With one weekend left until Portugal's Primeira Liga reaches the halfway stage, the big three all won this weekend and now occupy the top three positions. 

Benfica made surprisingly light work of Vitória Guimarães with the northerners fortunate to escape Lisbon with only a 3-0 defeat. As expected, Porto easily overcame Belenenses at the Estádio do Dragão, matching Benfica's 3-0 victory. 

In the big game on Sunday night Sporting scored a dramatic victory over Braga as Japanese striker Tanaka scored a magnificent winner direct from a free kick from the very last kick of the match. 

 

 

 

Benfica 3-0 Vitória Guimarães

Leaders Benfica welcomed a Guimarães side to the Luz who have been enjoying a fantastic season and who had taken points off both Porto and Sporting, albeit at the Dom Afonso Henriques stadium. 

Perhaps inspired by the pre-match tributes to the legendary Eusébio, one year after his death, Benfica began the match at a whirlwind pace and rarely let up throughout the 90 minutes. Jonas gave the hosts an early lead, before the superb Gaitán and also Talisca and Jonas all hit the woodwork before the break. 

Benfica goalkeeper Júlio César had to make a spectacular reflex save followed by an excellent improvised clearance with his foot while lying on the ground to thwart Tomané, but it was an isolated moment of danger for the home team in a one-sided match. Ola John and Gaitán added goals in the second half, with Benfica coach Jorge Jesus saying: "We won 3-0 but we could have won by five or six. It was our best performance of the season at the Estádio da Luz."

 

FC Porto 3-0 Belenenses

Porto have been playing like a well-oiled machine in recent weeks, and it was no different on Saturday night as the Dragons easily beat out-of-form Belenenses. Jackson Martínez continued his irrepressible goal-scoring streak, netting early to make it 20 goals in all competitions in 2014/15. 

This time it was an easy finish after a lovely move involving a perfect Óliver Torres throughball and a pinpoint cross from Herrera. Spanish midfielder Óliver is really coming into his own, and the 20-year-old's sky-high confidence was shown with his stinging shot to double Porto's lead in the second half. 

The hosts created a hatful of chances to inflict another heavy defeat on Belenenses (who were coming off a 7-1 hammering by Braga in the Cup), but had to be content with just one more goal, Evandro scoring his first for Porto with a firm shot from outside the box. 

 

Braga 0-1 Sporting 

In what had been billed as a battle that would have a big bearing on who will finish third (assuming Vitória Guimarães lose several players in January as expected) a hard-fought game between two well-matched sides ensued. 

Braga shaded an even first forty-five minutes, with Patrício saving well from Rafa Silva shortly before the interval, and Pardo drawing an even better stop from the Portugal goalkeeper immediately upon the restart in the second half.

Sporting then enjoyed a 25-minute spell of dominance during which they created several clear chances to score, João Mário seeing an acrobatic effort superbly tipped over the bar by Matheus then the young midfielder missing badly when following up a Montero long shot that the Braga goalkeeper failed to hold. Montero also had a point-blank header well saved, and a Carrillo shot deflected just past the post. 

The Arsenalistas somehow survived and ended the game strongly with Tiba and Éder coming close to a late winner. Just when it appeared the points would be shared, Tanaka won a free-kick as he bravely rode a reckless Matheus challenge. The Japanese forward picked himself up and with the very last kick of the game struck a textbook shot over the wall and into the top corner to spark wild celebrations and seal three vital points for Sporting. 

 

Three-horse race?

With Benfica and Porto showing impressive form it is shaping up into another titanic title race, perhaps emulating the memorable 2012/13 season when the championship was only effectively decided when the two teams met in the penultimate round of matches. This season they will again meet late in the season, in Round 30 of a 34-match campaign. Sporting may be lagging ten points behind their city rivals, but the Lions are building momentum nicely having won their last six games in all competitions, and with two home matches next up - coupled with tough assignments for the top two - Sporting may yet get back in the race. 

 

Other results

Estoril 1-1 Moreirense

Académica 2-2 Paços de Ferreira

Arouca 1-0 Vitória de Setúbal 

Gil Vicente 2-1 Penafiel 

Rio Ave 0-0 Marítimo 

Nacional 2-1 Boavista 

 

by Tom Kundert

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - bob burnquest

    sporting are 10 pooints behind benfica i dont care how there form is but 10 points is 10 points and there is no way sporting will catch up its a 2 horse race between the so called alliance benfica and porto

    from Brazil
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  • I disagree with Tom. Its obvious who this season will come down to. Sporting lost a change at the Liga a while ago. Their best chance at silverware will be in the Taca. Then again they will have to face Braga once again.

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great win for Sporting! It was a super tight match! I was so relieved when we pulled off the win in the end. No matter how things finish up , this win right now was crucial to get that third place spot, and be at or around the level we should be at in the standings. 5th place could never have been good enough and now we're closer to where we should be. Too many stupid dropped points in the beginning of the season when Marco Silva experimented with Sarr and Mauricio. At least now the defensive partnership is sorted out and more solid with Paulo Oliveira and Mauricio.

    But we definitely cant afford to slip up anymore. I feel like I expect Sporting to have been doing a bit better than we have because compared to the other two rivals Benfica and Porto, we had the most continuity in our squad , so the chemistry should have continued to be good and we strengthened the team even more with some nice signings/recals/promotions etc. Our main change only apart for one CB (Rojo) really was losing Jardim, and bringing in Marco Silva. Maybe the loss of Dier for CB depth affected us too, but its great now that Tobias is promoted and he showed he's a solid good CB too.

    At least we've been back on a great run and winning all our games, Sporting needs to continue to do that right till the end! The way this league is, its definitely gonna be tough for Sporting to catch Benfica, but still half a season to go nothing is impossible!

    Props to Tanaka, showing his worth to the team!

    Keep on fighting and getting those wins Sporting!

    from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
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