Following a mixed week in Europe for Portugal’s biggest emblems, it was time to divert attention to the domestic scene and Matchday Six of the Liga NOS.

Sporting pressed on from their triumph in Greece with a convincing 2-0 win at home to Tondela, whereas city rivals Benfica endured back-to-back 2-1 defeats, this time at the hands of Boavista, to slip down to 4th in the standings.

FC Porto bounced back from their midweek disappointment with a 2-1 victory away to Rio Ave. Meanwhile, the main event up north saw Sporting de Braga come out on top in the Minho Derby against Vitória de Guimarães, celebrating a 2-1 win. PortuGOAL brings you the top weekend action.

 

To watch the highlights of the four matches featured below, click on the play button on the respective screen.

 

Boavista 2-1 Benfica

Following a surprising early season reshuffle of the club’s backroom staff (Nuno Gomes out, Simão Sabrosa in) and a Champions League opening day defeat to CSKA Moscow, Benfica were, in typical Portuguese fashion, a loss away from what many would like to coin as a crisis.

Ljubomir Fejsa’s continued absence won’t have eased Rui Vitória’s sleep prior to their trip to the Bessa, with the Eagles notoriously poorer without the Serbian in the line-up, but an early headed goal from Jonas promised to calm the fretful ambience a little.

Benfica totted up the shots at goal throughout the first half without adding to the score, and after the break Renato Santos went on to replicate Jonas’ sharp eye for goal at the beginning of the second period, consequently bringing Boavista level in the 55th minute.

The Black Panthers compounded Benfica’s misery in the 74th minute, with a Bruno Varela howler facilitating the conversion of an ambitious Fábio Espinho free-kick that would clinch all three points for new Boavista manager Jorge Simão.

After the game, Benfica boss Vitória was quick to reassure the club’s fan base, stating that the qualities required to win four league titles “aren’t lost from one day to another.”

 

Sporting 2-0 Tondela

With none other than Cristiano Ronaldo in attendance at the Estádio José Alvalade, Sporting welcomed Tondela with the view of making it six wins from six in the league.

The Lions were quick to assume command of the game, leading by the 12th minute via a well-placed free-kick from the ever-impressive Jeremy Mathieu.

Despite further dominance, Sporting took until the 72nd minute to extend their lead, as Bruno Fernandes added to his highlight reel with another beauty from range, finalising a 2-0 win.

Clearly pleased with his team’s form, Jesus did stress that “it’s not how you begin, but how you end (the season) that matters,” as the Green and Whites sharpen their case for a title charge.

 

Rio Ave 1-2 FC Porto

The Dragons were naturally keen to keep up with Sporting at the top of the table but would need to overcome a buoyant Rio Ave away from home beforehand.

A set-piece goal from Danilo Pereira’s head pushed Porto in the right direction come the 55th minute, after Yacine Brahimi and Vincent Aboubakar had come close to breaking the deadlock prior to the defensive midfielder’s opener.

Moussa Marega doubled Porto’s lead in the 67th minute, before Rio Ave responded through a composed finish by Nuno Santos inside the box.

Marcão’s late red card dampened the hosts’ hopes of drawing level as Porto climbed above Sporting on goal difference, both baring a five-point-advantage over slow-starters Benfica.

 

Sp. Braga 2-1 Vit. Guimarães

Both Braga and Guimarães began the season as obvious challengers to ‘the Big Three’ norm but have found consistency hard to come by in these early stages of the Liga NOS campaign.

A derby win can sometimes go a long way to revitalising a season, however, and it was Braga who got the upper hand when Paulinho struck gold in the 23rd minute with a diving header at the back post.

An insecure Matheus allowed Raphinha fire the ball under him in the 38th minute and draw Guimarães level, but the equaliser wasn’t to live on beyond the first period, as Hassan nodded Os Guerreiros back into the lead on the brink of half-time.

Abel Ferreira’s team held onto their one-goal advantage at full time, claiming the first set of bragging rights for the Europa League hopefuls and pushing the club up to 6th in the league table.

By Patrick Ribeiro

 

Matchday 6

P. Ferreira 1-0 Vit. Setúbal

Marítimo 2-1 Desp. Aves

Boavista 2-1 Benfica

Sporting 2-0 Tondela

Belenenses 2-1 Estoril

Rio Ave 1-2 FC Porto

Sp. Braga 2-1 Vit. Guimarães

Portimonense 2-1 Feirense

Chaves 3-0 Moreirense

 

Related: Figure of the Week - Portimonense's Japanese star Shoya Nakajima

 

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Jon, excellent analysis as always. I was hoping a Benfiquista would lay it down so I wouldn’t sound like I was kicking someone when they were down.

