liga review - 2020/21



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Jornada 14 - 17/01/21

It was clássico weekend: FC Porto hosted Benfica and there was a lot to play for, as always: pride, of course, bragging rights and the chance for 2nd and 3rd, respectively, on the same 31 points, to make up ground on leaders Sporting, who had dropped two points to Rio Ave earlier. As is nearly always the case, the game didn’t live up to its ‘classic’ label, at least in terms of quality of play, with heart ruling head for the most part. And the game was typically niggly; there were 43 fouls in total, and several cards shown, one of them red. In one incident, Pizzi fouled Sérgio Oliveira then kicked the ball at him, it hit S.O. in the chest, he held his face in ‘agony’, Pepe rushed in, Pizzi pushed him gently in the chest, the FCP ‘psycho’ fell as if pole-axed, the latter two got yellows … it was that sort of game. Pizzi was lucky to stay on the pitch after more than one reckless challenge (Corona seemed to be a popular target) but it was an FCP player who did walk – Taremi for a sickening studs-up lunge that could have broken Otamendi’s leg. He claimed he’d gone for the ball, but the tackle was very, very late.

The red card happened on 73 minutes, but the result was already established. Grimaldo had popped up in the area to finish off a Seferovic lay-off on 17, and Taremi had equalised eight minutes later, his shot deflecting off Marega and past Vlachodimos. The 1-1 draw broke FCP’s seven-match winning run.

The Sporting universe heaved a sigh of relief. Earlier the team had struggled to shake off a combative Rio Ave at Alvalade and the result was two dropped points. ITMA Pedro Gonçalves opened for Sporting, sweeping home a Gonzalo Plata cross from the right for his 12th of the season. But they were undone by a triumvirate of former Sporting players: Francisco Geraldes threaded a delightful ball through to Carlos Mané on the right, and his cross was knocked in by Gelson Dala. 

So it was ‘as you were’ in the top three places, Sporting keeping a four-point lead over FC Porto and Benfica. If FCP and SLB failed to take advantage of SCP’s slip-up, SCB did worse. Goals from Bruno Costa (57’) and Hélder Ferreira (76’) gave surprise side Paços de Ferreira (three straight wins, unbeaten in five) all three points over Braga, lifting them to within two points of their more illustrious opponents. It was Braga’s 5th defeat of the season – not the form of title contenders.

If Braga’s Minho rivals Vitória de Guimarães win their two games in hand, they’ll be just one point behind. One of the games, against Nacional, was called off due to Covid. This time, it was the weather (Liga games have been hit three weeks running). A frozen pitch caused Saturday’s game at home to Farense to be moved to Sunday evening, but it hadn’t thawed by then so it was postponed again and will be played in February.

Madeiran side Marítimo have sprung into life under coach Milton Mendes in his six weeks at the club. They’re now up to 7th after a 1-0 win at Gil Vicente. It was trundling towards a 0-0 draw until Lucas Áfrico headed a rare goal on 87 minutes. In his excitement, he forgot to retrieve the ball to stuff up his shirt – his wife’s pregnant – but he made sure he grabbed hold of it at the final whistle, when he also kneeled to give thanks to God.

Moreirense won by the same score at the other Madeiran club, Nacional. Colombian striker Brayan Riascos missed an absolute sitter for the home side on 74 minutes and four minutes later, Moreirense captain Steven Vitória headed in after keeper Pasinato failed to reach a free kick.

Moreirense jumped to 8th above Azores side Santa Clara, who are wobbling; they have just two points from their last five games. They lost 2-1 at home to Famalicão, for whom the win broke a six-games run without one. The winner on 82 minutes was a cheeky one, Serbian midfielder Andrija Lukovic knocking a 25-metre free kick in at the near post when everyone was expecting a cross to the far one.

Three points separate the bottom seven teams, but the bottom two places are occupied by Belenenses SAD and Boavista. BSAD travelled to the Algarve and came away empty-handed after a 1-0 defeat to Portimonense, Dener with the goal. The Lisbon side were down to ten men on 67 minutes, Henrique with a second yellow. They fought well but couldn’t turn it round. They have one point from their last five games and still have only six goals to their name in 14 games… Portimonense, on the other hand, jumped from the drop zone to 12th.

Boavista had a player sent off too, Devenish after just ten minutes, stopping Tondela’s Mario González, through on goal. As if shooting themselves in one foot wasn’t enough, they shot themselves in the other on 32 minutes, Chidozie taking out Murillo and getting another red for his team. Luckily for them, Enzo Martínez slipped taking the resulting penalty, he touched the ball with both feet, it went in but was disallowed for a technical foul. But playing an hour with nine men was always going to be a nigh-on impossible task, and so it proved, despite some good team spirit from the Panthers. Mario González and Salvador Agra put Tondela 2-0 up, Ricardo Mangas gave Boavista some hope on the hour, but a second from Agra confirmed the 3-1 score. Boavista are rock bottom and have leaders Sporting up next, without their two first-choice centre-backs, who will be suspended. Tough times at the Bessa.

Significant number: 1

(The goals scored and the points won by all of the Três Grandes.)



Jornada 13 - 10/01/21

Last week saw a game (Santa Clara v Benfica) postponed for a waterlogged pitch, and the weather hit again this weekend (but then it is winter…). Leaders Sporting took four hours more than expected to fly to Madeira ahead of their game against Nacional. Landing on the short runway at the airport serving Funchal, the capital of the autonomous region, is hairy at the best of times, but with storm Filomena raging, Sporting’s plane was diverted to Porto Santo, on the same archipelago, and could only land at Funchal late on Wednesday evening for the Thursday night game. Come Thursday, the storm hadn’t let up, and the game at Nacional’s Choupana stadium – perched on a hillside (games there are often postponed or suspended because of fog) – was postponed to the next day due to high winds and a sodden pitch, with both teams already kitted up.

Conditions were still bad but minimally acceptable on the Friday. The game went ahead and so did Sporting, just before the break, through Nuno Santos (“We didn’t want to play, but we did what we were told.”) with a close-range tap-in. If pretty football was hard in the first half, it became impossible in the second as the wind picked up and the heavens opened, turning the pitch into a swamp. You could feel the cold from your sofa. The ref had pity on the players and gave just two minutes added time, during which Sporting sub Jovane Cabral tapped-in another goal to make it 0-2. At the end, all 22 players and the match officials hurried off the pitch for a hot shower and post-match Bovril.

At Famalicão, the meteorological problem was another: freezing cold and a bone-hard pitch. Before kick-off, they doused the goalmouths with boiling water, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but as soon as the water cooled … Anyway, in-form Iranian striker Taremi put visitors FC Porto ahead on 13 minutes, with Fama equalising on 20 through Robert from the spot, a penalty given for a dubious foul by Diogo Leite on Anderson Silva. Sparing us days of controversy if that score-line had remained, FCP were to score three more goals: on the half-hour, Fama keeper Vaná brought Taremi down, Sérgio Oliveira netting the penalty; Taremi headed his 2nd on the hour, Vaná slipping in that goalmouth (…); and a minute from time, João Mário, on as sub, hit the 4th (his first for the senior team), fed by Luiz Días.

