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liga review - 2020/21

footballportugal

Jornadas

01 / 02 / 03 / 04

 

 

Jornada 4 - 18/10/20

After the international break, Benfica charged to the front of the pack with a win at Rio Ave – their 4th from four. Rio Ave showed how heroic they could be with their recent so-very-nearly Europa League play-off against AC Milan, but in the Liga they’ve been distinctly underwhelming, with three straight draws and now this defeat. They can have no complaints here (and their coach Mário Silva said as much), unless the complaints are about their defence, which was at fault for all of Benfica’s goals. Aderllan misplaced a pass coming out of defence on six minutes, Rafa Silva crossed it quick, Darwin headed on to the back post and Cebolinha back-heeled for Waldschmidt, running in, to crack the ball home.

Benfica could have had two more goals after that, through Waldschmidt and Darwin, both following defensive mistakes, both disallowed for off-sides that had to go to the VAR (49 and 10 cms respectively). Rio Ave thought they would be going into the break just 1-0 behind, or could maybe pull it back to 1-1; from a free-kick on the halfway line, they sent most of their defence up, so that when the ball broke and Benfica swept up-field, there was scant cover. Darwin took the ball to the left and crossed to the three Benfica players that were unmarked in the centre. Waldschmidt was the first to it and got his second. “Waldschmidt and Darwin understand each other with the language of football,” said coach Jorge Jesus after the game. Evidently.

The second goal before the break effectively broke Rio Ave, and though they were a bit tighter in the second half, it was Benfica who extended their lead on 84 minutes, Gilberto (on for André Almeida, stretchered off in the first half with a bad knee injury) crossing from the right for another sub, Seferovic, to head down and Gabriel to knock in, once again with the Rio Ave defence found wanting.

Benfica’s 100% record puts them five points clear already. That’s because FC Porto could do no more than draw 2-2 at Sporting the day before, in a clássico that had great goals, drama and not a little controversy. A young Sporting side took the lead on nine minutes, a Porro cross from the right headed to the back post by FCP defender Mbemba, only for the ball to fall for Nuno Santos who cracked a volley inside the left-hand post, with Marchesín getting a hand to it. FCP pulled one back on 25 minutes, Uribe hitting a Zaidu cross from deep first-time past Adán, then went ahead on 45 minutes, Luis Díaz breaking from a Sporting corner and taking the ball the length of the field before feeding Corona, who dinked the ball over Adán.

But the half wasn’t finished. Into added time, Sporting’s Nuno Santos lifted a ball into the heart of the area from deep, Pedro Gonçalves ran onto it and appeared to be brought down by FCP left-back Zaidu. The ref thought so too and pointed to the spot, giving Zaidu a second yellow. But the VAR had a word in his ear, the ref went to take a look on the pitch-side monitor, and reversed his decision. It was a dubious call and an incensed Rúben Amorim, the SCP coach, saw a direct red for calling the match officials “a disgrace”.

Into the second half, FCP could and should have pushed to extend their lead but took their foot off the gas. It was a tactic that would come back to bite them on the bum. On 87 minutes, the busy Pedro Gonçalves took the ball to the line on the right, crossed low for Sporar to flick against Marchesín, and Vietto was following up to thump the loose ball home. FCP coach Sérgio Conceição was not happy: “Those who don’t understand the identity of FC Porto cannot be in our group,” he said, pointing to a lack of aggressiveness, but it seemed more of a tactical error from the coach in that second half.

Rúben Amorim’s former club Braga, now under Carlos Carvalhal, started the season disastrously with two straight defeats, but after two straight wins now, they’ve jumped to 6th. Excellent first-half goals from Fransérgio and Iuri Medeiros against Nacional suggested that they would be coasting, but as with FC Porto at Sporting, they couldn’t extend that lead and five minutes from time, Nuno Borges got one back for the Madeiran visitors to leave Braga sweating … but it stayed 2-1.

Azores side Santa Clara, a surprise near the top, missed the chance to put some pressure on Benfica when they went down by the same score at Paços de Ferreira, who climbed out of the relegation zone with their first win. Santa Clara’s goal was scored by Brazilian striker Thiago Santana, his 4th of the season.

Keeping it on the islands, the other Madeiran side in the top flight, Marítimo, lost at home to Algarve side Portimonense, again by the same score. They went in front early in the second half, Rodrigo Pinho scoring his 5th of the season from the spot, but then in a five-minute spell midway through the half, Brazilians Dener and Anderson Oliveira turned it round for Portimão.

