This Week In Portugal: Porto End Sporting’s Title Hopes as Benfica & Braga Go Plundering

Honestly, sometimes I wish I never write some things in this roundup. It’s been another week of sweeping change at the bottom of the table in Portugal and drama at the top:

Porto Take Huge Step Towards Title

It was this week’s huge clash. Only a win would keep Sporting in the title race. Anything less and they were pretty much out of it. As it happened, Porto proved why they have been this season’s star team domestically thanks in no small part to the legendary Iker Casillas.

Sporting created chances and were very good going forward but they were denied by the inspired Casillas. Porto had chances of their own, exploiting the hopeless Sporting back line on numerous occasions. Ivan Marcano’s could have any of three unmarked at the back post while Yacine Brahimi’s winner came thanks to makeshift right back Stefan Ristovski falling on his arse. It was nice to see Goncalo Pacienca set that up too considering there was concern he may not get much of a chance back at Porto.

For Sporting, it’s a critical defeat but they can take positives from the performance of young scorer Rafael Leao. He’s been a bright spot recently – quick, confident and contributing. He’s still raw but he could be a big star.

Braga and Benfica Gone Wild

Saturday’s action saw the other two in the top four go insane in front of goal. Benfica were first as they hosted a Maritimo side who had papered over the cracks with their win last week. Turns out it’s only a week’s reprieve from my stick as they were awful. 4 down at half time thanks in no small part to human cheat code Jonas’ hat trick, Joao Gamboa then decided to get himself sent off for trying to break Andrija Zivkovic’s leg. The Serbian would make it an easy five late on too and, on the basis of this performance, you can see why he’s been linked with a big money move away.

Braga, meanwhile, went one better and battered six past poor Estoril. They absolutely cruised this away trip with Paulinho and Ricardo Horta both getting braces. Estoril slumped to the bottom of the table thanks in part to other results but mostly thanks to the absolute shellacking their goal difference took. They’ve conceded a league high 52 goals so far and their defending was unacceptable at under 7 level.

The Relegation Battle Changes…Again

So with Estoril bottom that meant that other teams picked up points. Shockingly, having written off the bottom two last week, they promptly both won. Moreirense won the most crucial game against the now second bottom Pacos de Ferreira. It was a tight affair but in the end it was two entirely preventable goals that won it for Moreirense. The excellent Alfa Semedo in midfield was allowed to power a header home before half time then Bilel Aouacheria slotted through the rather flimsy Mario Felguieras to seal it late on. That made it five defeats on the bounce for Pacos who look a little lost right now.

Feirense also picked up three points with their first victory after five defeats on the bounce. They beat the wildly inconsistent Boavista 3-0 at home to surprise not only me but anyone with eyes. It was an atrocious game thanks to the awful weather and horrid pitch with both keepers struggling to catch anything. Boavista were miles off the pace and Feirense were better suited to the conditions with a header from a corner, a genuine piece of quality and poor Vagner in the Boavista goal being beaten by a mud patch in his box.

Vitoria Setubal moved away a little from the bottom two in fourteenth with a scrappy 1-0 win at home to Rio Ave. Andre Pereira’s goal was a good summation of a pretty drab affair. Vitoria lost Jose Semedo for the last fifteen thanks to two quick yellow cards but held on for the crucial win.

The in-form Aves managed to get Portimonense to look over their shoulders nervously after winning Monday’s battle between the promoted sides 3-0. That takes Aves’ run to five games unbeaten in the league and they’re now four points away from the bottom two which is great work from Jose Mota’s men. Two goal of the week contenders certainly helped them on their way.

Goal(s) of the Week

For this week only I need more than one goal of the week:

Nildo Petrolina (Aves) – On the left corner of the box, given too much time and unsure of what to do, Petrol pumps it into the top corner. Good call sir.

Rodrigo Soares (Aves) – The right back curled a free kick in to open the scoring. Think Danny Murphy at Old Trafford and you’ll get it.

Luis Machado (Feirense) – The only bit of quality in that game came when the ball dropped to Machado from a scramble and he just bent it into the top corner.

Next Week

League leaders Porto are on the road at Pacos next week while Benfica host in form Aves and Sporting will probably lose at Chaves. Down the other end, Estoril, Moreirense and Feirense are all on the road at Boavista, Rio Ave and Braga.