It was FC Porto’s 7th straight win, and they kept 2nd spot on goal difference ahead of Benfica (on the same four points behind Sporting). The Eagles had another chance to shake off their irregular form with the visit of lowly Tondela, but the truth is that despite the 2-0 win, they are still not firing on all cylinders. Asked about that, coach Jorge Jesus, back at the Luz this season after a spell at Flamengo during which he was showered with adulation, said: “I wasn’t used to this speculation and persecution, with intent to devalue.” For the record, Benfica’s goals were scored by Swiss striker Seferovic on 54 minutes, served by Darwin from the left, and by German striker Waldschmidt, well into added time, served by Darwin from the right.

There’s an FC Porto v Benfica clássico next weekend ...

All the top four won. Braga stay four points behind FC Porto and Benfica after their 2-1 win over Marítimo with goals from Iuri Medeiros – proving an important asset in his loan spell from German club FC Nürnberg – and Ricardo Horta with his 5th of the season. Milson pulled one back for the Madeiran side on 77 minutes, placing some doubt on the score-line for the remaining minutes. Braga were without Paulinho, voted Player of the Month for December by the Players’ Union but injured in last week’s game at Sporting. His coach, Carlos Carvalhal, took a swipe at the media for insisting that the striker was bound for Sporting in the transfer window. “I don’t know if Paulinho’s injury didn’t have something to do with his being affected by the constant news that he’s leaving when everyone knows that nothing’s going to happen. I don’t know whether he didn’t play to the limit against Sporting so that he wouldn’t be accused later of not playing well because he was going to leave.”

Braga opened up the gap to seven points on Minho Region rivals Vitória de Guimarães, who dropped two points in a 2-2 draw at Moreirense – a promising result for MFC’s new coach Vasco Seabra in his first game in charge. Some of Ricardo Quaresma’s magic may be rubbing off on his VSC team-mates: the goal that gave VSC a momentary 2-1 lead by the normally utilitarian André André, where he took the ball down on his chest, swivelled and shot first time, was a fine piece of work. But just two minutes later, Alex Soares equalised for MFC. The end of the game was unusual. The referee allowed three minutes added time, and after that time was up, he gave Moreirense a corner. As they went to take it, on 93:33, the floodlights failed. The rules say you only need to extend play in the event of a penalty, but now the ref’s decision was made, and the players had to wait for the floodlights to return. That happened ten minutes later: the game was re-started at 113:45, the corner was taken, nothing came of it, and the ref finally blew up at 113:55.

Rio Ave got their first win in seven games, and half as many goals as they’d scored in the 12 previous games, with a 3-0 win over Algarve side Portimonense. All the goals came in the second half through Pelé from the spot, Meshino and Carlos Mané.

Portimonense are hovering above the relegation zone on 11 points, the same as Boavista. The Panthers recorded their 8th draw, 1-1 at home Santa Clara. Boavista were flying early on, with slick possession football that was putting the Azores side under pressure. They took the lead on 20 minutes through Nuno Santos, thumping home his shot after a fine through ball from Show. Then midway through the half, Santa Clara keeper Marco asked the ref for (bogus?) medical attention, the game was stopped and Boavista’s rhythm and momentum was effectively destroyed. During the stoppage, Santa Clara coach Daniel Ramos, returning to the Bessa after leaving in the close season, had all his players on the touch-line to correct tactics, and it worked – the pendulum of superiority swung Santa Clara’s way. Brazilian striker Carlos Junior had three chances in the course of just a few minutes: he headed against the bar, shot just over with a bicycle kick, and finally – third time lucky – headed in on 37 minutes. The final score-line was established, a scrappy 2nd half proving fruitless.

On Sunday, Paços de Ferreira were at the National Stadium to take on Belenenses SAD, lowly but with the second best defensive record in the Liga. It needed a penalty to break the B Sad defence early on, Bruno Costa scoring from the spot after Tomás Ribeiro had gone in high on Hélder Ferreira, though the decision seemed exaggerated. The result was up in the air until the first minute of added time, when Diaby sent a powerful header past Kritsyuk from a cross by João Amaral. Paços slip into 5th, two points ahead of Vitória de Guimarães, who have a game in hand. B Sad have just one point in the last four games.

Farense had only their 3rd win of the season, but it was an important one that took them off the foot of the table – replaced by last season’s surprise team Famalicão. The Serbian striker Stojiljkovic opened the scoring on ten minutes with a header against Gil Vicente, the lead doubled five minutes later from a Licá tap-in, Hugo Seco appearing to have pushed Rodrigo in the back before crossing. Lourency pulled one back for Gil on 29 minutes with an excellent finish from the edge of the box after a break, and it looked like Farense might wobble on 63 when Licá was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Joel Pereira; the ref gave a yellow but was advised by the VAR to take a look on the monitor, and he changed his mind to red. But Fabrício Isidoro brought the Algarve side relief five minutes from time when he cut in from the right and shot, Denis misjudging it completely and letting the ball slip through his hands for the 3-1 final result.

Significant number: 10

(The number of minutes added on top of the normal added time at Moreirense v Vitória de Guimarães [2-2] after the floodlights failed, and the number of seconds played after they came back on and the game was re-started.)



Jornada 12 - 03/01/21

Covid and the weather hit the weekend’s games. Six Vitória de Guimarães players tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the VSC v Nacional game to be moved to 21 January. Then on Sunday, in the Azores, Santa Clara and Benfica started their game before the heavens opened and an already stodgy pitch became a marsh. The match was suspended on seven minutes and the rest of it was played the day after.

Perhaps it was the disruption to their preparation, perhaps not, but Benfica once again disappointed their fans. They showed in flashes in the first half, including in the neat combination on the right between Rafa Silva and Waldschmidt that led to Uruguayan striker Darwin knocking the ball in at the near post on 33 minutes. You might have expected them to kick on from there, but they came out sluggish after the break, and it was almost natural that Santa Clara should equalise; it happened on the hour, Cryzan’s shot deflecting in off captain Fábio Cardoso. “We fell asleep in the second half,” said Darwin after the game. Something in the half-time tea? In fact it needed a couple of excellent last-ditch tackles from Vertonghen for Benfica to claim a point. Not exactly title form, and they dropped to 3rd, on the same 28 points as FC Porto and four behind leaders Sporting.

In the week, Moreirense lost coach César Peixoto, who simply upped and left, but it didn’t seem to affect their game and they took FC Porto all the way at the Dragão. Porto went ahead on 21 minutes, through a Sérgio Oliveira penalty, but the game was always on a knife edge until the 88th minute when sub Toni Martínez made things comfortable, with another sub, Evanilson, confirming the 3-0 scoreline in added time. It was FCP’s 6th straight win.

The top team won the battle of title pretenders at Alvalade, Sporting beating an under-par Braga 2-0 with goals from sub Matheus Nunes and an earlier one from Pedro Gonçalves, taking his season’s tally to 11. News reports suggested he’s on the radar of Manchester United, already thrilled with the sportinguista gift that keeps on giving, Bruno Fernandes. It was Braga’s fourth defeat of the season, and that isn’t title form either. Sporting, on the other hand, are still unbeaten – the only team in the Liga with that record.

Five points separate the leading pack of four from Vitória de Guimarães (a game in hand) and surprise turn Paços de Ferreira. They struggled the last couple of seasons but are in good health this. Unlike Moreirense, Rio Ave slumped after losing their coach Mário Silva (sacked) and were Paços’ (and Douglas Tanque’s) victims this time in a 2-0 win. Rio Ave have just two points from their last six games and are a puzzling 3rd from bottom.

