liga review - 2020/21



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Jornada 24 - 21/03/21

Once again, Sporting did the bare minimum to secure three points at home to Vitória de Guimarães and maintain their ten-point lead at the top. In a busy first half, the Liga’s top scorer Pedro Gonçalves hit the bar on 18 minutes, then fed Tiago Tomás on 26 for a goal that would be disallowed for the ball going out on the touchline in the build-up. Such was Sporting’s dominance that VSC had their first chance on 33 minutes, Marcus Edwards forcing an improvised save from Adán who pushed the ball onto the bar. From the resulting corner, Estupiñán hit the bar too, with a header. But it was Sporting who took the lead on 42 minutes, a João Mário free from deep headed on by Tiago Tomás for Palhinha to head on for Gonçalo Inácio to head in – his first for the senior side; it was only validated minutes later by VAR. And it was enough; the second half was most notable for the entrance as sub for Sporting of Dário Essugo, whose debut it was. He turned 16 just last week and became the youngest ever to play for the senior side, finishing the game in tears as team-mates rushed to congratulate him. As for Vitória, they have three straight defeats ...

With the three points in the bag, Sporting knew they would stay at least ten points clear at the top, and that’s what happened. Their nearest challengers, FC Porto, travelled to the south coast to meet an improving Portimonense and it wasn’t all plain-sailing. The hosts had the first chance on three minutes, Anzai breaking down the right and chipping the oncoming Marchesín, but it went wide. FCP had a couple of chances of their own, through Marega and Taremi, and then had a stroke of bad luck mid-way through the half when the highly influential Pepe was subbed for a self-inflicted calf-injury (which also put him out of the Seleção’s World Cup qualifiers). To counter-balance that, they had a stroke of the good variety in added time when Corona centred from the right, the ball fell for Marega, he nudged it weakly towards goal and Portimonense centre-back Possignolo finished the job for him.

Into the 2nd half the Algarve side were back in it on 64 minutes, Beto shooting after a break, the ball blocked by Diogo Leite but ballooning up for Fali Candé to head into the empty net – his first for the club. The euphoria lasted for three minutes: Sérgio Oliveira’s free from 25 metres hit the post then bounced in off keeper Samuel. It was a second own goal that was a cue for shenanigans on the touchline, the home and away coaches getting into a shouting match that only didn’t result in fisticuffs because they were restrained; Paulo Sérgio and Sérgio Conceição watched the rest of the game from the stands.

The weekend’s games in the top two divisions were marked by yet another appeal against racism, with joint photos before the game and all teams wearing ‘RACISMO NÃO’ on their shirts instead of names. All, that is, except FC Porto, who perhaps felt they were too important for such a trivial initiative. (They have short memories, though: their Malian forward Marega was the object of vile racist chanting at Guimarães last February, prompting him to walk off during the match.)

Over recent years, games between Benfica and Braga have become minor clássicos for their intensity and significance. Sunday’s at Braga’s ‘Quarry’ was very significant as the two teams were jostling for the important 3rd spot, with SCB two points ahead. But it was SLB that came away with the points to leapfrog their northern rivals and return the Liga to the standard Big-Three-plus-the-rest format (though Braga president António Salvador, replacing the coach in the post-match press conference, would refer to them as simply “The Three”, criticising the fact that they always get the benefit of the doubt with refereeing decisions).

Benfica seemed to have a chance to take the lead on 24 minutes when Braga keeper Matheus brought down Seferovic in the area, but the VAR pointed out that he’d been ten centimetres offside on the through ball. That could have changed the course of the game, but what happened on 39 minutes definitely did: Fransérgio caught Rafa Silva with a high boot, though a case could be made for it being accidental. The ref didn’t see it that way and showed the Braga captain a yellow, his second.

Into added time, Seferovic controlled a long ball from the back (helped by holding Bruno Rodrigues’ shirt, the Braga players claimed), turned and threaded a ball through to Rafa Silva, who made no mistake one-on-one with Matheus. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for Braga from then on, and ten minutes into the 2nd half, it was all done and dusted, Rafa returning the favour for Seferovic to score his 14th of the season. It was Benfica’s 4th straight win but the first time this season that they’ve won against any of their three rivals at the top (Sporting, FC Porto, Braga).