    If you watched Benfica vs Rio Ave, Portimao and CSKA you saw this coming. That is 4 awful games in a row. Not just bad but awful which worries me as well. I don’t think this is a blip and I also don’t think this is Rui V fault. Benfica did not provide cover for their top defender, goalie, right back and striker. All the replacements are fills in and really should not be playing at a top club like Benfica.

    I also see the major issues in the middle of the park. Benfica is used to playing at a certain pace with the lions share of possession. This year they do not have the speed or ability to transition from defense to attack seemlessly (Nelson Semedo #1 for this). They are paying the price and all the league sees it. It will be exceedingly difficult going forward unless they do a complete 180 turn. Everyone playing Benfica smells blood and will be out to win. Normally the small clubs just defend for life when playing the big 3.

    I also agree on both Porto depth and Sporting squad. And yes WOW on Bruno F. We all knew he was class from watching him in Italy but he is really making the most of this opportunity. Hoping he gets a call up soon, I think he deserves it.

    I know fans are fickle and will turn on the coach quickly but Rui V’s time with Benfica has been nothing but class and from a neutral this is so refreshing. He took a very vulnerable and understaffed Benfica when he started and molded them into a machine using many home grown talents and academy players. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. I place the problems squarely on the shoulders of Benfica. They simply did not get good coverage for the players they lost and both Sporting and Porto got stronger.

    Braga, Maritimo, Rio Ave and Guimaraes also are no slouches. This might be a tough year for the red machine.

    Good luck to Benfica. I don’t like to see teams slide like this and I hope they recover quickly but I am not convinced this year it will happen for them.

    Val

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Jon, I enjoyed your analysis even if I disagree heavily with your Porto assessment.

    Porto have depth in quite a few places. Our backup GK is arguably better than the starter (Jose Sa is imo Portugals best GK prospect). In defence on the flanks, we have Ricardo Pereira and Telles, who are excellent, though Telles makes a few errors.

    In defence, Marcano and Felipe are solid, Layun is a good CB/RB and Diego Reyes is just awful.

    In midfield, we have 3 creative playmakers in Oliver, Brahimi and Otavio. Backups in mid are Sergio Oliveira, Herrera and Andre Andre, 3 talented and hard working mids.

    Up top we have Marega, Tiquinho and Aboubakar. Hernani is a good option off the bench and Corona is a Mexican national team starter and constant goal threat. I honestly don't see where the lack of depth is except for at DM where Danilo is.


    Losing Neves and Jota was imo a mistake. We should have kept them so in that sense, I agree that we lost some of our quality off the bench.

    My question for you is why does LVF hate Rui V? Every season he gives the man an increasingly crappier team almost as a challenge. JJ got nothing but quality.

    As for Sporting, I agree that they are a contender but I see the JJ contract running out and the total dependence on Bas Dost as a real weak point.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I agree with some of your analysis, Chris, but I'm still not convinced that Porto have the depth to maintain such a high level deep into the season. Now Sergio Conceicao, like his predecessor Nuno, prefers to line up with two center-forwards in a 4-4-2 formation. The problem is that he only has three options for two positions: Aboubakar, Tiquinho Soares, and Marega. All of these guys can certainly fulfill a role, but none of them can compare to some of the center-forwards that Porto has had at their disposal in recent years. I would even argue that Andre Silva is significantly more talented than each of these three guys. What makes matters worse (and you alluded to this) is that with Diogo Jota now plying his trade England, Porto are without a proper second-striker; a clever, mobile, and technically gifted forward who is capable of drifting out wide and exploiting space in between the lines. Thus, I get the sense that they'll lack a bit of tactical flexibility up front if plan a (Brahimi 1v1's, crosses, and set-pieces) doesn't work.

    On the wings, Porto have Brahimi, Corona, and Hernani. Brahimi was extremely inconsistent during his first few seasons in Porto, but last year, he cemented his status as the best left-winger in the league. Corona is definitely talented, but he is far too inconsistent. Hernani is a decent player for a counter-attack oriented mid-table team, but I'm not convinced that he's good enough for Porto -- too one dimensional in my opinion. Ottavio can also operate on the wings, but I always felt he was more effective in a more central role. You simply cannot compare Porto's options (Brahimi, Corona, Ottavio, Hernani) with those of Benfica (Zivokivic, Salvio, Gabriel, Cervi, Rafa, Goncalves) and Sporting (Gelson, Acuna, Iuri Medeiros, Podence). If Brahimi goes down, Porto will become completely dependent on set-pieces and the rare counter-attack to generate any sort of creativity.