Things are so tight at the bottom that a victory means you leap to mid-table. That’s what happened to Tondela, whose win with a Mário González goal over faltering Famalicão saw them jump from the drop zone to 13th.

Portimonense and Farense played out the first Algarve derby in the Liga for 32 years, and by the end, Farense were left holding the ‘red lantern’ at the foot of the table. Two goals in the last 20 minutes from Portimonense’s giant striker Beto (1m94) did the trick.

Joining Farense in the relegation zone are hapless Boavista, who just can’t seem to get any momentum going, though the 0-0 draw at Marítimo (their 7th draw of the season!) was at least an improvement on the 4-1 drubbing they took against Braga last week. If the score in goals was 0-0, the score in head-clashes needing treatment must have been about 6-6; it was like an extended performance of ring-a-ring-a-roses out there.

Also finishing 0-0 was Gil Vicente v Belenenses SAD, leaving them 10th and 12th respectively. BSAD have scored just six goals in 12 games, a ‘record’ shared with Rio Ave.

Significant number: 7

(The minute when the ref decided enough was enough and suspended the Santa Clara v Benfica splashabout. Also ... the number of draws Boavista have ‘earned’ in 12 games.)



Jornada 11 - 27/12/20

“Inspiration can be missing, but attitude is non-negotiable,” said coach Rúben Amorim before Sporting’s trip across Lisbon to the National Stadium to meet Belenenses SAD. It was in fact attitude that salvaged all three points for the Lions, while any inspiration on show predominantly belonged to BSAD, whose attacking display belied their measly five goals from the previous 10 games. Having said that, it was one moment of inspiration that gave Sporting the lead on five minutes, quick-thinking Tiago Tomás turning ten metres from goal and curling his shot in past Kritsyuk’s right hand. BSAD’s equaliser was very similar, Miguel Cardoso turning on the edge of the box, his shot deflecting wildly off Gonçalo Inácio and over Adán. Just two minutes later, BSAD had a prime opportunity to take the lead, the same Miguel Cardoso 17cms on-side and heading for goal before clattering into Adán just inside the area. The ref pointed to the spot, there was a bit of VARring, Miguel Cardoso brushed himself off ... and virtually passed the ball to Adán. On 24 minutes, no VAR intervention was needed as Tiago Esgaio brought down Tiago Tomás, through on goal. João Mário stroked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

And so the 1-2 score line was established. If the first half had been an exciting mix of skill, goalmouth action and controversy, the second was a scrappy affair on a pitch that cut up badly. BSAD, with more chances than their opponents, could blame themselves for not being more clinical in front of goal, while Sporting thankfully pocketed the points that will see them stay top for at least another week.

Sporting’s chasers (strange to the ear), Benfica and FC Porto, both won, both with a little help from the refs. Benfica’s win was the less convincing of the two, 2-1 at home to bottom club Portimonense. It looked like it might be a breeze, Darwin and Rafa Silva putting the Eagles 2-0 up within 25 minutes (Darwin’s opener clearly preceded by a Weigl foul on Boa Morte, not given), but then they spent an hour or more failing to push home the advantage. On 75 minutes, Vlachodimos clearly brought down Beto in the area, but the ref and VAR managed to turn it into a ‘dive’ by the Portimonense forward, with the associated yellow card. Even so, the Algarve team pushed Benfica till the end, Gilberto putting through his own goal two minutes into added time. Jorge Jesus made two substitutions to eat up some time after that. Against the bottom club. At the Luz.

FC Porto travelled a little north to Vitória de Guimarães and were behind twice. On seven minutes, Uribe gave the ball away inside his own half to Rochinha who tried a speculative shot from 30 metres, the ball deflecting wildly off Diogo Leita and wrong-footing Marchesín. On the half hour, Baró brought down Rochinha, breaking, and the FCP midfielder was somehow forgiven a second yellow; coach Sérgio Conceição subbed him two minutes later, just in case. Taremi equalised just before the break. Then Vitória took the lead again on 63 minutes, Quaresma sending in a trademark curling cross from the right that Colombian striker Estupiñan dived to head home. This time the lead lasted just two minutes, Taremi cracking in a first-time strike from a Luis Díaz cross. And it was the Colombian winger who got the winner ten minutes from time, thinking more quickly than three or four Vitória defenders to poke a loose ball past Varela and into the bottom left-hand corner.

Two ‘sweated’ victories then, which put Benfica and FC Porto two and four points behind Sporting, with Braga a point behind Porto. And that seems to be the title pack; Vitória de Guimarães are five points behind Braga.

In-form but depleted (Covid) Braga visited the Bessa and destroyed out-of-form Boavista, who have won just one game all season. Braga were 3-0 ahead within half an hour, the Boavista defence laying down a red-carpet for them. Yusupha started the rot with just four minutes on the clock, putting a suicidal back-pass to Fransérgio who took it to the line before squaring for Paulinho to knock in. One of the goals was a 25-metre missile from Iuri Medeiros, who declined to celebrate; he’d been Boavista’s star player in the 2016/17 season. Half-time was a good friend to the home side, and they came out much more focussed and dynamic, pulling a goal back through Colombian central defender Cristian Devenish, but any hopes of recovery were dashed by a typical Braga goal, Paulinho making the line on the left and cutting back for his common partner-in-crime Ricardo Horta to give the ball one touch before finding the bottom right-hand corner for his second of the night. Boavista’s Brazilian keeper Léo Jardim had no chance on this occasion, but if it hadn’t been for him, it might have been a cricket score. Braga play with their eyes closed, fruit of several seasons of squad continuity. Boavista, who shipped in practically a whole new squad at the beginning of the season, are still looking for some kind of regular form; new coach Jesualdo Ferreira has a big job on his hands with a team now hovering around the relegation zone.

Famalicão continue to stutter. After securing a point at home to top club Sporting last week, this time they were at home again and lost all three points to Gil Vicente. There was plenty of skill on display, and one such moment came five minutes from half-time when Lourency jinked through Fama’s right flank, cut the ball back, Leautey’s shot was blocked, Fama captain Gustavo Assunção headed weakly away, and Claude Gonçalves volleyed in for the only goal of the game.

If Famalicão have just two points from their last four games, Tondela have just one; their trip to Madeira was fruitless, Nacional proving stronger by two goals. The first came on 35 seconds, Nacional waltzing forward unopposed down the left, João Vigário crossing low for Rúben Micael to sweep in. Tondela shot themselves in the foot again on 27 minutes, Bebeto seeing a second yellow for a second foul on João Camacho; Tondela would be reduced to nine deep into added time, Khacef also getting a second yellow. In the meantime, Nacional went 2-0 up on 68 minutes: Rúben Freitas broke down the right, crossed low, Niasse couldn’t hold on to it and Colombian striker Brayan Riascos knocked home the loose ball.

