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