liga reviews 2018/19



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Jornada 16 - FC Porto consolidate lead

The 16th jornada saw FC Porto reaffirming why theyre the firm favourites to lift the title for the second season in a row. Despite a wobble against improved Nacional, whose coach Costinha returned to the Drago where he once played, they came out 3-1 winners. Algerian wizard winger Brahimi got two of the goals and was later subbed to a standing ovation. Nacional introduced a question mark just before half-time, Honduran striker Rchez getting his 8th goal of the season. Nacional defender Rosic had five minuites treatment on the pitch and was stretchered off and put straight in an ambulance in the second half; he was later given the all-clear in hospital.

Portos closest challenger before the jornada, Sporting, stumbled at Tondela, reduced to ten men for the last 40 minutes of the game. Delgado and Toman, with an excellent Quaresma-esque trivela, put the home side 2-0 up with 15 minutes to go. Mathieu pulled one back, but a lacklustre Sporting could not go the extra mile and went down to their second defeat in three; coach Marcel Keizers honeymoon period is well, and truly over. They drop to 4th, now 8 points behind FC Porto, who they host next weekend.

Into second go Braga, who put in one of their poorer performances of the season against Boavista, with one of their best. The Panthers had several first-choice players missing (David Simo and Rochinha suspended, Fbio Espinho injured) but still commanded. They have just 12 goals from 16 games, though, and the weakness in front of goal came back to bite them again, a single Ricardo Horta goal enough to keep the points at home.

Benfica are 3rd after a scare at home to Rio Ave; they were 0-2 down after 20 minutes, but two stand-out performances, and two goals apiece, from Haris Seferovic and Joo Flix saw them come out 4-2 winners. It was the first game of caretaker coach Bruno Laje, moving from the B team to replace Rui Vitria, who stood down after contestation from Benfiquistas. Despite the positive result, club president Lus Filipe Vieira was also the object of OUT! chants from the No Name Boys claque.

The top four are now separated by six points from the peloton, led by surprise package Moreirense; theyre 5th after a 1-0 win over Aves, one point from the last six games and second from bottom. Moreirense coach Ivo Vieira, keen to underplay achievements so far, in what has been the clubs best ever season, said: Were not going to take a step thats bigger than our leg.

They overtook Vitria de Guimares, who lost by the same scoreline at Belenenses SAD, now on the same 25 points as Vitria. Vitrias two straight defeats coincide, coincidentally or not, with coach Lus Castro being mooted as a possible replacement for Rui Vitria at Benfica. Just 3,382 saw the game at the National stadium 10% of capacity. The other version of Belenenses (CF Os Belenenses) club and SAD split before the season began visited the re-born Estrela da Amadora in the Lisbon District League; over 5,000 watched a 0-0 draw.

Eighth are Algarve club Portimonense, who lost their first game after three straight wins on their visit to Madeira (2-1). It was Martimos first win under coach Petit, and their first in 12 games. Petit was not there to see it, though; his father died mid-week.

At the bottom, Chaves remain rooted there, despite a 0-0 draw at Vitria de Setbal, their second in a row. They have just three points from 11 games, nine points in all, and are five from safety. Vitria have a single point from the last five games and coach Lito Vidigal saw white handkerchiefs in the crowd at the end; theyve slipped to 12th.

Joining Aves and Chaves in the bottom three are Feirense, who could only manage a 2-2 draw at home to Azores club Santa Clara. Feirense were 0-2 down and came back well for the point, but their last victory was on the 2nd jornada; they need to start winning if their 100th anniversary year is not to be a sad occasion.




Jornada 14 - Braga hit for six, and changes at the top

The 14th jornada closed the Liga year, with FC Porto the Christmas Number One. It was a weekend of some surprises but, in line with the season of goodwill, little controversy, although Scrooges could find some if they so wished.

FC Porto, then, claimed their 15th straight win in all competitions, equalling a record set by club legend Artur Jorge in the 1984/85 season. But they didnt have it easy against a Rio Ave that had just said goodbye to their coach Jos Gomes, who signed for English 2nd-tier club Reading FC.

It was Rio Ave (without arguably their best player, Galeno, on loan from Porto and thus ruled out) that took the lead on 12 minutes through their top scorer Carlos Vincius (7 goals), latching onto a perfect through ball from Gelson Dala before rounding Casillas and slotting into an empty net. But within 5 minutes, Porto were level: Brahimi went on one of his trademark slalom runs, this time through the centre of Rio Aves midfield rear-guard, and passed right to Corona, whose cross to the far post was headed back across goal for Brahimi to follow up and tap in. Ten minutes later, Maxi Pereira found Marega to the right of goal, the Malian forward brushing off the challenge of Nlson Monte and toe-poking the ball past Lo. So within half an hour, the result was decided, although Rio Ave had their chances to equalise, notably through Tarantini and Fbio Coentro, who has found a new lease of life at his first club as a wandering midfield minstrel. To cap a very good display he was sent off in the dying minutes for a second yellow after some argy-bargy with former Benfica team-mate Maxi Pereira.

Benfica it was who produced the shock result of the jornada, though it wasnt the win over title rivals Braga that made the news as much as the manner in which they did it. Many Benfiquistas will have taken handkerchiefs to the Luz in the expectation of another underwhelming display; a waved hanky is a sign for a club to get rid of the coach. They will have been disappointed that they didnt get a chance to wave them, but thrilled with the football their team produced, blowing Braga away with swift, slick football in the final third and absolutely lethal finishing. Braga, serious title contenders until this game, just didnt show up on the day, and their defence will need extra training during the week.

The 6-2 landslide (Braga had not conceded so many goals since 1996, 6-3 at Porto) began with a terrific goal from Pizzi, allowed to cut inside from the left and curl a shot low past Tiago Ss left hand. Braga reacted well and could have levelled, first through Fransrgio, whose rasping drive took some paint off the crossbar, then through Ricardo Horta, foiled by the excellent Vlachodimos. Benficas second was a mistake by Braga keeper Tiago S, who had a day to forget, trying to gather a corner instead of punching; Jardel beat him to it and headed in. Early in the second half, left back Grimaldo scored a rare goal, once again with the Braga right flank found wanting. The inevitable Dyego Sousa gave Braga hope with his 11th of the season, making him the Ligas top scorer, but then the equally inevitable Jonas restored the three-goal cushion after a hot-knife-through-butter move and tap-in, and from that point on it was damage limitation which didnt happen. Cervi and Andr Almeida added to the rout, the latter goal a hack from the edge of the box that could have gone anywhere but flew into the top left-hand corner of the net. Joo Novais pulled one back late in the game, but it could not disguise a poor performance from a side that looked more like relegation than title candidates. These games do us good, said Braga coach Abel Ferreira after the game, trying to shine it. Meanwhile, the result bolsters Benfica coach Rui Vitrias hitherto shaky position.

Benfica were perhaps surprised to find themselves second at the turn of the year, a place that could have been Sportings if theyd been able to extend coach Marcel Keizers seven-straight-wins start at the club. It was not to be; they travelled to the north to face the combative Vitria de Guimares and came up against a brick wall. The game was won with a single goal from Toz on 26 minutes, a hopeful drive of a loose ball from outside the box that deflected off central defender Mathieu to wrong-foot Renan in the Sporting goal. It was the Brazilian keeper who stopped the score being more expressive with superb saves from Davidson, twice, and Pedro Rodrigues. To his credit, the cool, calm and collected Keizer said what everyone had seen on the night: They deserved to win they were better than us.