    In midfield, Porto have plenty of decent squad players (Andre Andre, Herrera, Sergio Oliveira), but none of these guys are anywhere near the quality of Oliver and Danilo. Benfica has a similar problem, however, as the likes of Samaris, Felipe Augusto are nowhere near the level of Pizzi and Fejsa.

    In defense, Felipe and Marcano make up the strongest center-back partnership in Portugal, but what happens if one, if not, both pick up injuries. Diego Reyes is a massive drop off in quality and Layun (while being able to whip in a decent set-piece) cannot defend to save his life. Ricardo is brilliant. Telles is error prone but his set-piece delivery is arguably the best in the league. Maxi is washed up. Like Benfica with Marcal, I think Porto may regret letting go of Rafa Soares, even if it is on loan.

    Bas Dost continues to be extremely important to Sporting, but with the addition of Doumbia, they now have an excellent back-up who I believe would walk right into Benfica or Porto's starting 11. It pains me to say this -- since I would love to see Benfica win the penta -- but Sporting just look the better team at the moment. The season is only just getting started, so it's still very much a three horse race, but if our injury epidemic continues, I just don't see us keeping up with Sporting's superior squad. Our extremely thin back-line should have been addressed in the summer transfer window, but it was completely ignored. I'm also really upset with their decision to sell Mitroglou (by far our best header of the ball out of all our forwards). At the end of the day, Sporting have emerged a much stronger team after the summer transfer window, whereas Benfica have are noticeably weaker.

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  • Jon, I always appreciate your thought-out and measured analysis. But I still disagree, Nuno and SC are nothing alike. Conceicao uses the 4-4-2 but it is much more free-flowing and the emphasis is on pressure, something which was a foreign concept to Nuno.

    I think we rate the players very differently. Porto have had for 3 seasons now, the strongest starting 11 by a long shot. The perceived weakness on the wings is not consistent with what I see. Layun or Maxi can easily slot in for RB and Ricardo P can move up to RW, a tactic which was employed by Porto this weekend against a very strong Rio Ave. The same can be done with Lyun on the left and you can push Telles up to LW.

    I feel Porto are still the strongest squad this season despite making no new acquisitions. That said, Sporting are a very strong second.
    I have actually been surprised by the work of BdC and the scouts. Bruno F was the steal of the decade. I also think Acuna is a big prospect, but no where near the finished article you are claiming. Gelson and Iuri are great creative sources as well, and hopefully future Seleccao starters.
    But I do not rate Doumbia nearly as highly as you do, and the fact that Bruno Fernandes has been their main goal threat, speaks to this reality. The good news is that Fernandes is a 2nd source of goals for SCP after Bas Dost. But I think Doumbia would not even walk onto the starting 11 for Braga, much less Porto.

    Speaking of Braga, if anyone watched the Minho derby this weekend, wow! Braga have been looking very impressive and their two main strikers, Xadas and Hasan look the real deal. Hopefully Porto can land Xadas one day, although as someone who appreciates Braga, I also like to see them strong.

    As for Benfica, yeah, I am quite surprised. The team sheet is not at all impressive. The fact that you reference Pizzi, a good but not great midfielder as being so important, speaks volumes about the lack of talent and strength, in my opinion. That said, counting Benfica out is a dangerous thought.

    I honestly am having a difficult time with soccer these days. I feel like I am taking crazy pills with these insane numbers being thrown around for frankly, average players. Dembele worth $150 million? Coutinho worth $125 million? Neymar worth $200 million? Davide Zappacosta to Chelsea for $25 million? DOES ANYONE KNOW WHO DAVIDE ZAPPACOSTA IS??????

    Honestly, the money being thrown at the game is insane, and with Bloated Blatter and Gold-digger Platini out of the game, I thought things would improve, but the corruption and inequity in footy continues to grow. If Coutinho, Doumbia and Neymar are worth those amounts, then Messi is worth $800 million and Ronaldo is worth $1 billion.

    Insanity.

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  • Chris
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Zappacosta for 25m isn't such a bad deal - Torino are good at giving players the profile and skills to move to a bigger club but yeh, the prices nowadays are absurd.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well it has been a dodgy last few weeks for the tetracampeoes it has to be said, in terms of results and performances. The continuous sick list of players hasn't helped of course, what on earth is going on in Benfica's medical department? The opening of this season has simply carried on from all of last season. But I will say this, people talking about a crisis because of two narrow defeats in a row? A crisis and we won't be able to win the Liga because we're 5 points off top spot in mid September? Lol, relax people, to say the season has just started is a massive understatement. Let me remind people how Benfica started relatively slowly in each of the previous 4 seasons, in Vitoria's first season I recall we were something like 8 points adrift in early December, and well everyone knows what happened at the end of each of those 4 seasons! Its pointless coming to any premature conclusions before at least say February or so. Sporting have made a strong start, but they are also a club that until their hands are actually on the trophy I will have my doubts. Their record of winning major titles in virtually all my life as a football fan, shows they have major difficulty getting over the finishing line. Let's see how they deal with the inevitable dodgy stage that will arrive at some point this season. Nevertheless this is a good chance for them to finally win the league again, as both Benfica and Porto have significantly weaker squads than in recent seasons. My main point is that people shouldn't get carried away by the league table in September, many many matches to come!

