Last week's 'Estoril-gate' turned in a unique twist in the race for the Primeira Liga title. With Porto left with half a game left to play from Round 18, and Sporting up first in Matchday 19, the Lions had the chance to go four point clear at the top of the table, even if only for a couple of hour.

Against expectations, the Lions wouldn't hold onto the coveted top spot even until the end of Friday night, though, as a late Edinho penalty secured a 1-1 draw for Vitória de Setúbal and opened the door back up for Porto to rise once again to the summit of the league table.

The Dragons duly complied by defeating Tondela 1-0 before Benfica soured Sporting's weekend to a greater degree with a triumph of their own, dismantling Chaves 3-0 and moving to within a point of their city rivals. With just two points now separating the top three, PortuGOAL details the top action.

 

Vit. Setúbal 1-1 Sporting

Without a win in 10 league games, it's fair to say form hasn't been to Vitória de Setúbal's liking in recent times, which suited Sporting in pursuit of a compulsory victory at the Bonfim.

The favourites took some time before clicking on the night, with Bruno Fernandes striking in the 30th minute after picking his spot deep inside the hosts' box.

Sporting's 1-0 lead trickled into the second period in a game heavily dominated by set-piece opportunities, as exemplified by Sebastian Coates glancing his header just wide in the 58th minute as the visitors threatened to double their advantage.

Vitória sparked the courage to attack Jorge Jesus' side with greater vim in the latter stages, going close through João Amaral in the 73rd minute, but the hosts' new-found openness didn't come without its complications at the back, as the post denied Bruno Fernandes a brace just two minutes away from normal time.

The midfielder's effort, alongside many more scuppered counter-attacks, came back to haunt the Lions when Jeremy Mathieu's grab on Edinho inside the box handed the latter the opportunity to deliver the ultimate punishment from the spot, with the veteran making no mistake from 12 yards in the 91st minute.

 

FC Porto 1-0 Tondela

With the remainder of Porto's postponed game versus Estoril hanging over their heads, Sporting's draw handed the northern outfit the perfect incentive to switch on, as Tondela came to town.

Pepa's team took just 14 minutes to crumble, as Sulley Muniru conceded possession in a strictly prohibited area to allow Moussa Marega a clear run on goal, with Cláudio Ramos unable to do anything one-on-one to prevent the Malian scoring the opener.

Vincent Aboubakar nearly scored Porto's second with a header from a set-piece bouncing onto the post on the half-hour-mark, whereas Jesús Corona may have also found his name on the scoresheet had his composure not deserted him when hitting a shot straight into the keeper's grasp from inside the box.

The second half saw Felipe line up next for his try at goal, firing high in the process, but Brahimi wouldn't miss the target in the 73rd minute before his tap-in was chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee for offside.

Chances kept coming Porto's way, without the arrival of a killer blow, meanwhile Tondela's lack of sting at the other end meant the Blue & Whites were not unduly worried as they secured a 1-0 victory and a ticket back to first place.

 

Benfica 3-0 Chaves

Victory at home for Benfica would propel the Eagles right back into the frame for the league title, with the home support expecting no less after Jonas struck gold as soon as the 13th minute on the half-volley.

After his wonder-goal from the edge of the box, Jonas demonstrated that he can do a little bit of everything when tapping in Benfica's second from Eduardo Salvio's cross in the 19th minute, as the Brazilian supplemented his already rich form in front of goal.

The veteran could've added a hat-trick to his name before the half was out, losing his battle with the goalkeeper one-on-one before the interval, with the duty of grabbing the hosts' third eventually falling into Pizzi's path fresh from the restart.

Benfica's night was then marred by the late injury sustained by the ever-impressive Filip Krovinovic, who tore his ACL in his right knee ruling him out for the rest of the season, as Rui Vitória's team closed the gap between them and second place to just a point.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Matchday 19

Vit. Setúbal 1-1 Sporting

FC Porto 1-0 Tondela

Marítimo 0-0 Belenenses

Benfica 3-0 Chaves

Portimonense 1-2 Sp. Braga

Feirense 1-0 Moreirense

Desp. Aves 0-2 P. Ferreira

Rio Ave 2-0 Boavista

Vit. Guimarães 3-1 Estoril

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Comments (2)

  1. Nick J

Another below-par performance by Porto but its that part of the season where you just have to keep pushing. Sporting not winning will help tho. The drop has coincided with Herrera’s drop as he makes the team function starting/linking up play as...

Another below-par performance by Porto but its that part of the season where you just have to keep pushing. Sporting not winning will help tho. The drop has coincided with Herrera’s drop as he makes the team function starting/linking up play as well as doing the digging in midfield. Good to see Ricardo back at RB where he belongs and Corona get game-time. Aboubacar has been quiet for a few games now with Marega having to do his work as well - nice composed finish there Moussa..

PORTO!

I’ve been impressed with Tondela and Estoril. Ricardo Costa showed his quality and could he be a solution for the W.C. at CB or as back-up? He was quality at Valencia. I watched Inter Milan last night and Joao Cancelo played well but still did his trademark nervous hospital pass to the CB’s right in front of the opposing players.

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  1. Andre/UK

Nice comfortable win for SLB, and we have been showing some good form in the last few weeks. Looking at our upcoming fixtures, we have a good chance to go on a nice winning run to keep the pressure tight at the top of the table in the title race....

Nice comfortable win for SLB, and we have been showing some good form in the last few weeks. Looking at our upcoming fixtures, we have a good chance to go on a nice winning run to keep the pressure tight at the top of the table in the title race. What has really improved lately compared to earlier in the season, is the intensity and purpose and pace the team has been playing with. This is the best way to play to maximise one's chances of winning the three points in any match, and there is increasingly less and less space for languid and passive play in the modern game. We have to continue like this and treat every remaining game this season as if it were a final, and the signs have been good lately that we will.

What rotten luck for Krovinovic (and of course the team too) with his major injury. He will likely be out for at least 6 months, which is a blow to the team as he has been one of our outstanding individuals lately and has been fundamental in the new 4-3-3 system. We all wish him a speedy recovery so he can return next season even stronger!

As much of a setback as this is, I don't think it's neccessarily a blow to our title chances. Football is a team sport, and part of a manager's job is to find solutions to problems like this. Vitoria has to find a new solution now and he has some options. One is to go to the market before this January window is over and bring in a similar type CM to Krovinovic. Another is to give Joao Carvalho a chance to show what he can do in that position. Another is to revert back to the 4-4-2 and play with two strikers again. Yet another is to revert one of our wingers to CM, apparently both Zivkovic and Cervi have played as an offensive CM in the past.

In my opinion, the best option would be to recall Andre Horta from his loan spell at Braga this January. I'm not sure if this was part of the loan agreement, hopefully it was. I always liked Horta and didn't understand why he was loaned out in the first place. He's a similar type player to Krovinovic and could be a natural replacement for him in the 4-3-3 system, which has been working so well and should be maintained in my opinion. Horta obviously wouldn't need any time to settle in either, the way a new player would. Hopefully it'll be possible. There are always solutions to any problem, and I trust that the club will find one.

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"Do you know why I'm here talking to you? Because Sporting scored. If Sporting hadn't scored we'd still be out there on the pitch."

José Sá
(Tondela assistant coach in the post-match flash interview after Sporting's stoppage time winner)

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