With the international break just around the corner, the fixture machine offered us a double header between two of Portugal’s most fervent footballing regions, as Benfica trekked up north to face Vitória de Guimarães prior to Sporting de Braga’s reverse trip to Lisbon, where they met Sporting.

Away from it all was FC Porto, who’d have an emblematic case of their own in sight with Belenenses in town, as the Dragons reaffirmed themselves as Primeira Liga leaders with a 2-0 victory at home.

Benfica passed their test with flying colours, blitzing Guimarães by 3-1, whereas late drama at the Estádio José Alvalade would deny the three points to both sides, as Sporting and ‘Os Guerreiros’ battled to a 2-2 draw. PortuGOAL gathers this weekend’s top action:

 

FC Porto 2-0 Belenenses

With the scene in the UEFA Champions League beginning to tranquilise itself for Porto, the Dragons could again set full focus on the league, where they’re yet to be touched by defeat at the top of the table.

It was perhaps no surprise then to see Sérgio Conceição’s side dominate from the very early stages of the encounter, with both Héctor Herrera and Hernâni going close to breaking the deadlock within the first ten minutes prior to Muriel starring between the sticks.

Belenenses thought they had weathered the storm for the half, but with 42 minutes on the clock, Herrera found a way through with a low volley that couldn’t be kept out by the Belenenses shot-stopper at his near-post, as Porto took a deserved one-goal-advantage into the half-time break.

The hosts played much to the same tune in the second period, despite a greater volume of threat also coming from Belenenses’ end.

Muriel kept the Belém outfit in the game with a crucial double stop from Sérgio Oliveira’s burst into the area in the 86th minute before Vincent Aboubakar killed the encounter in the face of stoppage time.

Taking on Herrera’s pass, the Cameroonian striker cut inside expertly from the left before dinking an effort over the goalkeeper, sealing a 2-0 for the league leaders late on.

 

Vit. Guimarães 1-3 Benfica

Vitória have lagged way behind where they’d expect to be found in the league table this season, but Pedro Martins’ side still hold a thorny facet to them when it comes to playing at home, as Olympique Marseille found out in their 1-0 defeat last Thursday.

A big effort was to be required from Benfica, whose margin for error is already scraping the limits in their hunt for a fifth consecutive Primeira Liga title. Jonas got the Lisbon giant off the ideal start, striking first in the 22nd minute with a routine tap-in from André Almeida’s teasing cross.

The chase for a second was then on, leading the Eagles all the way through to the 75th minute where Andreas Samaris would find the bottom-right corner, courtesy of some Jonas magic for the assist.

And with the second came the third, as Eduardo Salvio beared down on goal three minutes later to dink an effort into the far-post, leaving Vitória goalkeeper Miguel Silva looking questionable and Benfica racing through to a 3-0 victory.

There was still time for a consolation goal on Vitória’s behalf, found by Rafael Martins in the 85th minute, and a stoppage-time penalty miss by the home side, but a 3-1 win at full-time for the visitors applied pressure on second-placed Sporting from Benfica in third.

 

Sporting 2-2 Sp. Braga

With Porto and Benfica both winning and Marítimo tightening on fourth place, both Sporting and Braga had it all it play for at the crux of this weekend’s action, following gruelling continental commitments in midweek.

Taking on a competitive start to the game, Braga limited themselves to pot-shots from range at Rui Patrício’s goal, whereas the all-important final ball seemed to evade Sporting’s arsenal at the other end in the rare openings they mustered. Both Sebastian Coates and Bruno Fernandes then forced Matheus into action with a couple of chances for the hosts, but the Brazilian responded with two splendid saves and a 0-0 stalemate is what the two sides would take with them into half-time.

Braga had the ball in the back of the net almost instantly following Fransérgio’s run into the box in the second half, but both the referee and the linesman had already ruled the midfielder as offside before putting away his chance, controversially relinquishing the visitors of a much-needed hand from the VAR after replays showed the Brazilian was onside.

