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Wednesday, 18 January 2012 22:32

Taca da Liga round-up

Braga through, Benfica and Porto win

Wednesday saw seven Taca da Liga group stage matches take place, with Benfica, Porto and Braga all victorious at home against Liga Orangina opposition. Ben Shave rounds up the action. 

Group A

Gil Vicente missed an opportunity to take control of Group A after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Rio Ave at the Arcos. A strike from the evergreen Joao Tomas (his tenth of the season in all competitions) put the home side ahead, but ten minutes later Yero (on loan at Gil from Porto this season) levelled the scores.

Both teams stay alive in the competition heading into the final of round of games, and will be hoping for a stalemate between Sporting and Moreirense at the Alvalade tomorrow evening.

Group B

Maritimo bounced back from the departure of Baba to Sevilla in excellent fashion, defeating Guimaraes at the Afonso Henriques with a pair of late goals from Tcho and Danilo Dias, both of who will be vital now that the Senegalese has moved on.

Maritimo moved top of the group with that win, but only for a short time, as Benfica (eventually) overcame a dogged, determined Santa Clara at the Luz. Jorge Jesus named four Portuguese starters (Eduardo, Miguel Vitor, Andre Almeida and Nelson Oliveira), with youngsters Mika, Luis Martins and Ruben Pinto on the bench. Only Javi Garcia, Nico Gaitan and Bruno Cesar were present from Benfica’s first choice eleven. Eduardo and Joan Capdevila were handed rare starts.

A largely uneventful first half was only occasionally punctuated by a burst of goalmouth action, with both sides appearing somewhat disjointed. The best chance for the home side fell to Jardel, but the Brazilian could only direct a free header straight at Stefanovic.

Santa Clara also had their moments, with Sylvestre also failing to place his headed effort either side of Eduardo when doing so would have led to the opener. Half time arrived with the 14,453 spectators at the Luz on subdued form.

Witsel replaced Matic for the second half, but a snap shot from Bruno Cesar aside, the hour mark came and went without any pulse-quickening incident. However, a double change from Jorge Jesus changed the game. The entrance of Rodrigo and Nolito in place of Saviola and Gaitan saw the Eagles immediately up the tempo.

Three minutes later, they were ahead. Nolito did what he does best: barrelling into space, hitting the byline and squaring for a teammate to tap home. This time, the grateful recipient was young Nelson Oliveira, who tapped home for the 300th goal of Jorge Jesus’ time at the Luz, and the first scored by a Portuguese player for Benfica this season.

Having held out for over an hour, Santa Clara raised the white flag, and a second arrived soon after. Nolito produced another superb pass to find Axel Witsel, and the Belgian eluded a challenge before steering home with his right foot to seal the win for Benfica. Santa Clara had Hugo Moreira dismissed late on. The third and final round of matches sees Benfica host Maritimo, in what will be the Group B decider.

Group C

Nacional and Portimonense exited the competition in low-key fashion, playing out a goalless draw in front of a sparsely populated Choupana. Both teams have pressing concerns in their respective divisions, and neither Pedro Caixinha nor Jose Augusto will dwell too long on this season’s edition.

That left the way clear for either Braga or Penafiel to seal their place in the semi-finals, and it was the Arsenalistas who did so thanks to a superb individual strike from Hugo Viana just before the interval, and Carlao ten minutes after the restart. Leonardo Jardim fielded a near full-strength starting eleven, reflecting the hunger at Braga to secure a trophy this season.

Group D

An early strike from Manuel Jose was enough to give lowly Pacos their first win since October 21st at home to Setubal, but events at the Dragao meant that Henrique Calisto’s men were eliminated regardless, having lost to the Dragons in the first round of matches.

Like Benfica, Porto lined up against Liga Orangina opposition (top of the table Estoril) with a few unfamiliar faces, though the likes of Alvaro Pereira, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez were present and correct. Youngsters Tiago Ferreira and Thibaut Vion were among the substitutes.

Like Benfica, the Dragons struggled somewhat in establishing a rhythm early on, though the pace and movement of Varela, James and Kleber up front did cause Estoril problems on occasion. The latter spurned a number of chances during the first half, as Porto enjoyed the vast majority of possession but found themselves unable to breach Estoril’s stubborn defences.

The attendance at the Dragao was scarcely better than that at the Luz (15,819 to be precise), and after James saw a free kick agonisingly deflected onto the post, those present were finally given something to cheer about when Porto took the lead 65 minutes. Silvestra Varela received the ball with his back to goal, but the winger was able to swivel and let fly with a rasping half volley on his left foot, which the otherwise impressive Vagner got a hand to but was unable to keep out.

Porto held out for the victory, and will now contest Group D with Setubal in a fortnight’s time.

To view the full Taca da Liga standings, click here

Ben Shave

Comments (6)
Be Realistic
6 Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:05
Please keep in mind that Capdevila is now trying to get a job elsewhere. By all accounts he came into Benfica with the "do you know who I am" attitude and didn't work hard.
We have been critical of Emerson, but the one thing you can't deny is that he's worked hard.
Capdevila could still be a good get. If he has hunkered down and starts playing well due to nobody wanting him, great. If we sell him for anything, it will also be great due to us getting him for nothing. Anything above cobering his wages will be bonus.
Remember that he had time left at Villarreal yet they let him leave without compensation.
Also let's not forget the competition he faced.

I too was happy to see the youngsters. Due to Nolito's emergence, I actually wouldn't mind someone overpaying for Gaitan this winter. I'm afraid that Nolito will lessen Gaitan's value as the season wears on. Then again, Benfica has made it clear to showcase Gaitan.
5 Thursday, 19 January 2012 15:31
JJ shot himself in the foot this year by signing Capde and then barely playing him at all. Absolutely stellar yesterday. Should be played more often.

Also, Eduardo and Capdevila hugging before the game was absolutely precious :3
nice squad
4 Thursday, 19 January 2012 14:48
Glad to see JJ start a bunch of youngsters and not worry about results but instead give these guys some playing time. Nice to see Nelson Oliveira score and play the whole game. Nice to see guys like Vitor and Almeida start at the back. Also good to give Eduardo a start as you never know what could happen to your starter.

We already know the talents that Rodrigo and Nolito bring to this team and those 2 should be starters. I think Saviola and Cesar are best coming off the bench as they bring different qualities to the team as are best to either hold the lead or change the play of game compared to Nolito and Rodrigo who are more attacking mindset players.

Matic is a big body that will be really good as I feel Javi will be sold in the summer with Gaitan. Even with a few departures I think Benfica can still field a strong squad.

Witsel has been the surprise and steal of the season.
Nolito and Axel
3 Thursday, 19 January 2012 13:26
There is little doubt left that the left flank of Benfica belongs to Nolito. I know it was only the Bwin Cup, but 2 assists in just half an hour of him being on the pitch tells it's own story. The vision for that pass to Axel for the second goal was out of this world, and those two guys combine very well together (the reverse happened for our opening goal against Setubal on saturday). We've looked better every time Nolito has been in the team, and he offers something very different to our play. Axel has all the makings to become one of the very best midfielders in world football, full stop. Good to see Nelson score and that will be great for his confidence. There are goals from all over this team/squad...with Nelson scoring last night, I now make that 13 different players have scored for us this season (almost half the squad!), that is fantastic...
CL here we come!
2 Thursday, 19 January 2012 13:14
Braga sempre!
Witsel baby!
1 Thursday, 19 January 2012 00:13
Was the truth tonight, and he only played a half, lest we forget. The right foot is deadly. Where is my afro wig?

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