Porto Go Top As Sporting Shoot Themselves In The Foot & Vitoria Get A Giant Dose of VAR

Portugal

Matchday 19 in Liga NOS was one of drama, action and moments of excellent quality. Well, unless you were watching Maritimo against Belenenses. Here’s what happened this week in Portugal:

Changes At The Top

It’s all change at the top of the table thanks to one surprising result. Sporting travelled to second bottom Vitoria Setubal hoping to continue their march towards the title. The undefeated league leaders weren’t at their absolute peak but looked to be leaving Setubal with all three points thanks to Bruno Fernandes’ eighth league goal of the season. However, disaster struck late on when Jeremy Mathieu pulled back substitute Edinho in the area to concede a penalty. Edinho picked himself up and coolly slotted it home to give Setubal a precious point.

Those dropped points opened the door for second placed Porto to get to the top of the table. They hosted mid-table Tondela who have quietly went about their business this year.  Porto were gifted the winning goal after just 13 minutes when Tondela’s Muniru passed it straight to Moussa Marega and the Malian belted home his 15th Liga NOS goal. The new league leaders had multiple chances to extend their advantage but a combination of poor finishing, good saves, the woodwork and the assistant kept the score to just one. Porto also have a game in hand on Sporting thanks to the abandonment of their trip to Estoril last week due to safety concerns at half time.

Benfica closed the gap to Sporting to just a solitary point thanks to a comfortable 3-0 home win over Chaves. Main man Jonas got a first half brace while Pizzi wrapped up the points just after half time.

The other member of the big four in Portugal, Braga, also picked up three points with a 2-1 win away at newly promoted Portimonense.

VAR-tastic

Outside of the top four, some of the big talking points came in the weekend’s final game between Vitoria Guimaraes and bottom club Estoril. The Praia club has been rooted to the bottom of the table for a while now and their task was not made any easier by full back Abner’s early straight red. It was harsh on the Estoril man with the referee deciding that Abner had denied a goalscoring opportunity.

Further controversy erupted too when, from the resulting free kick, the ball struck an Estoril arm in the wall. After much consultation with his monitor the referee gave a corner to much bemusement from anyone with two eyes. VAR did come good for the opening goal for Guimaraes as Paolo Hurtado was incorrectly ruled offside. This time the referee overruled that and gave a plus mark to VAR.

Estoril did get level right on half time after Eduardo’s belting free kick rattled the post from 30 plus yards and Andre Claro snaffled up the rebound. That was as good as it got as Guimaraes made their numerical advantage count with second half strikes from Raphinha and Heldon.

Goal of the Weekend

A tough one this week but I’ve got two goals of the week. First, Paulinho of Braga opened the scoring at Portimonense with a goal of sublime technique. Raul Silva sent a long ball forward to the striker who fired home a volley into the bottom corner, an impressive feat with the ball dropping over his shoulder.

Secondly, Rio Ave continued their great season with a 2-0 home win over Boavista capped off by a sensational solo goal from Yuri Ribeiro. The left back went on a mazy run capped off by a fantastic finish into the bottom corner.

Team of the Weekend

Rio Ave‘s aforementioned win over Boavista keeps them as best of the rest in fifth place right now but only seven points behind Braga in fourth. They play some nice possession football and have some really good players who, if they stay fit, could even sneak into the top four.

Player of the Weekend

It’s pretty obvious this week with Jonas taking his goal tally in the league to 23 with his brace against Chaves. The Brazilian has scored half of Benfica’s goals now and he’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Next Week

Matchday 20 runs from Monday to Wednesday next week with a couple of interesting fixtures. Sporting will look to bounce back at home against Guimaraes, Porto travel to Moreirense while Benfica are on the road at Belenenses. Down at the bottom, Estoril will look to get off the bottom of the table against Tondela; Vitoria Setubal will be looking to build on the Sporting point at Chaves and promoted sides Aves and Portimonense look to arrest their slides down the table against Braga and Rio Ave respectively.