Benfica 1-1 Sporting

A last minute Jonas penalty earned Benfica a hard-fought and well-deserved draw at the Estádio da Luz. Gelson Martins opened the scoring for Sporting early on but Rodrigo Battaglia handled in the area late in the game to give Benfica a point after Jonas beat Rui Patrício from the spot.

It's a result that will delight Porto fans most of all, who go two points clear of Sporting and five ahead of Benfica at the top of the table.

Benfica were without the injured Luisão but Álex Grimaldo started at left-back despite doubts that he would play. Bruno Varela started in goal ahead of Mile Svilar, the young Belgian had also been a doubt for this game.

For Jorge Jesus' Sporting the only surprise was that there were no surprises from Jesus. Rodrigo Battaglia started with Daniel Podence on the bench. Fábio Coentrão returned to the Estádio da Luz for the first time since his loan move to Sporting.

Gelson opens the scoring

Neither game between Portugal's Big Three so far this season had produced a goal. In this one it took 19 cautious minutes before Gelson Martins headed Sporting into the lead. The goal came from a Fábio Coentrão deflected shot from which the ball bounced fortunately into the path of the Sporting winger. Coentrão, who was relentlessly booed and pelted with litter whenever he went to take a throw-in, was no doubt happy to help make a difference.

Benfica reacted well to the setback and from that moment took control of the game. The first big chance for the home side came five minutes after the opener. Eduardo Salvio stormed into the Sporting box, his cross found the head of Jardel, in a similar position to that of Gelson for his goal, but Cristiano Piccini was on the line to prevent the equaliser.

[For video highlights of the match click on the screen below]

Benfica had a penalty shout when it looked like Coentrão handled in the area, but replays showed the ball actually hit the left-back in the face. However, that was almost irrelevant when Filip Krovinović's shot on the follow-up bounced back off the bar, and then Jonas headed the rebounding ball just wide of a gaping goal.

It was another scare for Sporting who were really under the cosh after taking the lead. The away side almost eased that pressure just before the interval when Gelson Martins was found by Bruno Fernandes' flick, but the winger couldn't double his tally as his shot went over the bar.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Benfica dominating and attacking incessantly and twice deflected shots spun just off target with Patrício beaten, Benfica coach Rui Vitória ramping up the pressure by sending on Mexican striker Raúl Jiménez as a replacement for Pizzi early in the second half to add extra impetus going forward.

Benfica pressure mounts

Indeed, only a combination of bad luck, poor finishing and good Sporting defending delayed an equaliser. Benfica had another shout for handball in the area but after consultation with the VAR system, the referee ruled Cristiano Piccini had not conceded a penalty.

In a last throw of the dice, Vitória brought on Rafa Silva and João Carvalho to try and turn the tide for the Eagles.

Battaglia handles in the area

Benfica finally got the equaliser they deserved when in the 89th minute Rodrigo Battaglia was correctly judged to have handled in the area, this time with no need for VAR. Jonas made no mistake with an inch perfect penalty to make it 1-1 on the night.

 by Richard Cole


Benfica XI: Bruno Varela; André Almeida, Rúben Dias (João Carvalho, 81'), Jardel, Álex Grimaldo; Ljubomir Fejsa (Rafa Silva, 72'), Filip Krovinović, Pizzi (Raúl Jiménez, 55'); Eduardo Salvio, Franco Cervi; Jonas

Sporting XI: Rui Patrício; Cristiano Piccini, Sebastián Coates, Jérémy Mathieu, Fábio Coentrão; William Carvalho, Rodrigo Battaglia, Bruno Fernandes; Gelson
Martins (Bryan Ruiz, 83'), Marcos Acuña (Bruno César, 78'), Bas Dost your social media marketing partner

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    This draw has been extremely difficult to swallow. The 5 point gap is far from insurmountable, but the fact that we completely dominated the match from start to finish (the first time Rui Vitoria has ever out-coached JJ) and only emerged with a point is incredibly frustrating -- especially when you consider just how shockingly poor the officiating was. Nevertheless, the title race is still far from over. I have no doubt that we will be fighting tooth and nail until the very end.