The top four of Sporting, FC Porto, Benfica and Braga are well cushioned from the rest of the table, but that takes nothing away from the excellent season minnows Paços de Ferreira (six points behind Braga) are having. They ran out 3-0 winners over Moreirense, all the goals coming in the first half. Douglas Tanque was brought down on ten minutes and put the spot-kick away himself – his 7th of the season. On 20 minutes, Tanque put Luther Singh through for the South African forward to curl home his shot. And a minute from half-time it was Singh who crossed from the left to the back post where Hélder Ferreira was waiting to volley home. And that was game, set and match. Paços have their own 5th-place cushion: nine points over Vitória de Guimarães.

In the Azores, this week without fans, Santa Clara drew 1-1 with Tondela, who took the lead just before the break, João Pedro sprinting to the line on the left and crossing for Mário González to bundle in for his 7th. Santa Clara had two players sent off late on (Fábio Cardoso for a second yellow, Allano a straight red for words), and so it seemed that Tondela would be able to hang on to their lead … but in the final seconds of the five minutes of added time, Yohan Tavares headed through his own goal from a throw-in.

At the bottom, Boavista desperately needed a win at home to bottom club Farense to drag themselves out of trouble, but in a dire 1st half for them, they gave away a penalty, which Léo Jardim saved from Ryan Gauld, before Licá was given all the time in the world on 25 minutes to clip home the only goal of the game. Boavista slipped to second bottom, goal difference separating them from the ‘red lantern’, Marítimo.

The Madeiran side, under new coach Luis Velásquez, crumpled to a resurgent Famalicão, under recently-appointed coach Ivo Vieira, going down 4-0, the goals shared by Ivo Rodrigues (his first of the season) and Anderson Silva.

The other Madeiran side, Nacional, are on the same 21 points as Boavista and Marítimo after suffering their sixth straight defeat at Gil Vicente, the win putting Gil four points above trouble. Pedro Marques and Lino got the 2nd-half goals that were the coup de grâce for Nacional coach Luís Freire, replaced by Manuel Machado, returning to the club.

Belenenses SAD were reduced to ten men on three minutes (keeper Kritciuk) at Rio Ave, more than enough of an excuse (if any were needed) to shut up shop and secure their 8th 0-0 draw of the season; they still only have 14 goals from their 24 games. Rio Ave and BSAD are seven and six points above trouble, respectively.

Significant number: 6

(The number of straight defeats that were the final straw for Nacional’s management; coach Luís Freire was sacked.)



Jornada 23 - 14/03/21

(edited 15/03/21)

Below-par but still unbeaten leaders Sporting ground out three points at Tondela, who made them work for it. With the leaders lacking intensity and the home side shutting up shop and chasing every ball, the game seemed to be trundling towards a scoreless draw until ten minutes from time when top scorer Pedro Gonçalves found himself in a good position but his shot was deflected off Filipe Ferreira, only to fall for Tiago Tomás in front of goal, who said “thank you very much”. Tondela were angry that Sporting captain Sebastián Coates hadn’t been sent off on 75 minutes for what looked like a clear yellow-card foul, the Uruguayan centre-back stopping Mario González breaking. It would have been his 2nd yellow, and the red card could have changed things … “The points are very expensive – it’s very hard to win,” said SCP coach Rúben Amorim after the game. But the finish line is just 11 games away, and the title is looking more and more in the bag.

FC Porto, straight from their mid-week Champions League triumph over Juventus, struggled against a well organised Paços de Ferreira. Perhaps it was a little bit of fatigue, perhaps diminished domestic ambition, but they looked sluggish in the first half. Paços are 5th for a reason, and their solid midfield and defence kept FCP down to a single half-chance, Pepe hitting the side netting. In the 2nd half, Paços could have gone in front, Marchesín smothering a Marcelo shot from close range, and at the other end, Mbemba hit the bar with a cross/shot. Then within a minute, Porto were home free: Pepe headed in from a corner on 77’, and when Paços might have thought FCP would try to protect their lead, they came even stronger and Sérgio Oliveira shot from 25 metres, Jordi attempting to palm the ball over the bar but only succeeding in letting it drop in. FCP, 17 games unbeaten, climbed to 2nd in the table, still ten points behind Sporting, while Paços kept the six-point lead over closest rivals Vitória de Guimarães.