The VAR was called conspicuously into action ten minutes into the second half: Vitria keeper Douglas launched a long ball forward, Alexandre Guedes was quickest to it and took it into the Sporting area but was brought down by Renan: red card! But there was the whisper in the refs ear, he went to have a look and cancelled the red; Guedes had been offside.

The results left the top of the table looking like this: FC Porto top on 36 points, Benfica 32, Sporting 31, Braga 30, Vitria de Guimares 25.

Four points behind Vitria SC are Belenenses, having one of their better seasons under Jorge Silas. In the week that it was confirmed in the courts that the Sociedade Annima Desportiva, or SAD (the clubs administrative off-shoot that plays in the top tier) cannot use the cross symbol of the club (which now plays in the district leagues), Belm knocked five past lowly Aves, who had been in front twice. Two of the goals were scored by Lic, who joins team-mate Fredy on five for the season.

A point behind are Moreirense, who are enjoying their best-ever season in the top flight. They hosted Boavista, whose keeper, Hlton Leite, has kept them in games on more than one occasion this season. But the stain will fall on the best tablecloth, as the Portuguese saying goes. Both of Moreirenses goals in the 2-1 win came from Leite spilling shots that on a normal weekend he would have held or dealt with more safely. Boavista remain within another defeat of falling into the drop zone, with pressure mounting on coach Jorge Simo, expected to put his side at least in the top half of the table.

Next down the table, in 8th, Azores-based Santa Clara are another side playing above expectations. They inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Vitria de Setbal at the Bonfim; it was Vitrias third straight loss.

On the same points, Portimonense continue to build on their recovery, this time with a 2-1 win at second-bottom Feirense, a Dener goal enough to take the points back to the Algarve. Its Feirenses 100th anniversary year and it couldnt be going much worse: theyre second bottom with just ten points and havent won for 12 games.

Two bottom-of-the-table clashes finish the roll call. Tondela stopped a four-match losing streak with a 2-1 win over Martimo, who have yet to win under coach Petit. Their Madeiran neighbours Nacional continue to dig themselves out of the hole, this time with a 2-0 win (2 goals from Honduran Bryan Rchez, now on 7) at home to Chaves, who will carry the red lantern into the New Year: its an eye-watering eight straight defeats now and a meagre seven points, four from safety.

So the bottom, last first, looks like this: Chaves 7, Feirense 10, Aves 11, Martimo 11, Tondela 12, Boavista 13.




Jornada 13 - Top four sail on

The 13th jornada was lucky for the top four, who all won their games and put a seven-point gap between them and 5th-placed Vitria de Guimares.

Leaders FC Porto had a tough trip to the Azores to face minor surprise Santa Clara, newly-promoted and holding their own very well. Z Manuel, recently on FCPs books, put the hosts in front and didnt do the near-statutory non-celebration in fact he was rolling around on the ground with his team-mates. Then into added time in the first half, Tiquinho Soares equalised, and on 56 minutes the same player was in a controversial incident leading to Portos winner: he challenged Santa Clara full-back Patrick for a long ball on the left, seemed to block him out with an arm, and the ball found its way to Marega to hit home for his 6th of the season. The VAR had a word in the refs ear but the goal was given.

Its the third week in a row that Porto have benefited from dubious and crucial decisions (a penalty not given against them in the last two games, see below). And the other two of the Trs Grandes also benefited from favourable decisions this weekend.

Sporting are steaming along under new coach Marcel Keizer: six games (in all competitions), six wins, 25 goals scored. The Dutchman said recently: Conceding is not a problem when you score a lot. And so Nacional came to Alvalade and in a startling half-hour that belied their modest position (12th), they went 2-0 up. Cue one observer readying his The honeymoons over-type observations when, on 35 minutes, another Dutchman, the inevitable Bas Dost, fell in the box. In the replays it looked like hed tripped over his own feet, but the VAR and ref gave the penalty, and Sporting went into the break still in touch, the spot kick scored by the same Bas Dost.

Nacional held on to their lead until the 70th minute when the excellent Bruno Fernandes, finding his form again after the trauma of the Alcochete punch-up, equalised, and then five minutes later the admirable French centre-back Mathieu curled a lovely free-kick in to give SCP the lead. But the Madeiran side were still in it until three minutes from time when there was another penalty, even more dubious than the first; for a big fella, Bas Dost certainly goes down easily. Once again, the VAR & ref were convinced it was a penalty, although in subsequent days, many refereeing commentators/columnists doubted both decisions. Bas Dosts spot-kick had to be taken twice (encroachment), but it finally went in to put him at the top of the scorers table with ten, along with Bragas Dyego Sousa. With the final score 5-2, Sporting would finish the jornada two points behind Porto.

Benfica made the always perilous trip to Madeira (that runway! and Martimo ) and came away with all three points after a 1-0 win, the goal scored from the spot by Jonas. Yet another decision that was debatable, Amir bringing down the same Jonas after he pushed the ball beyond the Martimo keeper. The goal keeps Benfica in the hunt, now 4th and four points behind Porto. Martimo have one point from three games under new coach Petit, and are just one point above the drop zone.

Sporting Braga went equal top with Porto on Friday (they would subsequently drop to 3rd) after an ultimately comfortable 4-0 drubbing of lowly Feirense, who reacted well in the second half but had the wind knocked out of them with the (justified) penalty on 68 minutes that made it 3-0. Feirense have gone 11 games without a win, and with only four points in those games, theyre dicing with death at the bottom.

Although it was a cold and rainy night, its perhaps a little surprising that the high-flying Braga, real candidates for the title, could only attract 7,061 to the Quarry; their bitter regional rivals Vitria de Guimares, 5th, had over 22,000 for their last home game against Rio Ave.

The excellent Brazilian striker Dyego Sousa, who has everything pace, strength, good team-play, good feet, good head, a nose for goal, clinical finishing scored three to take his tally to ten for the season (the same as Sportings Bas Dost). In the pitch-side interview after the game, he revealed that it was the first hat-trick of his career. He was wearing a swimming cap (after a knock) when he scored his third and celebrated by doing the breast stroke on the turf.

Fifth-placed Vitria de Guimares lost ground on the leaders after dropping two points at Aves, the surface water on the pitch the winner on a filthy night in the north of Portugal. Alexandre Guedes put Vitria in front against his old club and, unlike Santa Claras Z Manuel, did not celebrate the goal. Bald gave Aves a precious point in their fight against the drop; theyre now a point above the relegation places.

Rio Ave are another side that lost ground on the leaders, finishing on the same 19 points as their visitors Belenenses (ten points behind Benfica) after a 2-2 draw. Rio Ave took the lead with an own goal, Gonalo Silva turning an innocuous cross into his own net. Then around the hour mark, an incredible flurry of activity: Belenenses Lic cracked a ball against the post; play went straight up the other end and Gelson Dala netted but it was disallowed for an earlier foul; Lic missed the post and scored on 58; then Gelson Dala netted for real on 64 to put the home side in front; Fredy scored from the spot on 69 to fix the score.

Also on 19 points are Moreirense, playing above themselves; theyre in the best position in the history of the club at this stage of the season. They won 2-1 at poor old Chaves, whose 7th straight defeat this was; they have just seven points from their 13 games and are four points from safety.