    Carrega Benfica!!!

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  • Guest - Nunogomes21

    Was quite an exciting game. Finally a game where Benfica showed up to play as a big team vs a big team. Loved seeing them play today. Unfortunately the play did not match the score line, however playing like this consistently will mean rarely points’s just a matter of consistency which is something that has been lacking this season for Benfica. Here is to hoping it starts now!

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    I was very impressed with Benfica's performance last night, why haven't we seen performances like that up to now this season? It was everything we haven't seen much of this season so far, the team playing with intensity, purpose and pace. We were thoroughly dominant over Sporting throughout but especially in the second half. We shouldn't have only won this match, we should have won comfortably by two goals at least. The ball just refused to go in on a bunch of real scoring occasions. While for Sporting, I can only recall one other real scoring chance apart from their goal, the save from Varela in the first half. So considering what happened in the match, the draw was a good result for Sporting and Benfica can feel really unfortunate not to have bagged the 3 points.

    A point I also want to make is this: after all this diatribe we've heard from officials from our two rivals over these last couple of seasons about SLB apparently owning the referees in Portugal and that "playing against Benfica means playing against 12" etc etc. Well what about last night then? Four times in the match Sporting hands touched the ball in the box yet only one penalty was awarded. The Piccini incident I definitely accept was ball to hand and there wasn't much he could do about it. But (especially) the Coentrao one and the William one were definite penalties. If you raise your arm high like that in the box and the ball touches your hand when you're not in a position where you are losing balance or falling over (neither Coentrao nor William were) then it's a penalty. While Acuna was definitely offiside in the build up to the Sporting goal, you can clearly see in the replay. Now if Benfica apparently own the referees in Portugal, how did all those incidents mentioned go against us last night? I choose to see it a different way and it's something I've mentioned various times on this site. The standard of refereeing in our liga is poor compared with the other major leagues in Europe. There are frequent big errors from refs in our Liga matches and last night was no exception.

    Well with Porto winning, the dropped points was disappointing for both Lisbon clubs. Porto seem to be the favorites at this moment in time, but we have to also remember that we are still in early January and there's still literally half a season to come. A lot can still change during the second half of the season and it looks set for an exciting 3 way race for the title, at least at the moment. Benfica are behind our rivals at the moment in the table, but we also have significantly less fixtures to play until the end of the season than both of them. We need to bring in a couple of quality additions (a right back and a number 8 box to box CM) to the squad this January window to give us more options. If we can bring them in and then play with the same kind of intensity and drive we saw last night in each of our remaining matches, then we will have a chance to defend our title.

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  • Andre, the fact that all of Benfica fandom is so outraged this ONE time just goes to show how used to getting the roll of the dice Benfiquistas are. The fact is, aside from this and the Maicon offside goal against Porto 4 years ago, what else has not gone Benfica's way?

    I understand that Benfica played better, and you can argue, may have deserved a win, but the officiating is not as bad as we have seen in favour of Benfica this and the last 2 seasons. That's just the reality. Do 2 wrongs make a right? No. But I just want to point out how spoiled Benfica is that this one game is such a huge outrage considering the officials were not nearly as bad as you are making them out to be.

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  • Guest - ---Z---


    My brain hurts after reading your non-sensical wall of text.

    the ball hit Coentrao's head, not hand. They reviewed it on VAR which confirmed this. Why do you think his head jerked back the way it did?

    As for Sporting's goal being offside, again Benfica TV manipulated the replay images. Acuna (player receiving the pass) was in line with the defender.

    Benfica is a disgrace and so is Benfica TV and how biased they are.

    congrats to all Benfica fans, celebrating like they won the campeonato for getting a draw at home against a Sporting side that never got out of first gear.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Mr Z: you're not even worth taking more than a few seconds to respond to. Goodbye! Nuff said!

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