The other Algarve team in the top flight, newcomers Farense, had no points going into their home game against disappointing Famalicão but were 2-0 up at half-time through two more Brazilians, Eduardo and César. If they thought they were home and dry, they had to think again as Lameiras with two and Bruno Jordão gave Fama a second-half lead, but deep into added time, Mansilla salvaged a point for Farense. They remain bottom, however.

Tondela moved out of the relegation zone with a point at Gil Vicente, Filipe Ferreira’s second-half goal cancelling out Lino’s first-half strike for Gil. The points were also shared at the National Stadium where Belenenses SAD and Moreirense ground out a 0-0 draw.

The curtain fell on the jornada on Monday as Vitória de Guimarães visited bitter rivals Boavista, without their brightest star so far this season Angel Gomes, and took away all three points with an excellent goal on 19 minutes from Brit Marcus Edwards: Bruno Duarte shrugged off a challenge from Cristian and Mangas to the right of the goal, made the line, cut the ball back for Edwards to control it with his left, completely wrong-footing Javi García, and rifle it in with his right past Léo Jardim, whose reflexes might have been a little quicker. It was João Henriques’ first game in charge of VSC after the sudden departure of Tiago Mendes. Vasco Seabra has been in charge of Boavista since the end of July. One of the teams looked organised. Boavista join Famalicão as the two teams into double figures .. of goals conceded (10). VSC leap to 5th, while the Panthers slip into the relegation zone; Vasco Seabra will be looking over his shoulder already.

Significant number: 0

(For Benfica, the number of points dropped, for Sporting and Gil Vicente the number of defeats, and for Rio Ave, Boavista, Tondela and Farense, the number of wins.)

 

Jornada 3 - 04/10/20

There were two especially significant events at the weekend.

The Santa Clara v Gil Vicente game was the first since the pandemic hit to have public in the stands – restricted to 10% of capacity. They were ‘treated’ to a 0-0 draw, but it was enough to put Santa Clara at the top of the table for a day.

That’s because FC Porto were surprised by a feisty Marítimo, the Madeiran side notching up their first ever win at FCP’s Dragão stadium. It was an eventful game; the SportTV feature that has a man in a van going over all the arguable refereeing decisions threatened to play havoc with the schedules it was so long.

Rodrigo Pinho scored two for Marítimo for the second week in a row (he tops the scorers’ table with four) and it looked like being enough until the 88th minute when the referee awarded a scandalous penalty to FCP for a supposed foul by Irmer on Marega. Replays showed clearly that Irmer got to the ball first from a cross and Marega kicked his boot. Fair enough – in the heat of the moment it might have looked that way, but why the VAR didn’t warn the referee is a mystery, and one that will only reinforce conspiracy theories. Justice was done when Amir brilliantly saved Manchester-United-bound Alex Telles’ spot kick … but then replays showed the Iranian keeper had neither foot on the line, so the kick should have been re-taken; the VAR was obviously on the bus home by this time.

The referee added 10 minutes (!) for Marítimo’s time-wasting, but it didn’t help FCP; Nanu (FCP-bound) added another before Otávio made the score slightly less painful for the Champions (2-3).

By Sunday evening, Santa Clara had been knocked off the top by an unconvincing Benfica, who nevertheless did enough to beat newly-promoted Farense, still without points and rock bottom. Making his debut for Benfica, Argentinian centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, involved in the transfer of Rúben Dias to Manchester City. “I’m going to defend the Benfica shirt to the death,” he’d promised. He did kind of die on the day, in fact. He committed a foul for a penalty that could have given Farense an equalizer to make it 1-1, was beaten easily in the air by Lucca for Farense’s actual equalizer, and slipped to let in Patrick for the visitors’ second. It can only get better for him, because if it gets any worse …

That penalty … Ryan Gauld took it, Vlachodimos saved, Falcão followed up to ‘score’ … but there had been encroachment, so the ref ordered the kick re-taken. Vlachodimos saved that one too. From the resulting corner, Lucca headed the equalizer. Scoring twice on the day was Swiss striker Seferovic – a sort of love/hate figure at the Luz. He has three.