    On the other hand, I do agree with some of the points made about the transfer dealings of Benfica in the summer and the subsequent state of the squad for this season. As I've mentioned for quite a few years already, I'm sick and tired of LFV already. He's had long enough at the helm already and its time for a new president who can bring a new direction for the club other than sell, sell, sell and make our club into a shop window of talent for the mega rich clubs of Europe. I remember years ago already disagreeing with people giving all the credit to LFV for Benfica's success, and stating the opposite: this president just sells all the best players every summer and January and then hopes the manager (first JJ and now Vitoria) works minor miracles with a brand new team at the start of the season. This phenomenon was only increased this summer. 3/5 of our strong back 5 from last season quickly sold off in the summer and no real replacements brought in for them. The fact that average players at best such as Varela, Andre Almeida and Filipe Augusto are starting every game only accentuates my point. As I mentioned in a post of mine last season, there is clearly some foul play regarding Benfica's finances, something very dodgy, where is the money really going? If LFV isn't actually directly involved in this, then he is powerless to prevent it from happening. Either way, it's time for a new president to bring a new direction to the club, in my view.

    Anyway I still think Benfica have enough talent to win the league. Some issues have to be addressed though, the 3 players I mentioned simply can't continue to start. Julio Cesar has to take over in goal from a very suspect and nervous looking Varela. I haven't seen much of Douglas but he has to be better than Almeida, at least coming forward. And while Fejsa is injured, Samaris must start at DM (miles better than Augusto). I'd also like to see Raul Jimenez start ahead of Seferovic at CF, the Mexican offers far more movement and energy up front. Also in January the club needs to spend some cash and bring in a quality CB and number 8. In short, its way too early to write off the defending champions from seriously challenging for the league, although i do agree there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Will be interesting as ever!

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    Good comments all. Consider this an outsider opinion since I don't follow the league performances but I just wanted to say wow Benfica looks completely out of it this year. I think our attackers are competitive enough to achieve top 2 in the champions league group (the referee screwed them a bit) but the defense is a huge problem that will be the demise, kicking us out of Europe altogether. Bruno Varela can not be starting. As Andre/UK alluded to the forward play also suffers by having to worry about covering the back all the time. It's causing a strain. Sporting has the toughest group by far but the upgrades they have made this year makes me believe they have the best chance out of the Big 3 to advance out despite that. Porto and Benfica are about as average as their group opponents if not below average. Sad to say, the only way I see them reaching is by pure chance. I also agree that Rui Vitoria is being mistreated with the talent provided to him. The teams Jorge Jesus had were far far superior and yet Benfica shows a 70% win percentage with him as coach compare that with Rui Vitoria's Benfica win percentage which currently sits at 73%. Something is seriously wrong here.

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  • Hello all, interesting reading.
    Regarding Porto - Their first half against Rio Ave was awful, constant giving the ball away, the front players being unable to keep hold of the ball long enough to do anything with it and the midfield absent (Danilo was over-worked) but the second half was much better and they deserved the win. I would say that Rio Ave had the better positioning and organisation but Porto won it through pressing and 2 good finishes. Not convinced by Marega though he does attack space but I still feel they lack a quality number 9 to really threaten teams. They looked good against Besiktas with some lovely passing and movement (Brahimi in particular) but once Besiktas scored they looked a little shocked and couldn't step up. I believe they have a tough group with RB, Besiktas and Monaco and I doubt they'll go through. Finishing 3rd and going into the Euorpa would be respectable. The match against Sporting in a few weeks will give a good idea of the progress of the team.
    I haven't seen enough of Benfica yet to have an opinion (will try to see this weekends game) but they do look a little short on quality and I worry about the Portuguese teams being left behind by the bigger spending leagues. Saying this if they are clever with their targets there are plenty of good players to be had from Italy, France and Spain who are discarded by the rich clubs.
    As for Sporting.. with Mathieu and Soares at CB they wont go far in Europe. They were terrible against Steau Bucharest and a good team will slice them to pieces. Cant call if they will win the league though with JJ I guess anything is possible.

    from England, UK
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  • and that was a really poor goal for Porto to give away. Easy.

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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    Does anyone know what Sporting's record would be without B. Fernandes? Just saying.

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