Farense 24-25 Paços de Ferreira had 49 [!] fouls, the most in Europe this season. According to sports daily A Bola (using stats from, Portugal has 6 games in the 'top' 8: Boavista v Benfica (46), Nacional v Boavista (45), Marítimo v Nacional (44), Moreirense v Paços de Ferreira (44) and Sporting v Farense (44). There were also nine yellows shown on Saturday (3-6), but it was never a dirty game and finished an amicable 1-1. On the hour, Falcão took Hélder Ferreira’s legs from under him, Douglas Tanque firing home from the spot to give Paços the lead. With the seconds ticking away, Farense coach Sérgio Vieira brought on Bissau-Guinean winger Madi Queta, and with his first touch he took the ball from the feet of Marcelo and Fernando Fonseca, dithering in the heart of the Paços defence; Queta’s second touch was even better, back-heeling from the line for Ryan Gauld to hit home first-time.

Rio Ave hosted Marítimo, and it was a story of two coaches going in opposite directions. It finished 1-3, Cameroonian striker Joel Tagueu getting two for the Madeiran side; he has three in two games. Hermes got the other, but it was really a joint effort with Rio Ave keeper Kieszek, the left back’s shot swerving in the wind, the keeper shipping it, the loose ball spinning and being pushed over the line by the strong wind that’s an almost constant feature at the Estádio dos Arcos. Diego Lopes got Rio Ave’s goal, their first in five games. “I won’t be a problem but rather a solution”, said coach Mário Silva, who must be looking over his shoulder; Rio Ave are normally challenging for Europe, but at the moment they’re 12th with just 11 points from their 11 games [Mário Silva was sacked on 30/12/20]. This was Marítimo coach Milton Mendes’ third Liga game in charge as caretaker and they’ve jumped from bottom when he took over from sacked Lito Vidigal to the top half of the table now; he must be hopeful of the job on a permanent basis if the run continues.

Moreirense got their first win in six games, the first for coach César Peixoto in his four Liga games in charge. Azores side Santa Clara, suffering irregular form, were the victims, and it took just one goal, the first for Brazilian Yan Matheus. “The result is a lie,” said Santa Clara coach Daniel Ramos, “because I don’t think either team deserved to win.” And that just about summed it up.

Significant number: 49

(The number of fouls in the Farense 1-1 Paços de Ferreira game, a European record for the season so far.)



Jornada 10 - 20/12/20

Sporting will be top at Christmas – a symbolic feat for the club; it’s a long-standing tradition that they’re normally out of the title race by this time of year. But sure enough, their 1-0 win over lowly Farense was enough to leave them two points clear of Lisbon rivals Benfica. The win was not without controversy, though. Last jornada, Sporting had criticized the ref/VAR for disallowing a ‘goal’ by Coates that would have given them all three points. This time, the VAR turned a blind eye when the ref gave a penalty to Sporting at the death. Farense keeper Defendi went up for a cross from the right, punched the ball away but also made contact with SCP defender Feddal. The ref pointed straight to the spot, but the VAR should have put him right because it was clearly ‘ball-first’, and the punch was in no way reckless. Sporting coach Rúben Amorim hadn’t seen it, apparently (“I only saw Feddal getting ice to his face,”), though he’d been watching from an executive box because he was suspended, so … “No one steps on Farense!” said SCF president João Barão Rodrigues, but unfortunately, they do, because the Algarve side are minnows and were playing a Grande. They’d put up a good showing and are improving week-on-week, but they fell back into the relegation zone along with the other Algarve team Portimonense, now bottom after a 0-0 draw at home to Famalicão in the jornada’s opening game.

The first four games of the jornada (which included Sporting v Farense) produced a grand total of two goals. There was another 0-0 draw (Tondela v Moreirense; MFC have gone five games without a win) and a 1-0 win for Madeiran side Marítimo, which lifted them from bottom to 12th. The victims were Belenenses SAD, the goal coming three minutes into added time: Hermes crossed from the left, and sub Joel Tagueu rose to head in. B SAD were already a man down on the hour after keeper Kritsyuk had charged a good 15 metres out of his area to bring down Rodrigo Pinho. Eight minutes into added time they lost another player, Phete stomping on defender Renê’s wedding tackle; the red card was by indication of the VAR.

The fifth game of the jornada ended in a draw for Paços de Ferreira and Boavista; it was BFC’s 6th of the season. They continue to stutter, though the arrival of veteran coach Jesualdo Ferreira, replacing the sacked Vasco Seabra, did appear to introduce a little more organization and spirit in the team. Honduran striker Elis put them in front on 61 minutes after an excellent one-two with Angel Gomes, but João Pedro secured a point for Paços seven minutes from time; they continue to fly high in 6th. Boavista are 4th from bottom.

Benfica and FC Porto both won by the same margin (2-0) both needing a little help to get rolling. At Gil Vicente, Gil captain Rodrigão put through his own goal from an Everton header on 58 minutes, and the same Everton got the second seven minutes later. At the Dragão, FC Porto took the lead against Nacional on 21 minutes from the spot, Sérgio Oliveira doing the honours; Pedrão had ‘brought down’ Taremi, though the challenge looked innocuous enough. Marega got Porto’s second on 39’. The win, FCP’s 4th in a row, kept them 3rd, two points behind Benfica. The two teams were to meet mid-week in the delayed SuperTaça in Leiria.

The last two games of the jornada produced seven goals, just one less than all the other games put together.

Vitória de Guimarães had scored only seven goals in their nine games before their trip to the Azores, but they were 3-0 up within the first half hour against Santa Clara, Ricardo Quaresma at 37 showing he still has it with a trademark curling cross from the right on six minutes for André André to knock in, and a superb solo effort for himself on 27. André André assisted Estupiñan to make it 3-0 on 30 minutes, and Quaresma assisted the Colombian striker on 54 to make it 4-0. It was VSC’s 3rd straight win.

Braga are once again the main threat to the Três Grandes. They made light work of the irregular Rio Ave in the jornada’s last game, Ricardo Horta, Fransérgio and Paulinho providing the goals in a 3-0 win. They’re a point behind FC Porto and two ahead of Minho rivals Vitória de Guimarães.

Significant number: 3

(The number of points separating the bottom 11 [!] clubs.)



Jornada 9 - 06/12/20

Sporting had dropped just two points before their trip to Famalicão, but came away with two more missing from their luggage. In a game that was to ‘make a lot of ink run’ in subsequent days, the Liga’s top scorer, Pedro Gonçalves, put Sporting into the lead, making space for himself and curling a shot in from the edge of the box past Luiz Júnior’s right hand. It was to be a memorable game for him, but not for the goal … Sporting’s keeper Adán will have cause to remember the game for a clanger on 43 minutes: Bruno Jordão sent a free kick over from the left, the keeper came out, mistimed his jump and punch and Fama captain Gustavo Assunção was lurking at the back post for an easy header in. Spanish left back Pedro Porro sent a free kick in from out on the left for Sporting’s second, just before the break (in fact past the time added on by the ref), to give them a lift over the changing room oranges … but not before Fama’s Riccieli and Sporting Nuno Santos had had a bit of a tussle. Both saw yellows, and the trouble continued in the tunnel.

In the second half, Sporting failed to push home their advantage. Goalscorer Pedro Gonçalves was sent off on 80 minutes for a second yellow and a minute from time, Jhonata [sic] Robert curled a lovely free-kick in from 20 metres, though Adán once again seemed slow on the uptake. From the kick off, Pedro Porro received the ball on the halfway line, advanced a few paces and launched a looping cross into the area, Coates heading in. The ref gave it but was called by the VAR to take a look and sure enough, the Uruguayan centre-back had knocked keeper Luíz Júnior’s arm in the jump. The ‘goal’ was disallowed (much to Sportinguistas’ disgust … then – there was a repeat of the scenes at half-time – and for many days afterwards) and Sporting had their lead at the top cut.

