Porto endure Benfica onslaught to keep title challenge alive

In the match that was supposed to be decisive to the title math, Benfica and FC Porto faced-off in a duel where both teams seemed content to get the draw. It ended up being somewhat of a lacklustre spectacle. Benfica started very well, getting an early penalty that dismantled Nuno Espírito Santo’s strategy of winning the midfield battle and provided the first change on the scoreboard. The draw was a bad result when the ball started to roll but losing at the Estádio da Luz would have meant that Porto would be, virtually, out of contention for the title. Porto started pushing Benfica back into their half, albeit a little slower than they could’ve. Then, in a moment that could only happen on April’s Fools, Maxi Pereira, former Benfica idol and intermittent captain, appeared in an unfamiliar position and scored the equaliser.

Surprisingly, it was Benfica that piled on the pressure and had numerous chances to score. They were denied by an inspired Iker Casillas, a man that seems destined to always achieve good things in that particular stadium. Porto celebrated the draw in the end, due to the amount of pressure they had to endure to get it, but Benfica were the happier team.  The outcome of this match is that the teams keep their distance. Porto now know that they will need to wait for a Benfica slip up to get the title. Rui Vitória will feel he could’ve given the final blow here though, and the trip to Alvalade to face Sporting CP in the Lisbon Derby, at the end of April, is now even more important.

Jorge Jesus and his team will certainly play with their hearts pouring on the game. Not only will they want to give the fans something to celebrate, they’ll want to damage Benfica’s title chances. That’s not all for Sporting. With the pressure being eased due to the point difference between them and Benfica, the Leões have quietly won four points in the last two matches over both their big rivals. It wasn’t in the most spectacular of ways, and again they scraped through this weekend with a 1-2 win away at Arouca, scoring twice within 80 seconds to turn it around and finally getting the better of Arouca’s goalkeeper Sinan Bolat, who pulled off a collection of difficult saves. They’re still eight and seven points behind, but their fans are very faithful, and with tough matches for everyone ahead, and that huge derby in the back of their minds, Sporting have reason to believe that it’s possible to steal 2nd spot and direct entrance in the Champions League’s Group Stage.

About the Author

Pedro Maria Coito Castano
A football geek that can answer what's the height of that non-league midfielder. With no ability to play the game, but a keen eye to observe it, I've had a minor role as an assistant manager at an U-13 team in Portugal (Belenenses) and did some scouting for CS Maritimo (also from Portugal), and have a need to be ahead of everyone in terms of who the next big star will be