And with two matches left, the race for the Liga Nos title looks to have been sorted. Out of the three first placed teams, Benfica were the last to play and were the only ones able to actually get a win in this decisive stage of the season, ensuring that they only need two points to be crowned champions again.
It all started going well for Benfica around 24 hours before their match was to be played, as Rui Vitoria’s men sat around the TV to see what Porto would be able to do at Estadio dos Barreiros, in Madeira island, a venue where Benfica actually lost one of their matches this season.
Nuno Espirito Santo was, once again, too conservative with the starting lineup, in a time that did not justify that, as a win was the only result that could’ve kept the Dragoes hopes alive. Porto had a good first half, but they were not able to kill off the match, and facing a Maritimo team that is still, pretty much, in contention for Europe, they were punished by a set piece goal and, instead of pressuring Benfica. Porto ended Saturday thinking they might still have to fend off Sporting, as the Leoes had an easy match at hands to reduce the distance to a mere three points…
The match was easy on paper. 11 games in a row without losing, at home, against Belenenses, a team that was coming from 7 consecutive losses and had not won at Alvalade for the past 62 years!
Sporting vs Belenenses was played at lunch time, and it felt like the Leoes would much rather had stayed in bed. They were a complete shadow of themselves, got a lucky goal and still managed to lose it out in a humbling goodbye to the direct access to the Champions League group stage in a 3-1 loss.
The stage was set for Benfica to have an almost perfect round, where they could finish off their opponents for the title, with one last blow, at a very tough stadium like Rio Ave’s. Rio Ave is a team used to complicating life to the big 3 of Portugal, and they did once again, arguably deserving more from the match that they actually have got. However, they were defeated by a counter attack after a corner, brilliantly guided by Salvio and finished off by Raul Jimenez, the man of the decisive goals.
Benfica got the win and with it the title, and all the 3 first spots seem decided. Next Saturday Benfica host VSC at Estadio da Luz, and if they win again they will be champions, on the 100 year anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s apparition in Fatima. Seems poetic enough, doesn’t it?