At the other end, Bas Dost was sending warnings to the Braga backline in the 62nd minute, as the Dutchman just failed to guide Bruno César’s cross in from a desperate slide. The Sporting talisman wouldn’t need many more invitations to strike home, with Bruno Fernandes’ ball into the near-post allowing Dost to lose his marker before side-footing the opener in the 66th minute.

The ex-Wolfsburg striker would later join Marcos Acuña as an injury casualty, meanwhile tactical changes from Braga’s end turned up the heat on the hosts. The danger would go on to manifest itself into a spectacular turnaround for the ‘Minhotos’, as Danilo Barbosa earned his side an 85th minute penalty for Dyego Souza to convert.

From Danilo’s left boot and a wicked deflection via Braga old-boy André Pinto, the visitors then took a 2-1 lead in the 89th minute, as Sporting stared at their first defeat in the league square in the face.

That was until the game took yet another twist, as a clumsy intervention from Ricardo Horta on Alan Ruiz culminated into a second spot-kick being awarded, with Bruno Fernandes making no mistake from 12 yards to equalise.

The action concluded itself at 2-2, with Sporting, despite salvaging a result, trailing top spot by four points and seeing third-placed Benfica close in to within a point’s touching distance.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Matchday 11

Vit. Setúbal 0-1 CD. Aves

Moreirense 1-1 Portimonense

Tondela 3-2 Boavista

Estoril 0-2 Rio Ave

FC Porto 2-0 Belenenses

Feirense 0-1 Marítimo

Chaves 4-2 P. Ferreira

Vit. Guimarães 1-3 Benfica

Sporting 2-2 Sp. Braga

 

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  • Watched Porto beat Belenenses, though they took their time to make it safe! Good to see Andre, Reyes and Hernani stepping up after the injuries/rotations/bans etc. The squad may have more depth than we were led to believe. There were a few tired legs out there but they got the job done and the mister got it right. Herrera was relentless pushing the team on by pure will and Aboubakars goal was classy.

    I saw the first half of Sporting v Braga and a draw looked a fair result. Braga were organised and moved the ball quickly but obvs I cant comment on the second half when the goals came.

    I like the look of the table this week.
    PORTO!
    PORTO!

    p.s. These international breaks are really tiresome the way they stop the rhythm of the league. I like watching International games but not when they come so often, especially the friendlies. With the cup Porto aren’t playing in the league again until the 25th November - its absurd!

    from England, UK
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  • Guest - jon/usa

    The 4-3-3 worked extremely well last night in Guimaraes. The JJ-inspired 4-4-2 was increasingly becoming more and more ineffective, so I give Rui Vitoria a great deal of credit for having the guts to completely change to the tactical shape of his team. Many have been calling on Vitoria to experiment with a 4-3-3 over the past two seasons, but there were always question marks as to how Jonas would fit into a system that does not incorporate a second-striker. The Brazilian is far from a target man (Mitroglou), and he isn't the type of striker who can make runs in behind the defense (Seferovic & Raul). He theoretically could operate as left-sided striker, but that would give him a more peripheral role in the side which could potentially hurt our offensive output.

    After watching yesterday's game, however, it became clear that Rui Vitoria was asking Jonas to operate as a false 9. He would occupy the position of a center-forward when we did not have the ball and when we needed him in the box to get on the end of crosses, but he was largely given the freedom to drop deep and explore spaces in between the lines when we did have the ball. Therefore, his role in possession was essentially unchanged. He would drift in between lines to link up intelligently with Krovinovic, Pizzi, Salvio, and Goncalves, thereby allowing us to dominate possession with relative ease.

    The 4-3-3 with a false 9 enables us to control the midfield. We can build out of the back with more effectiveness, we can circulate possession with clever interplay, and we become less reliant on delivering hopeful crosses from the wings. Nevertheless, with one less striker there is always the chance that we will lose a bit of bite in the final third. If Jonas is dropping deep in between lines to collect the ball, and our two wide forwards remain wide, we have no one exploring the space that would have been occupied by Raul or Seferovic. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that our wide forwards (in this case Salvio and Goncalves) are instructed to make incisive diagonal runs in behind the defense to take advantage of the space that is being created by Jonas' clever movement. Otherwise, we have plenty of possession without any penetration.