Braga slipped behind Porto after dropping two points at struggling Famalicão. It was Fama’s first game under new coach Ivo Vieira, who replaced the sacked Silas. In Portugal they talk about a chicotada psicológica (psychological whiplash) – the effect that a new coach can have on a club. It’s early days, of course, but Fama looked more organised and hungrier than they have all season, especially in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, in the same 2nd half, Braga looked jaded and appeared to be confident that their 2-1 lead from the first half was enough. Anderson Oliveira had poked in a loose ball from a Rúben Vinagre free-kick on the left, but Braga turned it round in a three-minute spell just before the break. The equaliser was a scandal, Ricardo Horta performing the most obvious dive seen since the VAR was introduced. And it was introduced to avoid travesties like the penalty that was given. Horta himself took the spot-kick, and all non-Bracarenses were wishing him to miss; he almost did, Luiz Júnior getting a hand to it to knock it against the bar ... but then in. Al Musrati put Braga in front, lurking at the back post at a corner from the right. Then came the 2nd half and Fama dominated. Some justice was done with a superb goal from sub Heriberto, equalising three minutes from the end and leaving Braga no time to bounce back. They’re 3rd on 50 points – two ahead of Benfica, one behind FC Porto and 11 off the leaders Sporting. A banner in the stands read “Great challenges make great men.” Fama will need to be great just that; they dragged themselves off the bottom but only as far as 2nd bottom, Farense sinking. Three points separate the bottom six.

Boavista had beaten Benfica 3-0 at the Bessa but wouldn’t find the Eagles so accommodating this time. It didn’t help that the Panthers shot themselves in the foot after just five minutes, Chidozie pushing Waldschmidt, through on goal. The ref gave a penalty and yellow at first, then was advised to take a look by the VAR. Result? The foul had been outside the box, and the yellow was changed to a red. Boavista would have preferred perhaps the penalty because their ten men created next to nothing in the next 85 minutes. Benfica weren’t that superior, it has to be said, but did enough to take the points. Swiss striker Seferovic had two or three clear chances before giving his side the lead on 43 minutes, just as Boavista were thinking they could reach the break all square and re-group. Colombian midfielder Sebastián Pérez, starting for a change, lost the ball on the flank, it was worked forward to Diogo Gonçalves and he made the line on the right, crossing low for an unmarked Seferovic to tap in. On 52 minutes, it was Gonçalves again who crossed from the right, and again it was Seferovic, unmarked, who headed home for his 13th, just two behind Sporting’s Pedro Gonçalves, the Liga’s top scorer.

There was something of a jogão in Guimarães as Vitória in 6th hoped to beat struggling Gil Vicente to close the gap on Paços. They were hobbled from the 16th minute, though, when Mumin was sent off for pulling back Lucas Mineiro, who had a clear run on goal. Pedro Marques and Lourency took advantage of the numerical superiority to put Gil 2-0 up before Rochinha pulled one back for VSC with a wonder goal, taking the ball from deep on the left-hand touchline, beating half of Gil’s defence and placing his shot past Denis from the edge of the box. It would have been a lifeline going into the break … had Ouattara not brought Talocha down in added time. Gil’s left back dusted himself off to stroke the spot-kick calmly home. Trailing 1-3, ten-man VSC made a superhuman effort to claw something back in the 2nd half and seemed to be within touching distance of a point when Rochinha fed Lameiras to score on 78 minutes, making it 2-3. Lucas Mineiro’s header from a corner, Bruno Varela beaten at his near post, seemed to put a lid on it for Gil. But there was still more drama to be squeezed out of the game: on 85’, Denis brought Marcus Edwards down and VSC had to chance to reduce the lead to one goal with five minutes left. But André André, normally a reliable penalty-taker, allowed Denis to save the kick. And so it ended 2-4, and *phew*. Vitória have just three points from their last five games. Gil jump out of trouble … momentarily.

Fans were once again allowed into the Estádio São Miguel in the Azores, the 774 who took the opportunity seeing Santa Clara beat Portimonense 2-0. Rui Costa and Carlos Jr – his 8th of the season – got the goals.