Boavista broke their record of clean sheets in the wrong goal: theyd gone five games without scoring before hosting Tondela in a bottom-of-the-table six-pointer. Playing their best football of the season, Boavista took the points with two goals, one made by Rafael Lopes (for Matheus ndio), the other scored by him (from a Fbio Espinho cross). They jump to 12th, while Tondela are stuck second from bottom on nine points.

The 13th jornada opened on Friday with an exciting little match. Algarve club Portimonense have improved greatly since a terrible start to the season one point from four games but the club kept faith with coach Antnio Folha and theyre coming good. They were 3-0 up after an hour, two of the goals scored by veteran Colombian striker Jackson Martnez, hobbling through every game with a persistent ankle injury. But when the former FC Porto player sees the whites of the goalposts On the hour, though, Nigerian midfielder Mikel Agu got his first goal of the season and the initiative passed to Vitria. Before the end, Jadson cleared off the line, and ber Bessa hit the post, but the comeback was not to be and it finished 3-1.




Jornada 12 - More ref/VAR controversy, and a sacking

FC Porto march on, followed by a procession of three clubs Sporting, Braga and Benfica that will keep the leaders looking over their shoulder for the time being.

Algarve side Portimonense, with coach Antnio Folha and strikers Jackson Martnez and Paulinho returning to the Drago, gave the hosts a shock, taking an early lead through Tormena. They could have been 2-0 up when Felipe brought down Nakajima in the box. The decision went to the VAR, and for the second week running, FCP were forgiven a penalty last week it was Brahimi on Boavista's Rochinha in the 1-0 win at the Bessa.

Porto went into the break level through Marega, and then, perhaps inevitably, Portimonense folded: they conceded three around the hour mark through Soares, Marega again and Brahimi to give FCP all three points and their 5th straight win. Portimonense are 11th.

There was a lovely moment near the end, when Jackson Martnez was subbed and the whole of the Drago got to their feet to give him a standing ovation. He was a phenomenal striker for Porto but has been plagued by a difficult ankle injury in the last few seasons and must only be at about 60%.

Sporting seem to have found their mojo again and are scoring goals for fun, with Dutch striker Bas Dost now the Ligas top scorer (8). New coach Marcel Keizer has given them a new belief, but like FCP they also needed some luck and some help from the referee to set up their 4-1 win at home to Aves their 5th straight victory. The visitors went in front through a Defendi header on 18 minutes, but then Bruno Gaspar appeared to push Nildo in the back inside the area; nothing given by either the ref or the VAR. Bas Dost equalised from the spot for a kick to Diabys midriff by Vtor Costa; it was a clear penalty but Aves coach Jos Mota protested and was sent off. Nani made it 2-1 in added time of the first half with a shot that took a wicked deflection to beat Andr Ferreira in the Aves goal. Bas Dost scored with a trademark header just after the break, and French striker Diaby closed the account with his first Liga goal. Sporting are 2nd, just two points behind FCP.

Braga are one point behind SCP after a tough game at Tondela, a solitary goal by Wilson Eduardo on the half-hour enough to give them the points.

Benfica also won by the odd goal, 1-0 at Vitria de Setbal. The scorer of the vital goal? Jonas, for a change. Coach Rui Vitria had a dig at his opposite number Lito Vidigal for Vitrias hard play. LV responded by saying that its a hard city of fisher folk, men and machos, and the team have to adapt to that. Benfica, not impressing recently, trail Braga by one point and leaders Porto by four.

The teams in 5th and 6th faced off against each other and it was a resurgent Vitria de Guimares (over 22,000 at the Estdio D. Afonso Henriques) that got the better of Rio Ave in a 3-2 thriller which had three penalties, Vitria with two of them scored by Andr Andr. VSC move three points ahead of Rio Ave, but theres a 5-point gap to Benfica in 4th.

Struggling English Championship side Reading tried to steal Vitria coach Lus Castro from Vitria over the weekend to replace the sacked Paul Clement. They waved millions at club and coach, but Monday saw Castro decline the invitation; it would have been his first experience abroad. Vitria fans will be delighted; its been some time since theyve looked as solid.

A coach that is on his way is Chaves Daniel Ramos, sacked on Monday after a 1-0 defeat at Belenenses their 6th straight loss that keeps the club holding the red lantern at the foot of the table. Ramos won just 5 official games in 17, and only two in the Liga. They have 7 points from their 12 games. Sporting assistant coach Tiago Fernandes was announced to take over from Ramos. Belenenses are 7th on 18 points but have scored just 11 goals.

There were four games that finished 1-0 the last being Santa Claras 1-0 win at Moreirense (Z Manuel), putting them a surprising 9th, the two teams swapping places.

Nacional continue to stabilise, but could do not better than a 0-0 home draw with Boavista, once again showing that theyre in it for the points, not to win friends. The draw, secured principally by keeper Helton Leite with another excellent performance, takes Boavista just above the drop zone, while Nacional sit in 12th, a mere three points above them. Four points separate the bottom six clubs.

Two of them fought out the last game of the jornada, a 1-1 draw the result. Feirense and Martimo had the Ligas worst scoring records going into the game (7 and 6 respectively) and it showed. It needed a penalty by Tiago Silva to break the deadlock on 70 minutes, and just when Feirense thought theyd done enough for the precious three points, Martimos Ricardo Valente scored a stunning equaliser in the 95th minute a curled shot from outside the box on the left that found the top right-hand corner. The draw put an end to two unenviable records: Feirenses four straight defeats, and Martimos six. It was coach Petits first point for the Madeiran side.




Jornada 11 - FC Porto make hard work of it but stay top

It seemed like an age since the last Liga games what with Internationals and the Taa but it was just three weeks. And nothing much changed during that time.

FC Porto remain top after scraping home 1-0 at local rivals Boavista their 10th straight win in all competitions. The Panthers successfully brought Porto down to their level of agricultural hoofing and, lets say aggressive play. It was all trundling towards a sharing of the points when on 90+5 minutes, Boavistas 18-year-old centre-back Gonalo Cardoso failed to cut out a low cross from the right and, after some blocking, the ball fell to sub Hernni who hooked the ball into an open net. SportTV perversely chose Cardoso for the pitch-side post-match interview, and he spent the two or three minutes fighting back tears.

Hed had a good game, in fact, generally controlling perhaps FCPs most dangerous forward, Marega. Boavista had defended well, but their attack, with the possible exception of the lively Rochinha, is very weedy: theyve scored just eight goals in 11 games, and not a single one in the last four. Rochinha it was who created Boavistas best chance: a clear would-be penalty for a foul by Brahimi, but neither the ref nor the VAR saw anything wrong with the Algerian wizard whipping Rochinhas foot away as he broke through. It was a bad-tempered game, with FC Porto coach Srgio Conceio sent off for celebrating the goal in too effusive a manner. Boavista are in the third relegation spot, their only consolation the fact that there are plenty of other teams around them on similar points but none of them are playing such ineffectual football.

Sporting are just two points behind Porto and seem to be thriving on the arrival of new coach Marcel Keizer: spirit, organization and inspiration are up. They went to high-flying Rio Ave on Monday and came away with three ultimately comfortable points from a 3-1 win. Two young faces from that game to look out for: Sportings super-sub, Jovane Cabral, 20, who scored a wonderful curved goal into the top left-hand corner from outside the box to put the game to bed, and Rio Aves Brazilian winger Wenderson Galeno, 21, on loan from FC Porto; the boy has wings for feet. Sporting still have a bunch of problems behind the scenes, notably financial, but the tumultuous days of rogue president Bruno de Carvalho seem to be behind them, for now at least.