Benfica’s Lisbon rivals Sporting had a disastrous week in Europe, crashing out of the Europa League to Lask Linz in the play-off (1-4). The defeat may well be a blessing in disguise, though, as they can concentrate all their efforts on making a better fist of the Liga than they have done in recent seasons. They got their second win from two (their opener against Gil Vicente is still outstanding), seeing off Portimonense 2-0. It looks like the Algarve team may be struggling again; they have one point from their three games.

As may Tondela, who also have just the one point and are second from bottom. They lost 0-4 at home to Braga, who suddenly clicked after a stuttering start to the season; these were their first points. But they have so much talent in their side (though Sporting are trying to take prolific scorer Paulinho south) that it should be just a matter of time until they’re at the top or thereabouts. Brazilian winger Galeno got two of the goals; it’s a mystery why he was let go by FC Porto.

While Sporting were embarrassing themselves against Lask Linz on Thursday, Rio Ave were within a whisker of making history, taking the mighty AC Milan to penalties in their Europa League play-off. After 24 spot-kicks, central defender Aderllan Santos missed his in the second round and Rio Ave were out, but with heads held high. It was Aderllan who headed the equalizer (1-1) on Sunday at Famalicão; Rio Ave have three draws.

Jornada 3 opener Moreirense v Boavista also finished 1-1. Boavista had a good first half last week against FC Porto then collapsed in the second, so guess what? Yep. Their line-up has a raft of newcomers (Ecuadorian central defender Jackson Porozo is the 16th signing) who may not be fully match-fit? It’s a theory. The game was notable for Boavista’s goal, a stonking lofted chip from the half-way line by diminutive forward Angel Gomes, son of Gil, who won an U-19 World Cup Winner’s medal for Portugal in 1991. “My dad always told me to have an eye for goal,” Angel said.

A similarly diminutive and also British forward, Marcus Edwards, had a brilliant season for Vitória de Guimarães last time and was clearly the stand-out player in the side. This time, Ricardo Quaresma has arrived, and perhaps the shared spotlight has affected his game? He was subbed on the hour at home to Paços de Ferreira. André André (what were his parents thinking?) got the winner late on from the spot.

Nacional and Belenenses SAD have had decent starts to the season and cancelled each other out in Madeira; it finished 0-0.

Significant number: 873

(The number of spectators at Santa Clara v Gil Vicente.)

 

Jornada 2 - 27/09/20

After two games, the top two are the ones that will most likely be there right at the end, the question being in which order?

FC Porto travelled across town to their poor city neighbours Boavista, albeit richer this year with the investment of Lille owner Gérard López. BFC have brought in a raft of new players; there are now 14 different nationalities in the squad. History holds many examples of clubs that open a cheque book (remember those?) and hope to win things. It often ends in tears. It’s too early to say whether the new Bessa project will finish up like that, but there must have been plenty of tears of frustration in the changing room after the 5-0 rout inflicted by the Dragons. BFC made a good fist of containing Porto’s superior quality in the first half, but they collapsed in the second. FC Porto fielded not a single new player from the start, Boavista’s starting 11 was new but for two players: Sauer and Paulinho. Perhaps with time …

Benfica are early ‘runners-up’ but at home to Moreirense, they didn’t convince as much as FCP did in the Porto derby. The game was notable for the opening goal, scored by central defender and captain for the day, Rúben Dias. “It’s a special moment – I think people understand why,” he said afterwards. It was in the air that he would be transferred to Manchester City, and the move would be confirmed on the following Monday, with former FC Porto defender Nicolás Otamendi coming the other way. Benfica’s premature exit from the Champions League has thrown their finances into turmoil and they needed the €53m from the sale (Otamendi cost €15m). A little bit of Benfica mystique has gone with Dias, though.

This season’s early ‘surprise team’ are Santa Clara of the Azores, joining FC Porto and Benfica at the top on 6 points. All of their goals in the two wins have come from Brazilian striker Thiago Santana, who heads the top scorer list with three. Their win was over Braga at the ‘Quarry’, SCB’s second defeat, which leaves them second from bottom – the diametric opposite of where they might expect to be at this early stage.

Rock bottom are newly-promoted Farense of the Algarve, playing at the Estádio do Algarve while their São Luíz stadium is being refurbished. They have no points from their two games, with no goals scored. Their executioners this time were fellow promotees Nacional of Madeira, the only goal coming from fearsome Colombian striker Brayan Riascos, who’d also scored on Day One at home to Boavista.