Coming out of the jornada, Lisbon rivals Benfica were left as Sporting’s nearest challengers, just two points behind. But as with all of the top teams this week, SLB, once again stuttering, had their work cut out against a theoretically inferior opponent, in this case Paços de Ferreira, who are having a very solid season. Midway through the first half, Paços took the lead when Bruno Costa sent a corner in from the left and Vlachodimos punched clear, but only to the feet of Moldovan left-back Oleg Reabciuk, who crashed the ball in from just outside the box. Benfica equalised on the hour through Rafa from close range, but it looked like the game would end in a draw … until the very last (90+5), desperate move of the match when Waldschmidt headed in a Gabriel cross. “We lost because we wanted to win,” said Paços coach Pepa. It was their first defeat in six games, a run that included four wins.

Braga could have joined Benfica on the same 21 points if they’d been able to beat Belenenses SAD at the National Stadium, but Petit’s team surprised them and were 2-0 up by half-time through Miguel Cardoso and Afonso Sousa. Braga were back in the game on 71 minutes with a twice-taken penalty from Paulinho, who has adopted Bruno Fernandes’ ‘skip’ approach, but they couldn’t go the extra mile. It was their first defeat after six straight wins, while it was BSAD’s first win since the opening day; they jumped to a healthy 8th, despite having scored only five goals.

Braga dropped to 4th, FC Porto overtaking them after a 4-3 thriller against Tondela at the Dragão. The scoring went 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3. Tondela’s Algerian defender Khacef crashed a ball against the bar with the last kick of the game on 90+5. For FCP, Marega got two, for CDT, Mario González copied him.

At the top, Sporting are on 23 points, Benfica on 21, Porto on 19 and Braga on 18. Braga’s Minho region rivals Vitória de Guimarães are close behind on 16 points after a 1-0 win over Portimonense, captain André André with the goal on 33 minutes. VSC have just seven goals in their nine games. Portimonense went 2nd bottom.

The other Algarve team in the top flight, Farense, climbed out of the drop zone with a 2-1 win over Marítimo, Scottish captain Ryan Gauld winning it from the spot on 33 minutes, just three minutes after Rodrigo Pinho, with his 7th, had equalised for the Madeiran side. French forward Bilel had put Farense in front in the first half with his first goal of the season. Farense climbed to 14th while Marítimo now hold the ‘red lantern’ under caretaker Milton Mendes, who moved from the U23s after Lito Vidigal was shown the door.

The other Madeiran side, Nacional, lost to Azores side Santa Clara 1-3 at home, two penalties proving the difference. Iraqi captain Osama Rashid stepped up to take the first one, with top scorer Thiago Santana trying to wrest the ball from him. For the second, Rashid gave it to Santana, and he stroked it home to take his personal tally to 7 and Santa Clara to 7th.

The other two games ended in draws, Gil Vicente’s Denis giving Moreirense a point with an own goal on 80 minutes. Rio Ave and Boavista ground out a 0-0 draw; both sides have drawn five of their games.

The result left Boavista just one point above the drop zone, a worry for a club that invested heavily in an almost completely new squad at the start of the season. Coach Vasco Seabra, with just one Liga win (3-0 over Benfica), was sacked on the following Tuesday.

Significant number: 10

(Sporting’s Pedro Gonçalves, wearing no. 10, got his 10th of the season at Famalicão ... and was sent off with 10 minutes left.)



Jornada 8 - 29/11/20

The weekend was marked by the death on Saturday – heart attack, aged 67 – of Vítor Oliveira, the avuncular, much-respected coach who made it his speciality to get teams promoted from the Segunda Liga to the top tier. There were 11 in all: Paços de Ferreira (1990-91), Académica (1996-97), União de Leiria (199798), Belenenses (1998-99), Leixões (2006-07), Arouca (2012-13), Moreirense (2013-14), União da Madeira (2014-15), Chaves (2015-16), Portimonense (2016-17) and Paços de Ferreira again (2018-19). The Liga announced that the ‘Coach of the Month’ trophy would now be named ‘Prémio Vítor Oliveira’. A joint minute of silence was observed for him, Maradona, FC Porto director Reinaldo Teles and former Benfica keeper José Bastos. His ghostly presence ran through the jornada like a seam of gold.

One of his former teams, Moreirense, made things hard for top club Sporting, with a bear-trap defence superbly organised by new coach César Peixoto. It took the Liga’s top scorer, Pedro Gonçalves, to secure the points with two more goals, taking his personal tally to nine. The first, cancelling out Luís Neto’s own goal on three minutes, was a joint effort with MFC defender Fábio Pacheco; it also appeared that there was a suspicion of handball by the Lions striker. But Sporting remain four points clear at the top and will stay there for at least another couple of weeks. They’ve dropped just two points, have the best attack (21 goals) and best defence (five conceded).

All four of the top clubs won but struggled against ‘inferior’ opposition.

In second place, Braga needed an 87th-minute goal by Al Musrati, on as sub, to beat bottom club Farense. The Libyan midfielder’s acceptance of the Man of the Match award by SportTV was great television; responding to a long-winded question in English from the journalist presenting the award, Al Musrati said simply: “Tank you. Goodbye.” Farense had a goal by Mansilla inexplicably ruled out for offside by the VAR when it looked like it was the Braga defender Sequeira who played the ball through to Gauld, in an ‘offside’ position, before the Scottish midfielder fed Mansilla.

Braga, with six straight wins, share second place with Benfica, who once again lacked quality in their difficult win in Madeira against Marítimo. Questioned on this by a woman journalist after the game, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus showed his true colours with: “It’s natural that you don’t know what ‘a lot of quality’ is in football.” It’s natural that he doesn’t know what ‘class’ means, if the truth be told. The Benfica bus had been met at the hotel the night before by a handful of supporters offering less than complimentary comments, spirits calmed by Director of Football Rui Costa.

On a rain-sodden pitch that cut up badly and made coherent football tricky, Benfica’s Argentinian centre-back Nicolas Otamendi set up the first goal, his poor pass back to Vlachodimos latched onto by Rodrigo Pinho who dinked the ball over the oncoming Greek keeper. Otamendi wrote on social media: “Sorry and thank you are the words I take away from this game. Sorry to all the Benfica fans for this start, and thanks to my team-mates who are always with me and support me from the first to the last minute. I’m going to work to get better!” Shortly after the goal he was involved in a bad head-clash with Rodrigo Pinho and spent the rest of the game in a swimming cap; Pinho was even worse off, with a badly damaged cheek and eye. Both players played on.

Pizzi equalised on the half-hour, and Everton got the winner five minutes into the second half. It might be natural that I don’t know exactly what ‘a lot of quality is in football’ either, but I know it wasn’t that performance by Benfica. Marítimo have one point from their last five games.

FC Porto made hard work of the three points in their visit to the Azores and Santa Clara, and like Benfica, they were also up against the elements, too, a strong wind making it difficult for both teams. Colombian forward Luis Díaz got the only goal of the game in added time of the first half, but what a goal, his acrobatic overhead kick from a Manafá cross fooling everyone.