In a report like this, the reader might next expect mention of Benfica, and Im coming to them, but first Braga, who continue on their steady path to title contention; theyre third, three points behind Porto after a 2-0 win over very useful Moreirense. Bragas second goal the first of the season for Paulinho, the clubs top scorer last time (13) was an excellent volley from a long through ball.

And so to The Eagles. They had a difficult break, with speculation that coach Rui Vitria was on the way out after poor recent form and a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Bayern in the Champions League. There has been talk that former coach Jorge Jesus could be on his way back to the club from Saudi Arabia, but just when it looked like president Lus Filipe Vieira was going to pull the plug on Vitria (the coach, not the eagle), he announced that RV would be staying.

It seemed to be the same ol same ol in the first half at home to lowly Feirense, and the team trudged off at half time to whistles from the fickle Luz crowd, the game poised at 0-0. It was a different team in the second half, however you have to wonder what they put in the tea. They blew Feirense away and ended 4-0 winners, leaving them 4th, only four point behind the leaders. Feirense are struggling; theyre second bottom, but like Boavista, are within touching distance of safety.

Rock bottom are Chaves, who have suffered five straight defeats. This time it was Vitria de Guimares who did the deed with a single goal from Davidson. It was enough to put them 5th above Rio Ave on goal difference after the latters defeat to Sporting. Serious work from a serious guy in Guimares: coach Lus Castro.

If Feirense have lost four straight games, Chaves five, then Martimo must take the biscuit with six, the latest a 1-0 defeat at home to Vitria de Setbal, the goal by Mendy coming five minutes from time. It was the first game for new coach Petit, who took over from the sacked Cludio Braga. Martimo are sinking fast; theyre 14th on ten points, in a group of five teams separated by just one point (Aves, Martimo, Tondela, Boavista and Feirense).

The other Madeiran team, Nacional, are moving in the opposite direction after a draw and two wins in the last three games, the latest a bit of a thriller at Aves, where they came out 3-2 up. Costinhas side are up to 12th, three points above the drop zone.

Another 3-2 result saw Portimonense take the points at home to Tondela, who are slipping, despite their quality. The Algarve team, though, seem to have found their feet under Antnio Folha, who must have been looking over his shoulder a few weeks back. Ten points from a possible 15 have put them 11th.

The jornada kicked off on Friday with yet another 3-2 finish, Belenenses travelling to the Azores to nick the points and put them in the top half of the table. The game had five goals, two penalties, an own goal and a sending off a nice aperitif for the weekend.




Jornada 7 - Top spot shared

Clssicos (primarily games between Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting) are rarely that in terms of quality of play, such is the build-up and tension; Sundays between Benfica and FC Porto was no exception. There was a lot of huff n puff in midfield and not much else in the first half, lightened by the rare sight of FCP keeper Iker Casillas getting a yellow card for time-wasting on 20 minutes. The second half was much better, with Benfica proving the more lucid of the sides. On the hour, the first bit of excitement in the game, Gabriel shooting from outside the box for a flying save by Casillas. Then a couple of minutes later, the only goal of the game: Gabriel won the ball in midfield, launched it forward, Pizzi headed it down and Seferovic beat Milito and Casillas to it to rifle home. Even after the goal, it was Benfica who were showing more; their keeper Vlachodimos was rarely tested. Then on 83 minutes, the Benfica centre-back Lema saw a second yellow card and walked. The result was up in the air until the end, but Benfica held out to clinch the three points and go back to the top, above Braga on goal difference and now two points ahead of FC Porto.

Braga hosted high-flying Rio Ave on Saturday; if the latter had won the game, they would provisionally have joined Braga at the top. Rio Ave were looking for their 4th straight win, Braga their 5th. It finished 1-1, leaving Braga still top until Sunday. It was a good game to watch, both sides interested in playing football on the ground. Ricardo Horta got his 4th of the season to give Braga the lead on 28 minutes (Horta joins top scorer Dyego Sousa and Wilson Eduardo among the top six scorers), but Gelson Dala equalised six minutes later. Dala was assisted by Fbio Coentro, who has moved from the left back position forced on him by Jorge Jesus at Benfica to his original forward role, and hes relishing it.

The game went a bit wild in added time: Braga coach Abel was sent off, along with Esgaio for a second yellow, with Wilson Eduardo seeing a red after the final whistle. For Rio Ave, coach Jos Gomes and Director of Football Andr Vilas Boas also got their marching orders. The final moment was a controversial one: Rio Aves fleet-footed Galeno was clearly brought down by Bruno Viana for a penalty, the ref Tiago Martins was in a good position to see it, the VAR said nothing and a goal-kick was given.

One of the mysteries of the Liga is the lowly position of Portimonense, rock bottom going into this jornada. They have a lot of individual quality, including the excellent Shoya Nakajima and Jackson Martnez, who made his first start and as captain. They showed their quality in the first half against Sporting in the Algarve and went into the break 2-0 up through virtually identical goals: for the first, Nakajima fed Manaf on the left and he clipped the ball home at Salins near post; for the second, the favour was returned in almost the exact same position. In the process, Salin crashed into the same near post with his head and was stretchered off. The second half saw a more spirited Sporting, now with Nani on as sub, and they pulled one back through Montero, his second in two games after a long drought, after a cut-back from Nani. Then on 82 minutes, a Portimonense corner was only cleared to the edge of the box and there was Nakajima to drive home, making it 3-1. On 88, Nani (again) took the ball to the line on the right and crossed for marauding centre-back Coates to head home. It made for an exciting final few minutes, but the points stayed on the south coast after Joo Carlos netted in added time (another assist from Nakajima) to make it a 4-2 win for Portimonense, who jump to 13th on seven points, while Sporting remain 5th, four points off the pace.

Taking over the red lantern at the bottom are Aves after going down 1-0 at similarly struggling Boavista, who thus avoided their fourth straight defeat. Rafael Costa came on as sub for Boavista 20 minutes from time and his first job was to send a free-kick in from deep on the right, headed into his own goal by Bruno Gomes. The game was significant for two Boavista debuts: Cameroonian forward Ibrahim Koneh was released earlier in the season because of an alleged heart condition but returned to the club and came on as sub in this game. Starting was 17-year-old Gonalo Cardoso in the centre of defence; he had a fine game and was named SportTVs Man of the Match.

After drawing against each other last weekend, the two Vitrias went for it on Saturday. Vitria de Setbal put their two-points-from-the-last-five-games behind them to beat Moreirense 3-0, Hildeberto getting a hat-trick. Moreirense finished with nine men, Neto and Halliche sent off. Vitria de Guimares also put three away on their trip to Madeira, beating Martimo 3-1, two of the goals coming from Alexandre Guedes.

The 7th jornada kicked off on Friday with three games: it was Republic Day in Portugal and a public holiday. The games played produced a grand total of three goals, in descending order (1-1, 1-0, 0-0). Two of the goals were cracking, though.

There was a little flurry around the hour mark in Tondela 1-1 Nacional, David Bruno putting the home side in front and Kalindi equalising for the Madeiran visitors five minutes later with a smashing rising drive from 25 metres. The point took Nacional off the bottom of the table and out of the drop zone ... until Sunday.