Nacional’s Madeiran neighbours Marítimo saw off Tondela with two goals from Rodrigo Pinho, last season’s top scorer at the club with nine. The same 2-1 scoreline saw Famalicão jumping off the bottom of the table. Belenenses SAD, returning to the National Stadium, went ahead but two goals within three minutes early in the second half gave Fama the points.

The two sides that saw their first game postponed due to Covid, Sporting and Gil Vicente, both got a win. Sporting won 2-0 at Paços de Ferreira, their first coming from a Jovane penalty for one of those handballs that are causing such controversy in the game: a shot from a loose ball following a corner rebounded off a defender, hit Douglas Tanque on the thigh and ricocheted up onto his arm. SCP’s second goal was scored by Uruguayan central defender Sebastián Coates, now club captain after the departure of Bruno Fernandes and retirement of Jéremie Mathieu; he seems to be relishing the responsibility. Gil Vicente beat Algarve side Portimonense 1-0.

Rio Ave performed heroics in midweek, eliminating Besiktas from the Europa League in the third qualifying round to go on to face AC Milan in the play-off. Possibly a little weary from the effort, they did the bare minimum to hold Vitória de Guimarães 0-0 at home. The game was notable for the début as a starter from Ricardo Quaresma. He’s 34 and he’s never been one for 100% effort, but his work rate appears to have increased considerably under Vitória’s new coach Tiago Mendes. He also showed off a few crosses by trivela, and a shot that Kieszek had to palm over. Good to have him in the Liga. Vitória were spurred on by their fanatical followers ... from outside the ground, the sound carrying well into it.

Significant number: 14

(The number of different nationalities in the new Boavista squad.)

 

Jornada 1 - 20/09/20

The Liga kicked off at the weekend, still to empty stadiums given the ongoing Covid crisis. The Champions FC Porto got off on the right foot, beating ambitious Braga 3-1 at the Dragão, but they needed two penalties to do it. Both were scored by left back Alex Telles, taking his league tally for the club to 26 – the most goals scored by an FCP defender. He broke the record just in time; negotiations are heating up for a mooted move to Manchester United.

Of course the table after Day One must be taken with a pinch of salt, but there at the top are FCP, second behind eternal rivals Benfica on goal difference. SLB put the mid-week disaster of the lost Champions League qualifier at PAOK behind them to breeze past last season’s surprise team Famalicão, who looked a shadow of that side and prop up the first table after the 5-1 home defeat. German newcomer Waldschmidt scored two for the Eagles.

Sporting, the Third Grande (but only in terms of popular support in recent seasons), didn’t play; their game against Gil Vicente was postponed due to Covid infections at both clubs.

Arguably the Fourth Grande (in terms of support at least), Vitória de Guimarães, under new coach Tiago Mendes and with new-signing Ricardo Quaresma on the bench, lost 1-0 at home to Belenenses SAD, the goal coming from South African Cafú Phete against his old club. A phete accompli, if you like.

Boavista fans will tell you that they’re the Fourth Grande, especially for the title won in 2001. During and after their sojourn in the wilderness of the 3rd-tier Campeonato de Portugal in the early 2010s, they were far from that, but now they have new money from French club Lille’s owner Gérard Lopez and are going crazy on the transfer market while clearing out the old guard; only five players remain from last season’s squad. The trick will be for new coach Vasco Seabra to glue the pieces together into a coherent whole. At newly promoted Nacional, they seemed to be heading for a win, two of their three goals coming from Gustavo Sauer, a survivor of the purge. But deep into added time, João Camacho headed an equalizer to leave it 3-3.

Elsewhere, Santa Clara won the Battle of the Islands, beating Marítimo 2-0 with goals from Thiago Santana. Moreirense saw off newly-promoted Farense by the same score.

The same scores also for Tondela v Rio Ave and Portimonense v Paços de Ferreira, which both finished 1-1. Rio Ave have lost some key players (including Mehdi Taremi to FC Porto, Nuno Santos to Sporting) and may struggle under new coach Mário Silva to meet their normally lofty ambitions. Portimonense gained a relegation reprieve when Vitória de Setúbal were forcibly dropped to the Campeonato de Portugal. They welcomed back, from Japanese side Urawa Reds, Brazilian forward Fabrício, who got their equalizer.

Significant number: 0

(Still no fans in the stadiums ...)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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