Vitória de Guimarães and Paços de Ferreira both won 2-0, finishing the jornada in 5th and 6th respectively, which qualifies them for this season’s re-jigged (because of Covid) Taça da Liga: the top six in the Liga and the top two in the Segunda will play out the quarter-finals in December, with the Final Four to be played in Leiria in January.

An André André penalty and one from Bruno Duarte, both in the second half, won the game for Vitória at Tondela, while Paços’ useful South African winger Luther Singh and Uilton near the end saw off Famalicão.

Boavista stubbornly refuse to play the football their expensive squad demands. They could only draw 0-0 at home to Belenenses SAD, coached by former Bessa hero Petit. B SAD have somehow amassed eight points; they’ve scored three goals in their eight games, and have drawn five of their last six. Boavista share seven points with Marítimo and Portimonense, whose players all wore shirts with ‘Vítor Oliveira’ on the back in their 1-0 win over Nacional, a Fabrício penalty clinching it a minute from time.

Gil Vicente was Vítor Oliveira’s last club as coach and they flew the club flag at half-mast before their game at home to irregular Rio Ave. Gil led for most of the match through a Filipe Augusto own-goal (his and that of Sporting’s Luís Neto were the first of the season), with Lourency topping off the 2-0 tribute deep into added time.

Significant number: 3

(The number of goals scored by Belenenses SAD after eight games ... and they still have eight points.)



Jornada 7 - 08/11/20

Sporting are clear leaders going into the 3-week Liga break (internationals + Taça de Portugal) after a 4-0 demolition of Vitória de Guimarães, there. Star of the show – and not for the first time – was Pedro Gonçalves (‘Pote’), whose two goals take him to the top of the goal-scorers table with seven. “It’s the beginning of a process and nothing’s done yet,” said SCP coach Rúben Amorim, and wisely. But they could be set up for a very interesting season, ‘helped’ by the fact that they won’t be overloaded with European games, which may come back to bite their rivals on the bum. Sporting’s last Liga title was nearly two decades ago (2002). Who knows …

If Lisbon enemies Benfica keep shooting themselves in the foot, Sporting will have one less thing to worry about. Last week SLB were soundly beaten at Boavista, this week at home to Braga. At one point they were 0-3 down, poor defending having a hand in all three, with youngster Francisco Moura scoring two. Doughty Swiss striker Haris Seferovic replaced the ineffectual Cebolinha at half-time for Benfica and got two to take his tally to six and give Benfica hopes of a point, and he thought he’d got a hat-trick in added time, but his effort was ruled out for offside by Otamendi. Final score: 2-3.

Benfica lag four points behind Sporting on 15, along with Braga, who have five straight wins after their false start of two defeats. Tucked in behind them in 4th are FC Porto on 13 points.

The Dragons had a hard time of it against Portimonense, who had dropped provisionally to bottom on Sunday afternoon, and went behind after just 14 minutes through a Beto header. The Algarve side were heading for a half-time lead until Mbemba headed in from a corner, after the two minutes added time had passed – a fact contested later by PSC coach Paulo Sérgio. Within a minute of the re-start, Iranian striker Taremi made it 2-1, and Sérgio Oliveira completed the 3-1 scoreline a minute from time, adding to his assists for the first two goals.

The other Porto team, Boavista, visited the other Algarve team, Farense. BFC were coming off a superb win over Benfica last week, while SCF were rock bottom and without a win all season. Two of the BFC team that had beaten Benfica, Mangas and Reisinho, were down with Covid, replaced by Javi Garcia, back from suspension, and Nuno Santos. The team’s display was light years away from last week’s, while Farense, inspired by the wee Scot Ryan Gauld, played like their lives depended on it … and indeed, they needed the win to prevent the train leaving them behind at the station. They got it, Gauld getting them off the mark before a superb equalizer from Boavista man-of-the-moment Angel Gomes, who went on a solo run through Farense’s midfield and placed a low shot from the edge of the box wide of Defendi’s left hand. But two headers from corners, by Stojiljkovic (against his old team) and Eduardo, kept the points on the south coast and enabled SCF to climb tentatively out of the relegation zone. The game was the first back at the Estádio de São Luís after improvements; Farense have been playing their home games at the Estádio do Algarve. It’s a new pitch, too, but divoted up something rotten.

Occupying the other place below the water line, along with ‘red lantern’ Portimonense, are Gil Vicente after a 2-1 defeat at Nacional, Honduran striker Bryan Róchez getting the winner in added time. The Madeiran side climb to an impressive 5th place on ten points.

One of the other teams on ten points, Santa Clara, have been rather irregular after a good start; they’ve dropped nine points in the last four games. This time they went down 2-0 at Tondela, who have been struggling. Tondela were spurred on by forward Salvador Agra, returning to Portuguese football after three difficult years in Spain and Poland. He got the opener and was involved in the move finished off by Mario González for the second.

If Santa Clara have dropped nine points from their last four, Marítimo have dropped 11. Famalicão beat them 2-1 to get their first win in five, all the goals coming in the first half, with Fama turning the score round after Joel Tagueu had put the Madeiran side in front. Fama jump to mid-table, while Marítimo hover near the bottom. Club president Carlos Pereira is notoriously impatient, and if I were coach Lito Vidigal, I’d be looking over my shoulder.

Joining Nacional, Santa Clara and Vitória de Guimarães on ten points are Rio Ave after a 0-0 draw with Belenenses SAD at the National Stadium in the jornada 7 opener. The two sides are something of draw specialists: they each have four. But BSAD take the prize with three 0-0 draws. They have just three goals from their seven games. “The goals will come,” said coach Petit, hopefully.

Moreirense v Paços de Ferreira was postponed until 01/12/20 due to cases of Covid in the Moreiresne squad.

Significant number: 19

(The number of points that leaders Sporting have, and the number of goals they’ve scored - the most in the Liga.)



Jornada 6 - 01/11/20

It was all change at the top as Benfica and FC Porto lost, leaving Sporting and Braga to take first and third places. It was a weekend when goalkeepers and the VAR were well in evidence.

A sprightly Sporting easily saw off a weedy Tondela on Sunday to go top of the Liga, at least for a day until Benfica’s match at Boavista on Monday ... which was to bring them a nice surprise. Pedro Gonçalves was the star of the show with two goals, taking his tally for the season to five. Tondela, mainly through the figure of Pedro Trigueira in goal, held out until just before the break when ‘Pote’ got his first. The second half was much the same one-way traffic and could have been a cricket score but for Trigueira, who made a dozen crucial saves throughout. As it was, Sporting had to settle for just the four goals, Sporar and Porro adding the other two. Tondela were so poor that there must now be a question mark over whether Spanish coach Pako Ayestaran can survive much longer at this rate. “You can see that Sporting have a good coach,” he said after the game.

Benfica went into their game with Boavista - second bottom on just three points - with a chance to confirm top spot and put eight points between them and arch rivals FC Porto. Whether it was complacency or simply an off night, they drove back down south with their tails between their legs after what can only be described as a drubbing at the hands of a Boavista team that resembled the Boavistão of old. With their defence and midfield closing Benfica’s players down relentlessly throughout, and with an inspired front line of Paulinho, Angel Gomes and Elis, Boavista were several notches above their Grande visitors on the night. “Boavista knew how to exploit our lack of quality,” said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus. “We had three times the number of shots as Benfica,” rejoiced his Boavista counterpart Vasco Seabrá.