Santa Clara are purring along and saw off Chaves 1-0 in the Azores with a goal from Fernando Andrade, his third of the season; he charged down the right largely unimpeded and hit the ball into the roof of the net from an angle. The result put Santa Clara 6th on 11 points not bad for a team that everyone expected to struggle (although its early days, of course).

Neither side had a shot on target in the first half of the other Friday game, but then with both teams having the worst scoring record in the Liga (four goals each from seven games, and none in the last three), and the home team having the best defensive record (just three goals conceded), it was perhaps not so surprising that Feirense v Belenenses finished 0-0. In the games best moment, Feirense sub Joo Silva (always sub, and when he comes on he always shakes things up; perhaps hes due a start or two?) hit the bar with a lob over Muriel. The Belenenses keeper didnt hole the boat like he did last week against Braga, but with the ball on the ground hes a fright, and his two left feet twice got him in trouble. After a brisk start, Feirense have three points from the last five games, while Belenenses have four draws from the last five.




Jornada 6 - New leader ... and rain

An eventful 6th jornada brought a new leader: Sporting Braga are clear top for the first time since 2012, when Leonardo Jardim, now at AS Mnaco, was in charge. It was also a weekend when games were won and lost almost single-handedly by specific players. In Bragas 3-0 win at Belenenses, it was Ricardo Horta who starred. He assisted for Wilson Eduardos first goal, scored the second and won a penalty for the third, which Wilson Eduardo hit home for his second.

At the other end, keeper Muriel, elder brother to Manchester Citys Alisson, had a mare: he charged out of his goal and missed his clearance, the ball falling to Ricardo Horta to score, and later got caught trying to clumsily dribble the same Ricardo Horta before losing the ball and bringing him down. On the next team-list itll be Muriel plus 10, said Belenenses coach Silas, but he will have been furious at such negligence.

Braga are a point above FC Porto, who made heavy work of it against the splendid Tondela, a tough nut to crack under coach Pepa. It looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw until five minutes from time when the normally excellent keeper Cludio Ramos, recently called up to the Seleo, made a rare blunder, spilling a shot from outside the box by Brahimi, with Tiquinho Soares following up to net. Soares was on as sub for injured top scorer Aboubakar, who meanwhile has had knee surgery and will be out for months.

FC Porto are one point above Benfica, who kicked off the 6th jornada on Thursday to give them time to prepare their trip to Athens in the Champions League; they would beat AEK 3-2. Chaves, in the far north of Portugal, was the venue, and the choice of night was a bad one: a cloudburst before the game meant the pitch was under water and unplayable. The ref gave it an hour and by that time it had drained very well, with surface water only apparent in patches.

But the delay didnt seem to have cooled Benficas ardour, and they went in front on three minutes with the first of four excellent goals on the night: striker Seferovic not on a par with Jonas in terms of scoring, but maybe better as a team player launched Cervi down the left with a brilliant pass, the winger crossed and Rafa swept it in from close range. They kept their lead until the 75th minute when Ghazaryan equalised with a rocket of a free kick from 25 metres. Rafa got his second on 85, after another killer through ball, this time from central defender Rben Dias. But then the other central defender, Conti, on as sub for Jardel, saw a red card for a two-footed lunge on Eustquio (coach Rui Vitria would subsequently blame it for the dropped points, but he should have blamed his player rather than the ref.) Cue the goal of the game, a tremendous passing move from Chaves with the Armenian Ghazaryan getting a superb second and a point for his team fully deserved, despite Rui Vitrias moaning about the ref, the delayed kick-off and the pitch.

Benfica could be rueing the fact that they recently retired captain Luiso: in central defence they will be without Conti (suspended) for the home clssico against FC Porto next weekend, and probably without Jardel (leg injury).

Benfica are one point above their local rivals Sporting and northern club Rio Ave. Sporting needed a penalty from Bruno Fernandes and Colombian striker Fredy Monteros first goal since February, both in the first half, to see off Madeiran side Martimo, who could have joined Rio Ave in 4th/5th if theyd won.

Rio Ave took advantage of a great display from Brazilian striker Carlos Vincius to take the points from a 2-1 win at home to Boavista. He scored two and got Boavistas Sparagna sent off after just half an hour; the French centre-back has just returned to the side and may find it tricky to get back in after a nightmare.

Rio Ave have three straight wins, Boavista have three straight defeats and are one of four clubs on four points at the bottom. What the Portuguese call the red lantern at the very bottom are the other Madeira side in the Liga, Nacional, who managed to lose 0-3 at home to Santa Clara from the Azores. The fans protested against coach Costinha at the end, but he was adamant, if a little premature, when he said: We cant throw in the towel. Santa Clara are doing very nicely, thank you, in their first season back in the top flight: 7th on eight points.

Above Nacional but still in the drop zone are Algarve disappointments Portimonense, who havent been able to take advantage of one of the best players in the Liga, the Japanese forward Nakajima, or the returning Colombian striker Jackson Martnez, although the latter, not yet fully match fit, has so far only featured in cameo performances as sub. They travelled north to Aves to play the previous red lantern, but a very unlikely hat-trick from midfield workhorse Vtor Gomes gave them the points to sneak out of the bottom two.

Vitria de Setbal clambered out of the four-pointer group with a draw at the other Vitria, de Guimares, but they left it until the second minute of added time to get it with a goal from Nuno Valente.

Elsewhere, Moreirense beat Feirense with a goal from veteran striker Nen, 35, his first in the Liga after returning to Portugal from Italy; ten years ago he represented Nacional and scored 24 league goals in a season.




Jornada 5 - Tight at the Top

With five games gone, Benfica remain top after a comfortable 2-0 win at home to second-bottom club Aves. Starting for the first time was young promise Joo Flix, who scored a valuable equaliser as sub against Sporting in the third jornada. This time he opened the scoring, neatly turning in a through pass from Pizzi. Diminutive Argentinian winger Franco Cervi tied it up around the hour mark. The game was also notable for the return, off the bench, of last seasons top scorer in the Liga, Jonas, recovered from a back injury.

Those that came to the stadium were happy and proud of what we showed, said Benfica coach Rui Vitria, forgetting the Aves fans at the Luz. Aves are now rock bottom with just one point from their five games and are the only team without a win; the alarm bells must be ringing at last seasons Taa de Portugal winners.

Joining Benfica on 13 points on Monday were Sporting Braga. Theyve been up there or thereabouts in recent seasons, but its becoming clear that this time they might just be making a serious push for the big prize. The 1-0 win over Sporting, in an even, hard-fought game, was once again the kind of result that titles are made of. Brazilian striker Dyego Sousa, now the Ligas top scorer with five goals, got the winner with a perfect touch from an Eduardo cross; in the post-match interview, he thanked God, several times, and his team mates. Coach Abel Ferreira echoed the sentiment: We have a new motor and were running it in. They really are looking like a solid outfit, and they have the advantage of no European distractions.

Sporting gave as good as they got on the night, but despite chances from Bruno Fernandes and sub Jovane Cabral, they didnt have that little bit extra; theyre missing injured Dutch striker Bas Dost terribly. Captain Nani was subbed off for Jovane with 20 minuutes left and didnt go nicely, which may fill some column inches in the coming days. It was Sportings first defeat (only Benfica and Braga are unbeaten), but theyre far from out of it.

