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Wednesday, 26 March 2014 23:12

Rejuvenated Porto end Benfica's unbeaten run

FC Porto 1-0 Benfica

Porto gained the upper hand after the 1st leg of the Portuguese Cup semi-final with a thoroughly deserved victory over Benfica. An early Jackson Martínez goal proved the winner, and the Lisbon club can consider themselves fortunate not to have suffered a heavier defeat.

Porto coach Luís Castro made a surprise selection in midfield, with Herrera given his first start under the new coach. Fellow Mexican Reyes was rewarded for his recent good displays with a starting spot over Abdoulaye. For Benfica, Jorge Jesus continued his policy of rotating heavily, resting five players from Sunday's victory over Académcia - Oblak, Siqueira, Gaitán, Markovic, Lima - and replacing them with Artur, Sílvio, Amorim, Salvio and Cardozo respectively.

The hosts produced an electric start to put Benfica straight on the back foot. A wickedly delivered Quaresma cross in the opening minutes caused panic in the Benfica defence, and soon afterwards only a desperate Luisão clearance denied Jackson. But from the resulting corner, again wonderfully delivered by Quaresma, the Colombian striker powered a header past the helpless Artur.

Jackson rediscovers mojo

Porto did not let up, swamping Benfica in midfield with their constant hustling and harrying, with Fernando at his brilliant best and Jackson Martínez looking back on top of his game after a series of lethargic displays.

Varela should have doubled Porto's lead on 36 minutes after being played through on goal by Fernando, but he did not hit his shot cleanly and Artur got his foot to it to deflect the effort wide. Jackson then came close again after a sweeping move again cut through Benfica's defence, but the forward was tackled by Luisão as he was about to pull the trigger.

The best the Eagles could manage in a first half in which they were completely outplayed was a Maxi shot deflected over the bar and a Rodrigo header that went wide.

The intensity of the match dropped significantly in the second half. Benfica started to enjoy more of the ball in what was becoming a more even contest, but the Lisbon club failed to carve out chances.

Porto came desperately close to doubling their lead in the 77th minute when the lively Jackson turned sharply and lifted a deft shot over Artur, only to see the ball bounce back into play after hitting the post.

Fabiano wonder save

With ten minutes remaining Benfica at last called Porto goalkeeper Fabiano into action, and the big Brazilian was up to the task, showing lightning reflexes to produce an incredible save to keep out Ruben Amorim's low effort.

Porto ended the match strongly looking for a second goal, and Quintero appeared set to score it when some lovely control allowed him to surge free from his markers towards Artur but his attempted pass to Quaresma did not reach its target when a shot would surely have been the better option.

Nevertheless, Porto will be happy to travel to the Estádio da Luz with the advantage ahead of the second leg, and delighted at the strong performance - undoubtedly their best of the season. Luís Castro has quietly transformed the team in the short time he has been in charge. [For more on this read Vasco Mota Pereira's tactical notes on the match]

Benfica's 27-game unbeaten run comes to an end, but they know the tie is far from over, and with the Liga possibly all but wrapped up by the time the second match comes along, Jorge Jesus will be confident his charges can turn it around at home. It's all set up for a tremendous second leg in Lisbon on 16 April.

by Tom Kundert

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

Artur, Maxi, Luisão, Garay, Sílvio, Salvio (Marković), Fejsa, Ruben Amorim, Sulejmani (Gaitán), Rodrigo (Lima), Cardozo

[1-0] Jackson, 5'

Comments (9)
9 Friday, 28 March 2014 01:13
By all accounts, Benfica were poor. I wish we would have dug out an away goal.
Still all to play for. The Taca still means something.
If only...
8 Thursday, 27 March 2014 19:48
If only we had played like this consistently throughout the season...
7 Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:59
I've been a big critic of JJ in the past, but I have to say he's winning me over this season. I agree with his rotation policy as I feel that his reluctance to rotate really contributed to our downfall last season. But why play Cardozo for 90 minutes against Porto in the cup semi-final when he is so far from full fitness? It was like playing with 10 men at times last night. Sure he needs games to regain fitness, but JJ could have picked a better moment to give him some game-time. Even if he had taken him off after an hour I feel we might have snatched something from the game. Still, the tie is far from over and the return match could be a cracker! Porto will be disappointed that they aren't already 3 up after that performance.
6 Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:38
The result is definitely fair as Porto were largely the better team overall. However I don't agree with the points that Porto deserved a much bigger victory, yes they had more scoring chances but we also had a few ourselves, were always in the game and could even have snatched a draw in that second half.

Castro has definitely improved Porto and last night they looked more like the team of the last few seasons. Given the respective clubs' position in the Liga, this tournament is clearly a bigger priority for Porto and they definitely seemed more up for the match than Benfica were. They deserved to win, no arguments. Fernando was immense, and I can't believe Bento is not considering him for the Selecao.

There were some errors from JJ, imo, in both selection and tactics. I don't think he should've gone with 4-4-2 away to Porto. Porto's extra man in midfield was always likely to dominate the centre of the pitch. And with Cardozo playing, we should have looked to take advantage from the set plays we had. So many corners and free kicks were played short when we should have tried to find Cardozo in the box. Neither Cardozo nor Salvio look fully recovered yet and Sulejmani failed to impress yet again.

Anyway considering the rotation of players for the match (personally I would've even rotated more, Luisao really needs a break) due to the greater importance of other competitions, I will take a narrow 1-0 defeat with the second leg still to come at home.
this tie should be over
5 Thursday, 27 March 2014 02:13
Porto are unlucky to not win at least 3-0 and even that is generous. benfica were totally suffocated into their half.
Napoli repeat
4 Thursday, 27 March 2014 01:44
Jesus having to press for the goal is something i will take all day...benfica likes scoring first and having control, porto counter attack like they did in napoli and they will be fine. ball is in portos court. also nice to see a b-team coach get a chance and excel...you have to admit he knows how to get the best out of his players. makes fonseca look like a spectator
3 Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:47
Benfica fans Always have an excuse, it was full of B players!
Porto will play with even more intensity at the Luz
Never been a bad place for us. Won the liga there, beat you 3-1 there 3-2 and it goes onnnnn......
And bring on your so say first team!!
Porto até ao FIM!!!!
Porto deserved it
2 Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:05
Even with multiple starters rested, Benfica looked and played terrible. Giving the ball away cheaply and sloppily too many times to count. Silvio, Salvio, and Cardozo were particularly inept.

The 4-4-2 always seems to be a recipe for disaster against Porto's 4-3-3, and tonight was no different. Porto dominated the midfield, made crucial interceptions and break-ups, and thoroughly bossed the middle of the pitch.

As a positive, Benfica can at least say that of their few quality attacks, most had to be broken up by hard Porto fouls, most resulting in cards. I think half of the dragons ended up with yellows...

Benfica now need to play a close-to-perfect second leg in order to advance. Not impossible, but definitely difficult.

However, a lot can happen between now and then, and if this is the price we have to pay to sew up the Liga and remain competitive in the Europa, so be it. I can (begrudingly) deal with that.

One a side note-Porto, IMO, still need to rotate more if they want to make a legit late season push. Not sure how many more games Sandro, Danilo, and Jackson can withstand without some decent rest.
Not the worst that could happen
1 Wednesday, 26 March 2014 23:50
SLB have to be content with the result. 1 nil, when they fielded a team that was half subs and it could/should have been 2 or 3 nil. By the time leg 2 rolls around, they could have the liga just about clinched and can field the first team at the Luz with just one goal to make up at home. No way FCP can be happy with this result

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