at the back, but he still runs back, because he works very hard too. Point being Adrien is a more dynamic skilled player than Amorim, and his heart and work ethic is second to none. He should be a national team player for sure! If it means dropping Amorim. So be it, because amorim is a bit part rotated squad player, on the other hand Adrien is a definite consistent starter a catalyst for Sporting a leader for Sporting.

I respect Raul Meireles, and his history. If he's on form I'm happy for him to be starting, cause he's a warrior too. William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, Moutinho is a great trio! But if for some reason Meireles needs to rest or is off or suspended, my next best trio would be William Carvalho, Adrien, Moutinho! That would be an awesome midfield trio as well!! Bento is a Sporting man, so I know he's seeing the quality and great work of Adrien, so hopefully he selects him for the team. To be honest Adrien has been more important than Andre Martins to Sporting, so if Andre Martins could be called up, Adrien definitely should be called up.

Just a couple more games remaining so hope Sporting keep it up and achieve their goal. I was hoping Benfica would drop points, but credit to them, they finally seem to be getting the best out of their million and one players and "talents" that they have. Props to them for being consistent second half of the season. As always FORCA SPORTING!
Thanks Luiz...
12 Thursday, 10 April 2014 02:37
But the question still remains as to why?
Boavista currently sits 5th in the CN Senior Norte Division. Why not let them start at the Liga de Honra level?
This debacle also increases our league to 18 clubs, which will further dilute the league. For all those who think this is good to for the league, all this will do is increase the revenue of the Big 3.
I have nothing against Boavista and would love to see them be competitive in the league, but this isn't the way to get it done.

As for Setubal, they are a pathetically run club. If anything they further underline how unstable our league is. Setubal has been very close to relegation and if that were to happen, the could go the route of Estrella Amadora.
We all know that Portugal is run by the Big 3, in terms of fandom. Guimaraes and Braga have a loyal fan base, but so does Gil Vicente, Academica and Maritimo.
Setubal, in my opinion, is in the perfect location where they can capture fans from the large surrounding areas, but they don't. Bonfim is only filled to 20% capacity, and the club does zero marketing. To fair neither do other clubs.

People may disagree, but the league going to 18 clubs, will only further the Big 3 dominance. As a Benfica fan, that's great. As a futebol fan, that's sad.
@NJ & @Nuno
11 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:47

The PortuGOAL crew has in several twitter messages and articles confirmed that 15th in Primeira will play 3rd in Segunda. 1st and 2nd in Segunda will go directly up, 16th in Primeira directly down. That will make 17, and with Boavista directly up as well, 18.

@Nuno Gomes,

Why are you surprised? Setubal is one of the top 10 clubs in Portugal (only after Porto, Benfica, Sporting, Braga, Guimaraes, Academica, Boavista, Belenenses, and maybe Maritimo purely in terms of size). Setubal fits perfectly well where they are now, no surprise.
10 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:12
Thanks for the answers guys. I guess the campaign is already working if its got people like me (who don't normally care about kit sponsors) asking questions!
Why the random shirts answer
9 Wednesday, 09 April 2014 06:35
Dave, both Meo and Moche are sub-brands of PT (Portugal Telecom). Usually the players use the Meo logo, but PT lauched a campaign on Moche, wich is directed to under-25 users. So players under-25 use Moche and the rest use Meo.
Vitoria Setubal
8 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 13:17
Nuno Gomes
Is anyone else in shock to see Vitoria Setubal where they are?
7 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 12:13
Fantastic win by Benfica. Nico played really well, and I was happy to see Rodrigo score. This guy has played really well and has put in the necessary work rate. I hope we keep him for another campaign, even though he's been sold.
Silvio has come around after a rough start, and glad to see Almeida contribute. Before going gaga over his performance, please take the opposition into account.
(Andre, Argentina have a lot of world class forwards in their selection, which makes hard for Nico and Enzo to get the nod. Truth be told, Enzo is needed in that squad.)

I'm happy to see that Sporting is solidifying second. Getting that guaranteed group stage money, should help in the transfer market. If a couple of players also do well in the World Cup, it would drive up transfer fees.

We need Porto to get third. I would like to think that Porto is in a much better position to get past the qualifiers. Some players will go, but they need to retool.

Estoril could have really made it hard for Porto, but lat hiccups have undermined them. Let's hope the manager stays and continues building the squad.

Happy to see Belem get the win, but they've really struggled this campaign. Not sure if they'll get past the relegation qualifiers.

On a side note, with this Boavista debacle upon us, how will the qualifiers be set up. By the way, Boavista currently sits 5th in the CN Seniors Norte Division. How they're expected to compete in the Liga is beyond me. And if they are, shame on all the other clubs.
players wearing different sponsors
6 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 11:45
Hey Dave i think the players Under 25 had Moche jerseys while over 25 have Meo i guess its allowed or maybe Benfica asked for special permission but i thought it was pretty funny at first
5 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 11:20
Porto did the same thing, all the players below the age of 25 had one sponsor, and everyone above had a different one. Here's what Porto's facebook page said:

"In an action for innovative brand, FC Porto became the first team to submit a sponsorship segmented per player: the Under-25s were MOCHE and the rest were MEO "
4 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 09:38
If there is anyone still doubting whether Benfica would be deserving champions this season, the match last night would have given an emphatic answer. It's not yet done and dusted yet of course, and there's still work to be done in the next few matches, but last night they really looked like champions, it has to be said. They were all over Rio Ave right from the beginning, playing with confidence and balance, and even the couple of forced changes to the team made no difference to the overall dynamics.

Andre Almeida was superb at DM, just like the commentator said at one point, it seemed as if he had been playing in that position all season long, the reality being he hadn't played in any position for months! Silvio has been an excellent acquisition for the season, doesn't matter if he plays on the left or the right, he gives everything every time he plays. I hope we sign him permanently in the summer. Great to see Cardozo back among the goals, he will be confident now and should start against AZ on Thursday. But the man of the match was Gaitan, another fantastic performance. I've criticised him a lot in the last few years for his inconsistency, but this season he's fully convinced me. If Argentina really have 2 better options for the positions of Gaitan and Enzo, then it's some squad they have!

Well 2 wins (or even a win and 2 draws) from the next 4 matches guarantees the title. We're almost there, but like I've been saying for the last few months, one match at a time, don't look past this current week and the next match coming. The team has been doing this, and this is why they are in the strong position they're in.
3 Tuesday, 08 April 2014 09:27
I'll keep it short

Benfica - Fantastic win and we are almost there. The party is about the start

Sporting - Would be very happy for them to get second and automatic qualification to the Champions league. We need a strong Sporting

Porto - I for one hope they get third and not Estoril. We would have a great chance to have three strong Champions league teams as Porto would be seeded and in turn we could build our nation co-efficient's

Belenenses - Winning this week gives them a fighting chance to get away from the bottom two but as long as they can get second last they will still have a play-off to stay up with the third place team from the second division

Boavista - Can't wait for them to be back but I hope they can be competitive and stay up and then build .... I think they will.

Estoril - Fantastic this and last season but if Marco Silva leaves will they fall apart... hard to say
Why the random shirts?!
2 Monday, 07 April 2014 23:08
Another great performance tonight... Gaitan in particular was superb.

Does anyone know why the Benfica players were wearing 2 different shirts tonight? Most of them had the 'MEO' logo on the front, but 2 or 3 of them had 'MOCHE'. I know you can have different kit sponsors for the home and away shirts, but I didn't know you could use two different shirts in the same game!
1 Monday, 07 April 2014 22:59
Let's not forget about the return of Boavista!

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