In fact its pretty tight at the top in these early stages, just three points separating the first six. FC Porto provisionally took top spot on Saturday after a 2-0 win at Vitria de Setbal, with some refereeing controversy but an excellent second goal. In the first half, FCP centre-back Felipe hacked at Hildeberto, about to enter the box. The ref gave neither a foul nor a card, which could well have been a red one, with neer a peep from the VAR. In the second half, Vitrias Valdu T had the ball in the net, equalising Aboubakars opener, but replays showed that hed handled; this time the VAR stepped in. Portos second goal came with a cracking Srgio Oliveira free kick from a full 35 yards out.

Benfica issued a statement after the game: Tonight we witnessed a farce, sponsored from above, was one of the kinder sections. FC Porto responded via the clubs Communications Director Francisco J. Marques: If this came from serious people it might mean something, but this is from Benfica, who are being accused of corruption and are being investigated for paying opponents to lose And so the healthy atmosphere of the Portuguese Liga continues.

Porto are 3rd on 12 points, and on 10, together with Sporting, are Rio Ave and Martimo. Rio Ave, beginning to tick under Jos Gomes, went to the Azores to beat Santa Clara 3-1. Carlos Vincius was hero and nearly villain within ten minutes, giving Rio Ave the lead on 70 minutes and putting through his own goal on 79. Meanwhile, though, Gelno had made it 0-2, and a late, late Joo Schmidt penalty tied it up. Also in the Atlantic, Madeiran side Martimo ground out a 0-0 draw with Belenenses, whose third draw this was. Martimo had had the chance to go provisionally top, had they won.

The other Madeiran side, Nacional, got an identical draw at Feirense, who have the best defence in the Liga with just two goals conceded. Nacional were left third from bottom.

Joining Aves in the relegation zone (two teams go down) are Moreirense, on the wrong side of a 2-0 result at Tondela, who leap five places to 11th. They can thank Antnio Teixeira, who got two excellent goals either side of half-time.

Also out of the drop zone are Algarve club Portimonense after their thrilling 3-2 victory, their first, over Vitria de Guimares. Hero on the night was Japanese star Nakajima with two very good goals and an assist in a game that was touch and go right up until the final whistle. Heroes too were those Vitria fans who made the 1,200-km round trip for a game that finished at 22.30 on a Sunday night; smart scheduling by the Liga. The game was further notable for the debut as sub for Portimonense of Colombian Jackson Martnez, formerly of FC Porto but most recently plying his trade in China. Hes not fully match fit, thats clear, but he still showed moments of magic that were reminiscent of his time at Porto.

The jornada kicked off on Friday with Boavista losing 1-2 at home to Chaves. The Panthers played their best football of the season so far there was a real sense of cohesion for a change but they went down to a dubious penalty (Neris on William) and a flukey own goal, the ball coming back off the post from a Ghazaryan shot and hitting keeper Helton Leite before rolling in.




Jornada 4 - The VARs at it again

The 4th jornada kicked off on Friday with games involving both clubs from the Minho region in the north of Portugal, both finishing in the same result.

Top club Braga went to Chaves and ground out a 1-0 win with a goal from Pablo just before the break. Some talk has been of Braga finally challenging for the title this time, after many seasons of bubbling under. Fridays result was the kind of game you have to win if you have such dreams. Braga held on to top spot on goal difference ... until Sunday night.

Minho rivals Vitria de Guimares hosted Tondela and took all three points with a single goal by Wakaso in the first half. The Ghanaian midfielder was involved in an odd incident towards the end: he was in a challenge for the ball with Tondelas Arango and was shown the red card. Halfway down the tunnel he was called back onto the pitch; the ref had got word from the VAR. Slow-motion replays showed that Wakaso had in fact got the ball and that it was Arango who had studded Wakasos shin after the ball had gone. The Colombian got the red and Wakaso stayed on. The VAR was in evidence in two other games, not so positively.

Benfica travelled to Madeira to meet Nacional and went top on goal difference after securing all three points from a 4-0 win, fully deserved; although Nacional showed some very nice approach play, they lacked any bite up front, and when they did have a go, they were stopped by one of Benficas revelations, the keeper Vlachodimos. The first two goals were neatly reciprocated: Salvio put Seferovic through on the right for the first, Seferovic crossed to the back post for Salvio to head home for the second. Midway through the second half, Benfica winger Cervi lunged at the breaking Camacho, catching him on the Achilles tendon from behind, with his studs up. He got an immediate yellow, but the ref paused play while he consulted the VAR. Then he waved play on, without even taking a look at the monitor; these kinds of incidents are what the VAR is for, and its frankly a disgrace that Cervi didnt walk. He did a minute later, Rui Vitria replacing him with Rafa Siva, possibly embarrassed that he was still on the field. If theyd been down to ten men, with 25+ minutes to go, it might have been a more difficult task at the end for Benfica. As it was, Grimaldo and Rafa sealed the game tight.

Rio Ave got their second win against a Portimonense that are struggling to find the good form of last season. The Algarve side were reduced to ten men on the hour (Possignolo), and nine on 86 (Manaf). Coach Antnio Folha made subs towards the end to close up shop for the point, but Rio Ave got their winner six minutes into added time through Gelson Dala. For the first red, Possignolo brought the impressive Galeno down on the edge of the box. Cue a five-minute consultation with the VAR to see whether the foul was inside the box; it wasnt. But the slow-motion replays showed that Rben Fernandes was bearing down to cover Possignolo, so the latter wasnt the last man; red wrongly given, and with time to correct the decision. Portimonense languish at the bottom with just one point from their four games.

Sporting also left it very late to see off surprisingly-high-flying Feirense at Alvalade on Saturday. They had 25 shots on goal to Feirenses six, so the result cant be deemed anything other than fair, although the visitors must have thought theyd nicked a point as the minutes ticked away. But then there was a bit of argy-bargy in midfield between Feirense full back Vtor Bruno and Nani, with cards for both, and that seemed to disrupt Feirenses concentration enough for young Cape-Verdean sub Jovane Cabral to sneak home the winner two minutes from time. Feirense have conceded just two goals in four games, and this was the first from open play. Sporting equalled Braga at the top on ten points, and would be joined there by Benfica on Sunday.

The fourth 1-0 result of the jornada favoured Martimo at Aves, captain Zainadine getting the goal in added time of the first half. Aves, cup-winners last season, partner Portimonense in the drop zone, both on a solitary point.

Belenenses could only draw 0-0 with Vitria de Setbal, and the two could only draw 1,449 to the National Stadium, Belenenses temporary home while an internal dispute makes their spiritual home Estdio do Restelo unavailable.

There was no shortage of goals in the Azores, though, as Santa Clara saw off Boavista 4-2, their first win in the top flight since the last time they were in it, 15 years ago. The game hung in the balance until it was clinched nine minutes into added time by Iraqui midfielder Osama Rashid with his second. Santa Clara have five points, the same as Belenenses.

The jornada ended on Sunday night, exceptionally, ahead of international action in the coming week. FC Porto had to work hard against Moreirense although the win (3-0) was never really in doubt and puts Porto a point behind the top three. Moreirense should be OK their two defeats have come from games against Porto and Sporting. In Sundays game, the VAR was in action again on ten minutes, the ref giving a penalty for a supposed foul by Loum on Aboubakar. Alex Telles had the ball on the spot ready to take the kick when the ref went to the monitor to double-check ... and gave a corner to Porto. Moussa Marega, the Malian forward in dispute with the club until recently, scored the third at the curtain, but the biggest round of applause of the night came ten minutes from time when Brahimi was replaced by midfielder Danilo, out for months through injury. Fernando Santos and fans of the Seleo will also welcome his return.