Boavista prodded forward early, Reggie Cannon cracking a shot into the side netting from an acute angle on four minutes, but it was Benfica on 14 who got the ball in the net first, though Darwin’s effort was ruled out for offiside (VAR). Three minutes later, the wizardry of Angel Gomes confounded Benfica winger Everton, who was somehow in the middle of the area defending and brought Gomes down. The diminutive forward dusted himself off to clip a perfect penalty past Vlachodimos. On the half-hour, Vertonghen had a good chance to equalise from a Taarabt cross, but the Belgian is not a striker, and his header was directed straight at Léo Jardim. Then on 38 minutes, A lovely Boavista move down the right ended with Cannon crossing, Angel Gomes flicking, and the excellent Elis scoring. It was a terrific goal and came at a painful moment for Benfica. Something had to change at half-time, and so it did.

Pizzi, Gabriel and Everton were replaced by Rafa, Weigl and Seferovic, but the direction of the game changed not one iota. Boavista were still getting to the ball first and winning it, harrying Benfica’s players as if their life depended on it, and probing on the counter as Benfica pushed forward. On 76 minutes, Benfica’s worst fears were confirmed: Paulinho, a boundless source of energy, bounded up the right, picked out Hamache on the edge of the area and the French full-back cracked home his second goal in two games. Near the end, Boavista were closer to making it 4-0 than Benfica pulling anything back, sub Yusupha creating space for himself before blasting over.

It was Benfica’s first defeat and first dropped points of the season, Boavista’s first win and first points at home. Benfica hand top spot to Lisbon rivals Sporting, while Boavista leap out of the relegation zone to 13th.

Up to 3rd on 12 points charge Braga with a run of four straight wins, though this time it was a slim 1-0 affair over struggling Famalicão, and despite their superiority, they left the goal till the 76th minute, Fama’s Vaná one of several keepers working overtime this weekend. Tormena shot through a crowd of players, Vaná parried, the ball fell for Bruno Viana, and he knocked it in. It was initially disallowed by the ref and it took him and the VAR two minutes to decide that the Braga defender had not been offside at the time of the first shot. Ten minutes earlier, Fama’s resistance had been weakened when the ref/VAR took four minutes to decide that Riccieli had fouled Paulinho, through on goal (though the contact seemed accidental); the Fama defender got a straight red.

After a good display and 2-0 win in the Champions League against Olympiacos in the week, FC Porto continue to wobble quite worryingly in the Liga. They’d already dropped five points before their visit to the ‘Furniture Capital’, Paços de Ferreira. By the end of the evening, they’d dropped eight. They had more possession overall (35/65), but it was ineffectual possession; Paços had more opportunities, more shots, more shots on target, more corners … It’s maybe too early to say, but Porto could ultimately regret the selling of Alex Telles to Manchester United and, chiefly, Danilo to PSG - however necessary the sales were to balance the books. The latter was the metronome for Porto’s play, and no one has really stepped up to the plate yet.

Paços were sharper in every department and were worth their win, but the game will be in the news for days, or weeks, or even beyond because of the ten minutes before the break. Paços were 1-0 up from the 11-minute mark: Corona took the ball off the boot of Luther Singh, threatening, only for it to find Dor Jan, Douglas Tanque’s late replacement, in front of goal; the Israeli striker took it round Marchesín and in. Then they thought they had a second on 38 minutes with a well-worked move down the right: Hélder Ferreira crossed low, Dor Jan helped it on and Luther Singh netted at the back post. The referee, Nuno Almeida, gave the goal, but then the VAR intervened. The ref went to take a look on the monitor: goal disallowed for a supposed foul by Dor Jan on Mbemba. Millions of TV viewers and the Paços bench were incredulous – coach Pepa was shown a red card for words; there had been no foul.

Paços thought justice had been done on 43 minutes, Hélder Ferreira once again charging down the right and cutting back for Stephen Eustáquio to guide his shot inside the far post. This time it counted. But in another highly controversial moment deep into added time, Otávio was in a challenge with the excellent Eustáquio, the latter fell to the ground and the ball hit him on the arm. The ref pointed to the spot, the VAR didn’t disagree, and FCP captain for the day Sérgio Oliveira – Pepe was absent over a pending Covid test – scored from the spot. So instead of potentially being 3-0 up, Paços were only 2-1 up – a manageable task for Porto.

At least it would have been had they had more wherewithal on the night. On the contrary, they seemed subdued and lacked inspiration. Bruno Costa scored from the spot on the hour to extend Paços’ lead after Marega had handled. Otávio, one of the least conformed of Porto’s players, made it 3-2 on 78 minutes, but they didn’t have the stuff to go that extra mile. Copying his counterpart Pepa, Porto coach Sérgio Conceição saw a red after the game for words to the ref.

Porto finished the jornada six points behind Sporting and the same five behind Benfica. They share 4th place on ten points with Santa Clara and Vitória de Guimarães.

The Azores side got back to their winning ways with a 2-1 win at Portimonense, the first of their goals scored by the inevitable Thiago Santana, Liga top scorer with six goals. His team-mate Fábio Cardoso was the first player other than Santana to score for them. Portimonense coach Paulo Sérgio wasn’t happy with the ref. “For us there’s no VAR, it doesn’t exist, week in week out. It’s revolting, and it’s hard,” he said, claiming a penalty before Fábio Cardoso put Santa Clara ahead.

Vitória de Guimarães were under the cosh for much of the second half of their game at Gil Vicente. With the score at 1-1, VSC coach João Henriques brought on subs Marcus Edwards and Rochinha, and the former fed the ball through to the latter to clip in the winner a minute from time.

Rio Ave continue to correct their false start, two straight wins off-setting their three straight draws at the start and taking them to 7th. The victims this time were Moreirense, whose results have been irregular. The team from Moreira de Cónegos had been hit by Covid and could only muster five players for the bench. Rio Ave’s goals in the 2-0 win were scored by Brazilian forward Lucas Piazón, the second from the spot after Rocic had brought down Pedro Amaral

Bottom club Farense could have some complaints about the refereeing in their game at the National Stadium against Belenenses SAD, but they were also guilty of shooting themselves in the collective foot, and not for the first time. With added time approaching, they were leading 1-0 through a Ryan Gauld penalty on 69 minutes. On the stroke of time, Pedro Henrique was sent off for a nasty challenge on Tomás Ribeiro, then the referee let the six added minutes become eight, at which point Bruno Ramires scored after a counter attack … but the same Bruno Ramires had clearly handled to win the ball in midfield at the beginning of the move, and it wasn’t seen by the ref or VAR. The ref went on to allow 11 minutes, at the end of which Farense’s Fábio Nunes also saw a red card. The Algarve side had had the chance to go 2-0 up with a penalty on 79 minutes, but for some reason Gauld passed the duty to Lucca, on as sub, and he tried a ‘Panenka’ … against the bar. The 1-1 draw doubled Farense’s points tally to just two from six games, keeping them rooted at the bottom.