Across the Atlantic to the east, Marítimo drove up the mountain in Madeira to meet local rival Nacional. Neither side had been great shakes in recent weeks; CSM had just one point from their last eight games and had just sacked their coach; CDN had four straight defeats.

One of the factors contributing to Marítimo’s plummet to the bottom of the Liga was without a doubt the absence through injury of top scorer Rodrigo Pinho, who had taken part in just 14 games. This time he started and was decisive, but not until the second half. On 15 minutes, he did give his side a chance to go ahead, forcing Nacional keeper Piscitelli to bring him down, but his strike partner Joel Tagueu cracked the resulting spot kick against the bar. And so it was that Nacional took the lead just before the break, Gorré slipping the ball past Amir after a delicately-dinked through ball from French midfielder Koziello. It was left to Pinho to turn the game round: on 58 minutes he nudged the ball over the line from a Leo Andrade header (which was going in anyway), and on 65 minutes he pumped home his 9th of the season from a ball squared by Tagueu, making up for his earlier penalty miss.

Nacional’s now 5th straight defeat will put pressure on coach Luis Freire, while Marítimo’s new coach Julio Velázquez, taking over from Milton Mendes, was understandably relieved to break the bad run. “It would have been impossible to get off to a better start,” he said. The two teams now have 21 points, two above the relegation zone.

The teams continue to bunch up at the bottom. Farense, who had secured five points from three games and looked to be edging away from trouble, have now lost two on the trot. This time it was at home to Belenenses SAD, Miguel Cardoso slotting home the only goal after a strong run down the right and assist from Cassierra. “I’m not very commercial, but I do my job,” BSAD coach Petit had said before the game. True enough; they’re 10th, six points from the drop zone, despite still having scored only 14 goals (from 23 games).

In mid-table, Moreirense kept their four-point lead over Rio Ave after the sides drew 1-1. A Filipe Soares own-goal gave Rio Ave a first half lead, but seven minutes from time, Pires went on a scything run down the right, did a one-two with Rafael Martins on the edge of the box and slotted home for the equaliser.

Significant number: 11

(The number of goals Sporting have conceded in their 23 games - less than half a goal a game; the number of goals that midfielder Sérgio Oliveira has scored, making him FC Porto’s top scorer; the number of points by which Braga in 3rd trail Sporting; the number of jornadas left in the Liga.)



Jornada 22 - 07/03/21

(edited 09/03/21)

“It was perhaps our worst performance of the season,” said Sporting coach Rúben Amorim after the 2-1 win over Santa Clara. Be that as it may, SCP continue to churn out the results and look increasingly certain to be celebrating come May. Their 22nd unbeaten game beat the club record, set in 1981/82 under Malcolm Allison.

They went ahead on 23 minutes through the Liga’s top scorer Pedro Gonçalves with his 15th a crisp cross-shot after a lovely through ball from Tabata – but then it seemed that they slipped into cruise mode, and they were rattled when Rui Costa equalised for the Azores side on 84 minutes – his first of the season. Cue a gear shift and assault on the CDSC goal. Then four minutes into added time, sub Nuno Santos crossed from the left and João Mário put the ball on the head of captain Sebastián Coates, who made no mistake.

While FC Porto were performing heroic feats in Turin (knocking Juventus out of the Champions League) Braga slipped back past them into 2nd with a convincing 3-0 win over Minho region rivals Vitória de Guimarães. Piazón with his 6th of the season, Abel Ruiz and Sporar, his first for Braga after his move from Sporting, did the damage. Bruno Ribeiro got another but it was disallowed for a preceding offside ... by eight centimetres. It was Braga’s 4th straight win, and they’ve dropped just two points from their last eight games, but they’re still nine points behind super Sporting. Vitória stay 6th, but they’re now six points behind Paços de Ferreira.

FC Porto stay ten points behind the leaders after a pretty routine 2-0 win at struggling Gil Vicente. It was the 16th game of an unbeaten run, which would be impressive in normal seasons. “We could have won by more,” said FCP coach Sérgio Conceição, but he will be happy with the result after treading water last week against Sporting. The goals were scored by midfielders Matheus Uribe and Sérgio Oliveira, who is having a great season: his 25-metre drive was his 10th league goal (albeit with six from the spot), equalling top scorer Taremi, and Fernando Santos must surely have pencilled him in on the Seleção squad list for the upcoming Euros.