Jornada 3 - Big Three drop points

It was clssico week in the Liga coming very early this season, which drew protests from increasingly grumpy Benfica coach Rui Vitria (something about SLB representing Portugal in Europe and their performance being affected in European games by having such an important Liga match so early, almost as if the fixture list should be tailored to accommodate them).

Anyway, Saturdays derby between Benfica and Sporting in front of 60,000 at the Luz was a typical clssico: tense, tight, untidy and ultimately bad-tempered. The flow of the game can be summarised by the fact that Sporting keeper Salin was Man of the Match; he pulled off a series of excellent saves to deny the much more coherent Benfica. And so it was that when Sporting went ahead, there was a sense of injustice hanging in the air. The goal came from a penalty for a foul by Rben Dias on Fredy Montero, shaping to shoot in front of goal. Dias was angry, saying he got the ball; yes, but in the same movement he followed through and scissored Montero to the ground. He may also have been shocked that any referee could possibly contemplate giving a penalty against Benfica at the Luz.

Sporting captain Nani planted the spot kick, his third goal of the season. The Ligas top scorer, Benfica playmaker Pizzi, was tiring and was replaced 15 minutes from time by 18-year-old Joo Flix. Merit must go to Rui Vitria for blooding and keeping faith with the clubs youngsters Gedson Fernandes, 19, has been a success story so far this season and his substitution hit pay-dirt on 86 minutes when Joo Flix headed home the equaliser, his first senior goal for the club.

The points lost by both sides teed FC Porto up to go clear top. Indeed, the 45,000 Porto fans at the Drago may have taken this as a given when they were 2-0 up at half time. But they would have been forgetting what happened last week, when FCP were in a similar position at Belenenses but allowed them to draw level before Alex Telles gave Porto the points with a 96th-minute penalty. This time they allowed Vitria de Guimares, miraculously reinvigorated in the second half, and helped by a momentous display from keeper Douglas, to draw level and then to get a winner through sub Davidson three minutes from time.

FC Portos second goal was the object of some controversy: Alex Telles took a free-kick from the left and a clearly offside Andr Pereira headed in. We on our sofas waited patiently for the VAR to recommend that the goal be disallowed, but no! Play went ahead. It transpired later that communications between the VAR and the on-field ref were down for the last 30 minutes of the first half, but that doesnt explain why the linesman didnt see such a clear offside (by at least a metre). Luckily for the health of the discourse, the incident wasnt ultimately crucial to the result, but it was still very sloppy work from the Liga.

And very sloppy work from the FC Porto defence. They are the first team into double figures for goals scored (ten) but have also conceded five in three games unheard of for them. Centre-back Ivn Marcano, transferred to AS Roma, is obviously missed, and while Salin and Douglas shone for Sporting and Vitria de Guimares respectively, Iker Casillas, though not exactly at fault for any of the goals, might have made a better fist at stopping Davidsons winner. No excuses, said FCP coach Srgio Conceio. Thats refreshingly frank, but now he needs get down to work on the training ground.

Speaking of defences, after the Big Three had dropped points, minnows Feirense went into the third jornada with the chance to go clear top if they won at home to Boavista, and as the only team with clean sheets, but that was not to last. In a rambunctious first half, the players seemed to spend more time on the ground than actually running about. On one of those occasions, Boavista got a penalty after busy forward Rochinha made the line and was taken out by Feirense full back Vtor Bruno, who represented Boavista last season; hard-working Argentinian striker Falcone stroked home the spot kick for his first goal in the chequered shirt.

In the first half, Boavista coach Jorge Simo was sent off for words, and early in the second, captain Idris walked for a foul and words; the game produced 40 fouls, seven yellow cards and one red. Thats entertainment.

Boavistas Helton Leite was another goalkeeper this weekend who performed wonders to keep out the opposition one of his saves, pushing a Vtor Bruno free-kick round the post with his fingertips, was out of this world but there was nothing he could do on the hour to stop Edinhos rocket (notwithstanding the foul on Rochinha that preceded it) that proved enough to give Feirense a point and a share of the top spot with Benfica and Sporting.

Two final notes on the game: Boavista unveiled a curious tactic for stopping daisy-cutters at a free-kick, full back Carraa stretching on the ground behind the wall; and Feirense full back Briseo crossing himself when a goal-kick was given his way, and pumping the air with his fist when he won a throw-in. Bit of a head-banger.

Joining Benfica, Sporting and Feirense on seven points are Braga, used to these heights in recent seasons. It looked like they might come a cropper on Sunday, though, as a first half of dominance over Desportivo das Aves translated into lots of chances (notably two clear open-goal headers for Palhinha and Wilson Eduardo, and a post hit by the former) but no goals at all. Early in the second half they had a penalty shout when Esgaio twisted and crossed, the ball hitting Defendis hand. Last week two key penalties had been given in a similar situation after VAR consultation in the Belenenses 2-3 FC Porto game. This time, nothing and five minutes later, Defendi went up the other end and headed Aves in front. It was like poking a hornets nest with a stick. From that moment Braga threw everything forward, in their trademark organised fashion, and got three in 18 minutes to claim the points. Aves have just one point from their three games but on paper are worth more than that.

They join Portimonense in the relegation places (early days, of course). Leaping above them are Madeiran side Nacional, who won 2-1 at Vitria de Setbal for their first points of the season. One of six teams on three points, Chaves, lost 2-1 at Martimo on Friday. They were leading from a brilliant William goal on 17 minutes, right until added time in the second half when they lost concentration and let the other Madeiran side in through Barrera and frico on 90+1 and 90+4.

The other two games ended level. Algarve side Portimonense got their first point of the season with a draw at home to Azores side Santa Clara. Portimonenses Manaf was hero and villain in the space of three minutes, putting his side ahead on 64 minutes and putting through his own goal to equalise for Santa Clara on 67. On Sunday, Tondela and Rio Ave shared the points (1-1), with Tondelas key striker Toman sent off in added time.

Closing the 3rd jornada was Moreirense v Belenenses. the home coach, Ivo Vieira, had predicted an open game. The away coach, Silas, had talked about the importance of product over result. They were both right. It was an exciting, end-to-end game with many chances but that looked to be finishing deadlocked until the 76th minute when Keita put Belenenses ahead. Last week, they lost to FC Porto with a 96th minute penalty. This time they lost two points with a scrappy goal by Joo Aurlio in the 95th minute; they need to mark the well-known saying: It aint over till ....




Jornada 2 - VAR decisive

After just two games, the cream has already risen to the top, the Big Three accompanied by a surprising guest.

FC Porto lead on goal difference, but they left it till the 96th minute to beat Belenenses, playing at the National Stadium (Jamor) for the first time this season (following a dispute between the corporate arm of the club and the club itself). The game was notable for two almost identical interventions from the VAR. FC Porto were 2-0 up when Belenenses pulled one back through a Fredy spot kick on 55 minutes, the diminutive Angolan forward approaching the ball with baby steps to try to outwit Casillas; he did. The penalty was given for a handball at close range, Diogo Leites outstretched hand stopping a goalwards shot by Dlcio. Keita made it level on 83 minutes; cue a Porto desperate not to drop points so early on in the season. They threw everything at Belenenses, and on 92 minutes, Herreras shot, like Dlcios, was going goalwards, but the ball skimmed off Henriques arm and wide. The ref, Carlos Xistra, was given the heads up by the VAR, he went to have a look on the touchline, and four minutes later, Alex Telles put the spot kick past Muriel for all three points.

