It was almost a perfect weekend for Rui Vitoria’s Benfica. Not only were they able to survive their intense and exciting, though not always properly played, match against Sporting, their big rivals to the league title, Porto, were unable to beat minnows Feirense at the Estadio do Dragao.
The big match of round was, obviously, Sporting-Benfica played at the Estadio Jose de Alvalade. This was an important match for Sporting, not only to reduce Benfica’s lead, but to keep their hopes of second place and Champions League group stage qualification alive. For Benfica, though, this was a do-or-die bout; a game they absolutely could not lose.
Sporting came to play. They had five minutes of very intense pressure on Ederson’s goal, culminating on a penalty won by Bas Dost and converted by Adrien Silva. Benfica were in the position they had to avoid in the early moments of the match, and that changed all the plans for the Lisbon Derby. Jesus’ team were more assertive in the first half, but they were unable to add to their lead, and Benfica started pushing them back towards the end of the first half, with some questionable decisions in Sporting’s penalty area coming the home team’s way. Bas Dost had a great chance at the beginning of the second half, and had he scored Benfica would’ve been out of the game, but that miss lifted the Aguias’ spirits.
The moment of the match came around the hour mark. After a first-half free kick from Grimaldo was saved by European champion Rui Patricio, Benfica had another set piece, in about the same position. Grimaldo was there to take it, but also Lindelof, a player that was never known to have the ability.
It was clearly a very well-kept secret, as the Swedish center-back hit it perfectly, almost hitting the side netting, giving no chance to Sporting’s keeper.
With that draw Benfica knew they would stay in the lead, but it was up to Porto to reduce the distance to a single point before the last four rounds of Liga Nos. But, without the suspended Brahimi, Nuno Espirito Santo’s team were a shadow of themselves. They created very little, and were unable to beat Feirense, a team with little to no expression in the Portuguese top flight. And with the nil-nil at the Dragao, Benfica were able to keep their three point advantage.
It’s not a decisive lead, but this weekend was one of the best possible scenarios for Benfica. Now they only have to jog off and avoid any slip ups to claim their 4th title in a row.