Sporting’s Lisbon rivals Benfica – poor brothers this season for a change – made heavy going of things in the 1st half at Belenenses SAD, on a much-improved pitch. BSAD don’t score many goals but they don’t concede many either; they had the third best defence going into this game (18 goals); they came out of it with their heaviest defeat. In a blistering 10-minute 2nd-half spell, a much more dynamic Benfica blew them away. Left back Grimaldo curled in two perfect crosses from the left for the first and third goals, the latter scored by centre-back Lucas Veríssimo with his chest (his first goal for the club), and right back Diogo Gonçalves put a lovely through ball to Seferovic for his second (and 11th of the season). It was Benfica’s 6th game unbeaten, while BSAD lost their first in six. The 3-0 win kept Benfica 4th, four points above Paços de Ferreira and one behind Braga [who play Vitória de Guimarães on Tuesday, 09 March].

Paços were back to their winning ways, dispatching Nacional (four straight defeats) 2-1, with two 1st-half goals from South African forward Luther Singh, the first a work of art: a volley from outside the box following a corner. Róchez got a consolation deep into added time.

Hanging next to Singh’s goal in the gallery will be the first from lanky striker Beto for improving Portimonense in their 3-0 win over Tondela, twisting to crack in a kind of swivelled overhead kick that Ibrahimovic would have been proud of. He got another later, sandwiching one by Aylton Boa Morte – a finely-taken goal, celebrated with a double somersault.

Boavista dragged themselves off the bottom after a convincing 3-0 win over fellow-strugglers Famalicão. Ricardo Mangas got his 4th of the season to send BFC 1-0 up at the break. Their second came from a surging run by Paulinho, slicing into Fama’s left flank before driving a cross-shot past Luiz Júnior, though Fama’s Brazilian keeper was badly beaten. And the result was rounded off by Colombian midfielder Sebastián Pérez, on as sub as always and scoring with his first touch. Fama midfielder Ugarte was sent off a quarter of an hour from time for a nasty lunge on Nuno Santos’s ankle that will put him out for some time. The visitors would sack their coach of six games, Silas, after this one. He managed just one win, two draws and three defeats in his short spell there. Ivo Vieira (last club in Portugal Vitória de Guimarães) is to take over.

Fama are second bottom on 19 points, the same as Gil Vicente and Farense, whose mini-revival under Jorge Costa shuddered (temporarily?) to a halt at Rio Ave, who put two straight defeats behind them to win 2-0, Pelé from the spot and Camacho with the goals.

But holding up the table this week are hapless Marítimo after yet another defeat; they have one point from their last eight games. The executioners this time were Moreirense, cruising under Vasco Seabra. Filipe Soares got both goals – his first of the season – in the 2-0 win in Madeira. CSM president Carlos Pereira had a chat with coach Milton Mendes on Monday morning and showed him the door. “The group wanted me to continue, but given the results, it was time to think about the club,” said Mendes.

Significant number: 1

(The number of points won by Marítimo in eight games, leaving them holding ‘the red lantern’.)



Jornada 21 - 28/02/21

It could have been a vital clássico but the 0-0 draw between FC Porto and Sporting kept things more or less as they were at the top, i.e. ten points still separate these two title candidates, but as the games edge past, there are fewer opportunities for the pack to catch up. It’s true that 39 points are still up for grabs, but unbeaten Sporting have dropped just eight in the 21 games so far, and they don’t look like wavering.

The game at the Dragão was much like most clássicos these days: a dour affair, with both sides more intent on not losing. FCP striker Taremi had a couple of clear chances from ten metres that he perhaps should have taken, while sub Matheus Nunes had Sporting’s best after a strong run on goal in the 2nd half, but he blasted over. It was the keepers Marchesín and Adán who shone most, though. The niggly nature of the game were encapsulated by FCP’s Francisco Conceíção after the final whistle as Pedro Porro went to shake his hand: “You have to have values and respect opponents, and I don’t think calling me a ‘son of a whore’ is the best thing,” said the Sporting full-back. The things you pick up at home…

Beneficiaries of the draw were the two clubs in the title-chasing mix. Braga went clear 2nd, now nine points behind Sporting, after a 2-1 win at Nacional. A five-minute first-half brain-freeze by Nacional’s Italian keeper Riccardo Piscitelli gifted Braga their two goals: on 25 minutes, he fumbled an easy cross, it bounced off his knee and Fransérgio was on hand to tap in; then on 29, he came 25 metres out of his goal to sweep up a long ball, headed it against Abel Ruiz’s shoulder, and the Spanish striker walked the ball into an empty net. Brayan Riascos pulled one back for the Madeiran side in the 2nd half, but the damage was done.

