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Monday, 18 August 2014 08:37

Debutant Ruben Neves shines as Porto impress in opener

Wins for Benfica and Braga as Sporting stumble

ruben-neves-herrera-20140815.jpgFC Porto kicked off the new season in front of a full house at the Estádio do Dragão on Friday evening, and did not disappoint the 50,000 crowd with an impressive display, beating Marítimo 2-0.

Benfica won their opener by an identical score at home against Paços de Ferreira, while Braga overcame returning Boavista 3-0 at the Quarry. Sporting conceded a last-minute equaliser in a 1-1 against Académica in Coimbra.

Porto may have made an array of expensive summer signings, but it was a youth product who stole the show in the game that raised the curtain on the 2014/15 Primeira Liga season, against Marítimo. Ruben Neves was handed his full debut at just 17 years of age (one day older than the youngest ever starter in a Liga game for Porto - Bruno Gama), and stole the show with a performance of extraordinary maturity given his lack of experience.

Neves did not look out of place as he sought the ball constantly, distributed it well and was involved in much of Porto's best moments while he was on the pitch for over an hour. Not satisfied with that, he opened the scoring with a fine finish in the 12th minute. Jackson Martínez rounded things off for the Dragons with a goal in stoppage time after being set up in spectacular fashion by substitute Tello.

Brahimi was also impressive and although it is early days Julen Lopetegui's team look a completely different proposition to the Porto of last season. The Blue and Whites look in good shape ahead of their crucial Champions League play-off against Lille in France in midweek.

Gaitán on fire for Benfica

Defending champions Benfica also put in a dominant performance against Paços de Ferreira. The visitors started brightly and had a golden chance to take the lead from the penalty spot, but goalkeeper Artur - reportedly playing his last match for the Eagles - produced a wonderful diving stop from Manuel José's spot kick. From that moment onwards the hosts took control.

Gaitán was in irresistible form, with two magnificent assists for a goal in each half from the evergreen Maxi Pereira and Salvio, who himself showed he is in great shape and hungry after an injury-hit season last year. The biggest ovation of the night however was reserved for Enzo Pérez, when he had to come off injured in the first half. The Benfica faithful know the importance of the combative midfielder who was playing his 100th game for the team. The question remains: was it his last?

Sporting pegged back

Sporting started the season in disappointing fashion, dropping two points at Académica. The Lions began well, with Carrillo's header from a superb Jefferson cross giving Marco Silva's team a well deserved first-half lead. But Sporting lost their way after the break, and the hosts' pressure intensified when William Carvalho was sent off in the 67th minutes for picking up a second yellow card.

They seemed to have weathered the storm until a crass mistake from Carrillo (who had until then played perhaps his finest game in a Sporting shirt) led to a last-gasp equaliser from Rafael Lopes with a fine angled drive from inside the box.

Braga brush aside Boavista

Boavista are back in the big time, but Braga served early notice that their return will be hard work. Goals from Pedro Tiba, Ruben Micael and Éder gave the hosts a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Belenenses and Vitória Guimarães both clocked up impressive 3-1 wins away from home, against Penafiel and Gil Vicente respectively, while Moreirense also won away, surprising Nacional with a 1-0 win in Madeira.

Life as the new Vitória Setúbal coach did not start well for Domingos Paciência as he watched his side lose 2-0 at Rio Ave.

The week one programme concludes tonight with Arouca v Estoril.

by Tom Kundert

Comments (4)
Portuguese Young Players Will Play if They Perform
4 Thursday, 21 August 2014 06:53
Tony, CA (the original Tony in CA, not Tony in Turlock, CA)
Good start to the season by Neves. Too early but if he continues to do well, it will prove that Portuguese top clubs will play Portuguese talent that performs. This is on the player not on the club, he has been given the environment to have success. How often do we see these young players flop like Lica as noted earlier. I hope Neves is the real deal, Portuguese soccer needs consistent young players to make a mark.
3 Tuesday, 19 August 2014 13:13
I was happy with Benfica's win, but still plenty left to do. I still feel Enzo will be gone and not shocked if others went as well. As a selfish fan, I want Luisao to finish out career here, but why not give him a big final pay day if 3 million euro mentioned is real? He's earned whatever decision he makes.
Cesar coming in will be interesting. He's looked out of shape in recent seasons so hopefully CL play will light a fire in him again. Artur should stay as backup, but we need to find long term solution.
Striker, Def Mid, Center Back and Goalie could all be an issue. Not good when the spine of the team is so frail.
Can't wait for the transfer season to end, including Russia's, so we can get on with it.

Nice kick off win for Porto. Hopefully it will carry over into their CL qualifier. It will be important for Portugal to have three clubs in the group stages.
Unfortunately, I don't see any of the three getting past the group stages, even with favorable draws.

Sporting falters, but they certainly had a lot of turmoil going into the game. I for one, am not convinced that Carvalho has the necessary accuman to handle the transfer market. It's one thing slapping high price tags on players, it's a whole other thing negotiating a deal with clubs and players.
By the way, Sporting only owns 25% of Rojo, so he was always going to leave. Instead of leveraging Rojo's World Cup performance, it seems as if they were caught off guard.
I think it could great for the league and Sporting, should Nani come back on loan. Although he's looked a shell of himself, maybe this will help him, and in return help Sporting.
The question I have is whether this is good for the Selacao? Many want more Portuguese players playing, but guys coming back to play against inferior competition can not be a good thing. He needs to play, I was just hoping he would get playing time at a big club in Spain or Italy or even France. Yes Sporting are Portuguese Giants and are playing in the CL, but at a lesser club with CL play in a better league would be helpful no?

Nice win for Braga, albeit poor opponent. Happy to see Belem and Guimaraes notch wins.

Lastly, it's pathetic how we've, meaning clubs and managers, have already come out against the refs. Carvalho is already on his woe is Sporting trumpet. Disappointed that JJ has also chirped.
It's pathetic.
2 Monday, 18 August 2014 16:16
Wasn't Lica in the same light last season? Played well his first and second game then faded away.
New season
1 Monday, 18 August 2014 12:29
I was pleased with Benfica's performance last night, just as I was in the super taca final last week. Players come and players go each summer but JJ always has clear ideas on how he wants this team to play, and that will remain the case this season, whoever starts. People have been writing off Benfica a lot this summer, but they do so at their peril, because in relation to our 2 rivals, we have the same experienced coaching staff of the last 5 years who fought for titles each season (as opposed to inexperienced new coaches), this could well make the difference in the long run, we shall see in due time.

Pacos did quite well and were not an easy opponent. Fonseca is an organised coach, his move to Porto didn't work out but he looks to have already gotten Pacos on the right track after their poor season last year.

As for SLB, it's clear that there's still quality in the squad despite all the sales. Having said that, I still think we need 3 signings in key positions to boost the depth of the squad: goalkeeper, DM and central striker (make that 4 if Enzo is sold, another CM to replace him). If we can get quality in those positions, then I'd be confident of being competitive on all fronts again in this new season.

Didn't see any of the other games. A solid win for Porto to give them confidence ahead of what could be a very tricky CL play-off tie with Lille. Disappointing for Sporting to concede right at the death, although a draw away to Academica is not a terrible result. The problem for Sporting again this season could well be scoring enough goals, especially if Slimani leaves as is expected. Anyway hopefully another exciting season ahead for all of us!

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