In the Madeira derby, Marítimo and Nacional shared the points in a 0-0 draw, mainly thanks to excellent displays from the two keepers Amir and Daniel Guimarães.

Significant number: 25

(The number of years since FC Porto had so few points - 10 - from their six opening games.)



Jornada 5 - 25/10/20

Benfica march on, disposing of Belenenses SAD (B SAD we should call them perhaps in deference to Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses) 2-0 at the Luz. The much maligned Seferovic opened for them with some talk of a (non-existent) foul as he went up to head in, but this eagle eye saw another reason the goal might have been disallowed: at the beginning of the move, Benfica were awarded a free-kick in midfield and Taarabt took it quickly … with the ball still moving! After scoring a hat-trick in midweek at Lech Poznan in the Europa League (2-4), new signing Darwin Nuñez got his first Liga goal, showing his class as he latched onto a through ball and neatly side-stepped the oncoming keeper André Moreira and defender Tomás Ribeiro before slotting into an empty net. One to watch.

FC Porto kept pace with Benfica with a difficult 1-0 home win against combative, organized Gil Vicente. “FCP had to adapt to us, not the other way round,” said Gil coach Rui Almeida, and it was true. Deciding to rotate some of his players, given the Champions League games against Manchester City and Olympiacos, FCP coach Sérgio Conceição started Toni Martínez, Nakajima and Evanilson. The latter hit the bar half-way through the first half, then with the break beckoning, the last two combined, Evanilson knocking the ball in from close range. On the hour, sub FCP Baró shot and it hit the arm of Ygor Nogueira, who had his back to the ball. The ref gave the penalty with the help of the VAR but Uribe allowed Denis to save. FCP full-back Zaidu was sent off for a second yellow on 74 minutes; cue a tense last quarter of an hour, with FCP using some time-wasting tactics they’re quick to criticize in others, but despite a lot of Gil pressure, they hung on to the points.

The refreshingly young Sporting side (except for a veteran rear-guard of Adán in goal, Coates, Neto and Feddal, all over 30) travelled to the Azores and brought back all three points, thanks to close-season signing Pedro Gonçalves, who got both goals in the 2-1 win over Santa Clara. Fans were allowed in the stadium – 10% of capacity – and 932 risked it. The Azores side started the season brightly but have dropped eight points in the last three games. They have five goals, all scored by Thiago Santana. Sporting are nudging the top places and on Wednesday play their game in hand from the 1st jornada against Gil Vicente, postponed because of Covid.

In 4th, making up a familiar top four, are Braga after they won a typically bad-tempered Minho derby at Vitória de Guimarães. Full-back Esgaio got the only goal on 28 minutes and that was enough to take the points. Things got particularly hairy on 83 minutes when Braga’s David Carmo went into Marcus Edwards with everything. Cue a wild melee with fisticuffs and two red cards – one for Carmo and another for Vitória’s Jorge Fernandes. On reflection, the VAR thought the scuffle deserved more red, and so Braga captain Fransérgio went too, though his offence was less obvious amidst so much pushing and shoving.

Tucked in behind the pack-of-four are Moreirense after a bright start. They won 2-1 at home to Marítimo, first-half goals from Pires and Pedro Nuno doing the trick. Marítimo captain Zainadine got a late consolation, the 100th goal in the Liga so far.

The other Madeiran side Nacional and Paços de Ferreira shared the points in another feisty meeting, in which the VAR had to work overtime. On 23 minutes, Paços forward João Amaral fell in the area, the ref giving Pedrão a red. The VAR got the ref to take a look and almost five minutes after the incident, the card was reversed, Amaral getting a yellow for diving. Riascos put Nacional in front on 57, Eustáquio equalized on 75. Nacional thought they’d taken the lead again on 79, but the beautiful ‘goal’ by Azouni – a swerving shot from 25 metres – was ruled out for offside in the build-up; the offside line showed it was by three centimetres … The VAR was also in action for a nasty studs-up challenge by Nacional’s Gorré on Fernando Fonseca, but surprisingly nothing was given. There was a red-card, though, after the final whistle – Nacional’s Witi, for words to the ref.

But the prize for refereeing WTFuckery this weekend goes to Manuel Oliveira in the Farense v Rio Ave game. After just one minute, Farense’s Ryan Gauld was through and poked the ball past Kieszek, just inside the area. The shot was trundling towards the goal but the ref blew the whistle before it went over the line, for a foul on the keeper. In fact replays showed the foul was the other way round, but neither the goal nor a penalty were given. Carlos Mané decided the game for Rio Ave with a shot/cross from way out on the left on 20 minutes. It was Rio Ave’s first win and lifts them to mid-table. Newly-promoted Farense remain rooted at the bottom with just one point. Asked if it’s time for him to go, coach Sérgio Vieira said: “We’re going to talk. Whatever’s best for the club, that’s the path we’re going to take.” There were 860 fans in the Estádio do Algarve (Farense’s home while their Estádio São Luís is having work done) – limited because of Covid. Along the coast in Portimão, 27,500 watched the Portuguese Grand Prix. Exemplary coherence from the authorities.

The relegation zone is unfamiliar territory for Boavista, but that’s where they sit after a 2-2 draw at equally disappointing Famalicão. Boavista thought they had the points in the bag when they went two-up, the first a cracking shot from 25 metres from French full-back Hamache, making his first start, the second a header from Javi García, this with just 15 minutes left. But five minutes from time, the Boavista captain was sent off after a (dubious) foul on Campana (and will miss Boavista’s home game against his old club, Benfica). Lameiras made amends from the spot after having an earlier one saved by Léo Jardim. Deep into added time, Famalicão sub Robert took a free from the left-hand touchline and Léo Jardim could only flap at it as it sailed into the top right-hand corner.

Tondela secured their first win at home to fellow strugglers Portimonense in the jornada 5 opener, with fans at the Estádio João Cardoso – but only 132, fewer than the 500/10% permitted. Rafael Barbosa slotted home a neat Strkalj through ball on 33 minutes and CDT managed to hold on to the slim lead for an hour, helped by some wild finishing from the Algarve side; Welinton, for example cracked his shot against the bar from three metres with the goal wide open after good work from Vaz Té on the right. Later, the same Welinton was fouled by Jaume and Fabrício prepared to take the spot kick … before the VAR noticed an off-side in the run-up to the incident. The points enabled Tondela to leapfrog Portimonense. Both struggled last season – the Algarve side were actually ‘relegated’ before gaining a reprieve when Vitória de Setúbal were sent down for administrative irregularities – and the smart money is on them to struggle again.

Significant number: 100

(Zainadine’s consolation for Marítimo was the 100th scored in the Liga so far.)



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.


Sporting and Gil Vicente finally played their Jornada 1 game, postponed due to Covid. A very well-drilled Gil frustrated an uninspired Sporting, taking the lead on 52 minutes with Lucas Mineiro glancing in a header from a Talocha free to the right of the box. Going into the last ten minutes, it looked like Gil would win a famous victory, but subs Daniel Bragança, Sporar and Tiago Tomás helped SCP to turn it round, the latter two scoring in a two-minute spell, with Pedro Gonçalves adding a third deep into added time. The 3-1 result took unbeaten Sporting up to 2nd, just two points behind Lisbon rivals Benfica.

Significant number: 0

(Still no fans in the stadiums ...)







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