Benfica made up two points on their Lisbon rivals but are still 13 behind after a 2-0 win at home to Rio Ave, Seferovic (his 9th) and Pizzi the 2nd-half scorers. Everton for Benfica and Gelson Dala had both hit the woodwork in the 1st half. The win was a relief for Benfiquistas after two draws, though pressure on club president Luís Filipe Vieira and coach Jorge Jesus is unlikely to ease; being knocked out of the Europe League by Arsenal mid-week didn’t help matters. Rio Ave have two straight defeats, suggesting that the brief honeymoon prompted by the return of coach Miguel Cardoso might be over.

Paços de Ferreira slipped to four points behind Benfica after a surprise (and heavy) defeat to Santa Clara in the Azores. The win had a Brazilian tang to it, with Allano (his first) and Cryzan scoring in the first half (Cryzan had to follow up his own poorly-taken penalty), while the 3-0 scoreline was completed by Carlos Jr – his 7th of the season. There were 924 fans watching the game, duly masked and distanced. A light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

Vitória de Guimarães moved to within three points of Paços with a 2-1 win – their first in five games – over eternal rivals Boavista in the jornada’s opening game. Things were looking up for BFC when Ricardo Mangas thumped home from point-blank range following a corner on 17 minutes, but then they looked down as Rochinha before the break – against his old club – and André André on the hour from the spot (following a ‘handball’ by the same Ricardo Mangas) did for the limping Panthers. They dropped to bottom, but there are just three points separating the last seven clubs, so it’s not over for any of them. All of them need to start chalking up points on a regular basis, though.

Four of that pack played each other, and the fight for points was perhaps demonstrated by the results: Famalicão v Farense and Portimonense v Marítimo both ended in 0-0 draws. Marítimo’s coach Milton Mendes can breathe again … for the time being. “It was important to break the negative cycle,” he said at the post-match press conference, sporting a large crucifix worn outside his shirt; it was the Madeiran side’s first point after six straight defeats. Another of the relegation pack, Gil Vicente, lost 1-0 at Tondela, a João Pedro penalty after just five minutes enough.

The jornada closed with Moreirense and Belenenses SAD sharing the points in a 2-2 draw, Rafael Martins getting both of MFC’s goals; it was BSAD’s 10th draw of the season, leaving them 10th but only four points from bottom place. Scoring a plural number of goals isn’t a regular occurrence for the Lisbon side – they have just 13 all season – and coach Petit was philosophical about it: “Sure, we scored two goals, but we also conceded two,” he said.

Significant number: 3

(The number of points separating the bottom seven clubs.)



Jornada 20 - 21/02/21

The status quo was maintained at the top, with one striking exception.

Sporting did enough without shining at home to lowly Portimonense. Moroccan centre-back Feddal got his first goal for the club on 27 minutes: a free-kick from Pedro Gonçalves on the left was glanced on by Coates, found Feddal in the heart of the box, and the ball was bundled in; not the prettiest of goals. Four minutes later, the PSC defenders lost the ball bringing it out, Nuno Santos pounced and clipped a shot between keeper Samuel and his near post. And the game was effectively finished, despite spirited resistance from the Algarve side, who were back to their losing ways and remain in the relegation mix.

It looked like SCP’s lead over FC Porto would be increased as the final whistle approached of the Dragons’ game at bottom side Marítimo. Uribe had put FCP in front on 14 minutes: a Sérgio Oliveira cross from the left was not dealt with by the Marítimo defence and after some pinball action, Uribe planted the loose ball in from ten metres. But four minutes later, CSM were level: from a corner on the right, the ball was flicked on to the back post where Brazilian defender Leo Andrade was lurking to poke home. It was called offside initially, but was eventually given. Cue backs-to-the-wall defending from the Madeiran side until the last minute of the match: a poorly-cleared ball ballooned up in the air, sub Francisco Conceição – son of coach Sérgio – was under it but was pushed in the back by Rúben Macedo. Otávio calmly slotted the spot-kick home. FC Porto remain ten points behind Sporting, with an FCP v SCP clássico coming up next week: a six-pointer if ever there was one. Hapless Marítimo suffered their 6th straight defeat, but just two points separate the bottom six, so it isn’t the end of the world for them … yet.