Sporting had a similarly hard time of it to beat Vitria de Setbal at Alvalade, possibly disrupted psychologically by goings-on at the stadium the day before, when former president Bruno de Carvalho turned up claiming he was still president; the police were called and he was asked to leave. Sporting needed two goals from returning hero Nani to see off Vitria, for whom local favourite Zequinha has also returned and scored.

Sporting are on identical goal difference (5-2) as Benfica, who had an easier time of it at the Bessa. Coach Rui Vitria said that they could have scored 6 or 7, and while thats an exaggeration, they were indeed superior to Boavista, whose coach Jorge Simo admitted as much. But he will not have been pleased with his defence, who gifted Benfica their goals; Carraa and Idris let in Ferreyra for his first of the season, and in the second half Neris got caught on the ball and Pizzi fired home his fourth of the season. After a good opening display at Portimonense, Boavista were very poor.

The unexpected guests at the top table are Feirense, who visited Vitria de Guimares and beat them, Fbio Sturgeon providing the only goal against the club he represented last season. Feirense are the only team not to have conceded a goal so far. Vitria have no points.

Feirense take what Sporting Braga might consider to be their rightful place (at least it was last season). They were 3-0 up at half time against Santa Clara in the Azores and came out for the second half smiling and slapping backs, confident, apparently, that the points were in the bag; lots of chickens being counted there. Santa Clara got three in a 19-minute spell to take a point, their first. It was a bad week for Braga, knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday by Ukrainian side Zorya.

Seven teams have three points, one of them, Rio Ave getting their first points by beating Martimo, another of the seven.

Sharing 0 points with Vitria de Guimares at the bottom are Portimonense, who lost 2-0 for the second time, at Chaves, and Nacional, who lost 1-2 at home to Moreirense. It was Chaves and Moreirenses first points.

Down there also are Aves and Tondela, who shared the points in the opening game of the jornada (2-2).




Jornada 1 - And theyre off!

The Portuguese Liga has kicked off, all nine games providing a winner.

The most striking result was perhaps reigning Champions FC Portos 5-0 demolition of Chaves, looking a bit shell-shocked under new coach Daniel Ramos, formerly of Martimo; FCP would have been the last team they wanted to meet on the first jornada.

Algerian winger Yacine Brahimi was in irrepressible form, going on a series of slalom runs through Chaves right flank, especially in the first half; if he could reproduce that confidence and incisiveness in Europe but then its doubtful that FCP will be meeting many defences as wobbly as Chaves this season. The winger was involved in an incident with Chaves Niltinho (above) which has brought an official complaint from Benfica, demanding a red card/suspension after the fact.

Brahimi got one goal, the Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar two. He took advantage of an injury to Tiquinho Soares in last weekends Supertaa game against Aves (3-1), to stake a firm claim for the no. 9 position. And Porto were without Malian steamroller Moussa Marega, the clubs top scorer last season with 21 goals, who is in dispute with the club (hes been wanting to leave, but although it seems hell be staying now, hes training apart from the rest of the squad for the time being).

Another highlight for FCP was Uruguayan right back Maxi Pereira, 34 going on 20; hes first choice again after the departure of Ricardo Pereira to Leicester, and it seems to have given him a new lease of life. Meanwhile, Chadian forward Marius Mouandilmadji, actually 20 years old, came on as a late sub for his Liga dbut and scored FCPs fifth in the 88th minute.

Another youngster who is setting things alight is Benficas Gedson Fernandes, from So Tom e Prncipe, a 4x4 midfielder whos quick, strong, skilful and confident way beyond his 19 years. Credit to coach Rui Vitria for having the courage to start him against Vitria de Guimares in the Liga opener on Friday, but the way hes playing, there actually doesnt seem to be so much risk involved. He helped Benfica take a 3-0 lead into the break, all the goals well taken by Pizzi.

It looked like a breeze until the whistle for the second half kick-off. Vitria came back well and Benfica almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (3-2). The second half would have done club president Lus Filipe Vieira no good at all; he was hospitalised after feeling unwell the day before the game.

Benficas new signings for the front line, the Chilean Nicols Castillo and the Argentinian Facundo Ferreyra, have been called into action due to uncertainty over the future of last seasons top scorer in the Liga, Jonas (34 goals). At the moment, Castillo looks to be more ready for the fray.

Down the road at Sporting, its been one hell of a summer. After the attack on the training ground by disgruntled fans near the end of the season, the president Bruno de Carvalho was ousted, several players unilaterally terminated their contracts, and the sky looked black over Alvalade. But they started with the right result (1-3), albeit after falling behind at Moreirense. Two of the players that seemed likely to leave but stayed got the goals: Bruno Fernandes and two from Dutchman Bas Dost, who was the Ligas second-top scorer last time with 27.

Nipping at the Big Threes ankles will once again be Sporting Braga, coach Abel going into his second full season, ensuring continuity, although some key players have left, including midfield stalwart Nikola Vukcevic to Spanish side Levante. In a free-scoring game at The Quarry (4-2), three players got two: for Braga, Dyego Sousa, looking strong, and Ricardo Horta, looking mischievous; for Nacional, Honduran Bryan Rchez, looking useful. On this showing, Nacional should have a comfy season, with some work on their defence.

Elsewhere, perennial Europa League chasers Rio Ave came a cropper at Feirense (2-0) on a pitch that looked like theyd been growing turnips there in the summer break; perhaps a deliberate ploy to make it difficult for better teams to play football there? Veteran Portugal international Edinho, who comes in from Vitria de Setbal, got the second to tie the game up.

His old team, with local favourite Zequinha, now 31, returning, beat Desportivo das Aves (2-0), who lost their second match in a week, after the Supertaa defeat to FC Porto. Vitria are now in the hands of super-competent Lito Vidigal, the only non-Portuguese coach in the Liga (Angolan).

Madeiran side Martimo won the battle of the islands, beating Santa Clara from the Azores with a penalty in the 97th minute. The referee appointed to the game couldnt get to Madeira because of cancelled flights, so a second category local ref had to be used. But C2 refs are not accredited to deal with the Video Assistant Referee, so none was used. The penalty, for a debatable handball, might have needed a consultation with the VAR, but

Boavista closed the jornada with their first away win in 2018, 2-0 at Algarve side Portimonense, who under new coach Antnio Folha looked a shadow of last seasons team. Boavista coach Jorge Simo has associated the name Boavisto (The Mighty Boavista) to this seasons side; the expression dates back to the 70s and the time when they began to be a force to be reckoned with under legendary coach Jos Maria Pedroto. To be honest, they havent looked so mighty in previous games, including when they were knocked out of the Taa da Liga by Nacional. But Mondays performance was the best from them for some time. Next up: Benfica at the Bessa!

Finally, Belenenses put their internal strife behind them to grab a win by a single goal (a cracker from Fredy) at Tondela. Belenenses Club and Belenenses Company are in dispute, forcing the team out of their ancestral home (Restelo) and along the coast a couple of miles to the National Stadium. But this first game was played at tiny Tondela in front of 2,010, the lowest attendance of the jornada. Benfica had 55,219 for Vitria de Guimares. Tondelas operating budget for the season is 2.5 million euros. Benficas is 70 million.

Its a sloping pitch before we even start.



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