    At the end of the day, I'd say that the 4-3-3 worked quite well. After initially fearing that Jonas would see little of the ball playing as the lone-striker, he actually had a fantastic performance, playing a key role in all three goals. He scores the first goal after great work down the right wing by Krovinovic and Almeida. He sets up Samaris for the second goal with a clever flick pass after dragging his marker way out of position, and unless I am mistaken, he also feeds Goncalves in the build up to Salvio's goal.

    I also can't forget to mention Krovinovic. He is still showing some signs of rust after his long injury, but his presence in the team is making us far more effective in possession. We are now no longer dependent on the struggling Pizzi to dictate every single attacking move. He's so much more than a midfield facilitator that simply provides defensive support and recycles possession. He's more than capable of creating space for himself on the dribble; he's got excellent vision; and he seems to always make the right decision in possession. He could very well end up having a Renato-esque impact for us this season. Moreover, I think this shift to a more possession-oriented 4-3-3 also opens up a door to Joao Carvalho since he is relatively similar to Krovinovic in terms of his playing style. I'd certainly rather see Carvalho in that 8/10 hybrid role alongside Pizzi than Filipe Augusto or Samaris.

    I also can't forget to praise Ruben Dias for another commanding performance. He's still far from the finished article, but if he continues to play this well week in week out, he'll have a great shot at making the world cup next summer.

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  • Good write up. I like Samaris and Goncalves plus Salvio is always a danger. Augusto is defo a squad player.
    Will keep an eye out for your points next time I watch as to me it always looked like they were not quite there but almost. Shame they couldn't sort it in time for the Champions League but maybe they can get in the Europa and go deep?

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Yes a much improved performance from SLB and comfortable victory on one of the toughest grounds in the liga to visit. There have been recent signs that hopefully we are moving out of the bad recent form we were in. I think we did OK at Old Trafford too and were somewhat unlucky to get nothing from that match.

    The 4-3-3 worked very well against Guimaraes, and really since last season already I've been wanting to see a lot more of it, especially in tougher away matches. Benfica have lacked a bit of power and dynamism in central midfield so far this season, and therefore playing 3 in the middle gives much more control and balance in that area. Krovinovic did very well and gives us another element, both in terms of keeping possession and in terms of extra creativity. I can't believe he wasn't included in the CL squad! Very promising player who hopefully will get many more opportunities now, especially in the 4--3-3 formation. I definitely still think we need to bring in a quality box to box midfielder in January though to add some power to our midfield. I really wouldn't mind to see the return of Manuel Fernandes for example, who has apparently been in great form in Russia and could really improve our CM options for the rest of the season.

    I'd also like to see Vitoria play this 4-3-3 formation with Rafa Silva on the left wing as a purely offensive wide attacker. I think the main reason why he's disappointed at the club so far is that his style of play doesn't really suit the 4-4-2 system. However in the 4-3-3 (just as he played at Braga), his pace and direct attacking play can be devastating as we all know, and especially in tougher away games he could be very useful for counter attacking play. Finally a word on our defence, which has been looking better recently. Svilar is still very raw and inexperienced, but has already shown serious potential and talent and I think will only improve as the season progresses. While Ruben Dias has been looking immense in recent weeks. Very tough CB who reads the game well. He's looking like the longterm successor to Luisao in the squad (providing LFV doesn't cash him in super quickly as soon as there's some interest in him, as he has done with so many other talented Seixal youngsters). If Dias keeps up this form he has an outside chance of going to Russia with the Selecao as that 4th CB spot is really up for grabs. On the whole things have been looking better for SLB in the last few weeks. We look likely to be out of Europe entirely beyond December, and this will benefit us for the Liga. With a couple of quality reinforcements in January, we can definitely challenge strongly for retaining our league title.

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