Braga also did their title-chasing duty and beat Tondela 4-2. In torrential rain, they were 3-0 up at half-time through Lucas Piazón, Ricardo Horta and João Novais, the latter cracking a drive against the bar and in from 25 metres. Piazón added another, five minutes into the second half, and that was that, apart from a couple of consolations for Tondela from Souley on 84 minutes and Jaquité in added time. Braga kept a point behind FC Porto, 11 behind Sporting.

But then the exception. Benfica continue to disappoint their millions of fans with a wretched season. With the money spent on their s quad, they might have expected to travel to the Algarve and come back with all three points from their game at Farense, fighting relegation. But no – once again, their finishing was sloppy, and their attitude was far from committed. They missed some very scoreable chances, notably through Darwin (post), Everton, Seferovic and Pizzi. They also claimed penalties on Rafa and Taarabt, but that can’t excuse the result, and Farense had a good shout for a penalty turned down too after Tavares showed Licá his elbow in an aerial challenge. Farense thought they’d taken the lead on 40 minutes, the same Licá finishing off a long through ball with a crisp cross-shot ... but he was 15 cms offside. The 0-0 draw means that Benfica have just one win and eight points from the last seven games, leaving them a staggering 15 points behind the leaders (the worst record at this stage since 1997). There are increasingly loud calls from Benfiquistas for the president Luís Filipe Vieira to resign, and for coach Jorge Jesus to be sacked.

Benfica spent €100m on new players at the beginning of the season. Paços de Ferreira spent a minute fraction of that yet are just one point behind after they beat 5th place challengers Vitória de Guimarães 2-1 at home. Colombian striker Estupiñán had put VSC in front on 23 minutes before João Pedro equalized the minutes later. Hélder Ferreira got the winner on the hour. The two Paços scorers had spells at Vitória, who have just two points from their last four games and now trail Paços by six points.

Paços and Vitória are in a little pocket on their own; VSC are seven points ahead of Azores side Santa Clara. Like Marítimo against FC Porto, Santa Clara lost all three points to a penalty in the dying minutes of the game at Gil Vicente. Gil forward Lourency and Fábio Cardoso ran onto a through ball, Lourency felt the presence of the Santa Clara captain and crumpled like a house of cards. The ref gave the penalty and – rather surprisingly in footballportugal’s opinion – he was backed up by the VAR. Pedrinho put the spot kick away. Gil remain in the six-team group at the bottom, however.

Moreirense remain on the same 25 points as Santa Clara after their mini-run of two wins and a draw was halted at Boavista, on the return to the Bessa of coach Vasco Seabra, sacked earleir in the season. Honduran striker Alberth Elis had two chances to put BFC in front in the first half, foiled both times by Pasinato in the one-on-one, then on 52 minutes English forward Angel Gomes curled a delicate free-kick in from 20 metres for the only goal of the game – though the foul on the same Gomes that preceded it didn’t appear to exist. Boavista remain in that mix at the bottom, but there are signs of improvement in their play.

They have the same 18 points as Farense and Famalicão, who secured a surprising – given recent form – win at Rio Ave, Uruguayan Ugarte with the only goal.

Belenenses SAD escaped (for the time being at least) the bottom six with a 2-1 home win over Nacional. The pitch at the National Stadium had been the subject of recent inspections after comparisons with a ploughed field. It was passed fit, but then storms hit Portugal over the weekend, causing floods in various districts and making the comparison one with a marsh. It was surprising that the ref let it go on, with patches of the pitch under water, and Nacional rightly complained ... to no avail. Tomás Ribeiro put BSAD in front on 29 minutes, Gorré equalized just before the break, but Miguel Cardoso got the winner from the spot on 69 minutes. BSAD and Nacional sit mid-table, sharing 21 points.

Significant number: 15

(The massive points-lead Sporting have opened up over their Lisbon rivals Benfica, stuck in 4th.)



Jornada 19 - 14/02/21

(edited 16/02/21)

It was something of a watershed weekend in the Liga. Leaders Sporting won again (their 5th straight win, and they’re still unbeaten), extending their lead at the top to ten, 11 and 13 points (FC Porto, Braga and Benfica respectively).

Sporting had to get past the excellent Paços de Ferreira at Alvalade and did it with a first half penalty (João Mário after a push by Rebocho on Pedro Gonçalves) and a rare goal from midfielder Palhinha early in the 2nd half that effectively knocked the stuffing out of Paços’ resistance. It was Paços’ first defeat in ten games.

So Sporting have 15 games left to not muck it up. But their lead, the confidence with which they’re playing, and the shakiness of the chasers, makes their first title since 2002 seem increasingly likely. Coach Rúben Amorim is, as expected, playing down the prospect: “Each says what he wants in our team. I don’t prohibit anyone from saying anything. What I do prohibit is that they stop working, running and doing what they’re doing on the pitch.”

Benfica and FC Porto both dropped points … again.  

FCP have a good record at home to their city rivals Boavista over the years, and going into the weekend’s derby, you would have put your shirt on them making light work of the Panthers (2nd v 16th, 26 points between them) .nothing further from the truth, however. An uncommonly (this season) organised, pragmatic Boavista owned Porto in the first half, so much so that after the game, FCP coach Sérgio Conceição would say: "That's the worst first half I've had as a coach - not just for FC Porto but ever!" 

BFC went in 2-0 up through Porozo and Elis and might have been further ahead if Elis had not chosen to use knee rather than boot twice from point blank range, Marchesín saving both times. Perhaps inevitably, they faded in the 2nd half as FCP found a bit of pride, attitude and some luck. Taremi’s weak shot deflected off Porozo and in, and later Devenish was adjudged to have tripped Evanilson (soft) for Sérgio Oliveira to equalise from the spot. FCP coach Sérgio Conceição brought his son Francisco on for his debut and he was caught in a sandwich to give Sérgio Oliveira another chance with a spot kick, but this time he pinged it off the post. Then FCP thought they’d taken the lead, Conceição involved in Evanilson’s ‘goal’. Cue much hugging, kissing and tears between father and son on the side-line … before the VAR poured cold water on their emotions: Evanilson had handled.

The 2-2 result set back FCP’s title hopes, while it meant that Boavista would spend at least a week in the relegation zone, but if they can replicate their excellent 1st-half performance in upcoming games they should be ok.

Benfica’s woes continued with a 1-1 draw at Moreirense, enjoying something of a resurgence under coach Vasco Seabra. Benfica had a hatful of chances in the 1st half, notably through Darwin, Rafa Silva and Seferovic, the latter putting his side ahead with a crisp cross shot on 25 minutes. But Yan Matheus equalised from the spot just before the break after a foul by Grimaldo on Walterson, and Benfica could just not make their vastly superior budget pay in the 2nd half. They have seven points from their last six games, while the modest Moreirense have seven from their last three; not title form from the Lisbon giants, certainly.

Benfica finished the jornada 4th, two points behind Braga, who came back from the Azores with all three points from a 1-0 win over Santa Clara, Colombian full-back Borja with his first goal after moving from Sporting.

Paços de Ferreira are 5th, just three points behind Benfica and four ahead of Vitória de Guimarães, who came a 1-3 cropper at home to Rio Ave, re-born under Miguel Cardoso. All the goals came from players that passed through Sporting: Carlos Mané and Rafael Camacho gave Rio Ave a two-goal lead at half-time, Ricardo Quaresma’s penalty on 71 minutes put VSC back in the game, but then keeper Bruno Varela took them back out of it three minutes later: he came 30 metres out of his goal to field a long ball, dwelled on it and was robbed by Gelson Dala, who found the empty net.

At the bottom, Farense also scored three away goals, beating Madeiran side Nacional 3-2; all five goals came in the 2nd half. Nacional thought they’d snatched at least a point with Pedro Mendes’ first goal for the club on 83 minutes, but Eduardo got the winner on 86. The win pulled Farense off the bottom spot and out of the relegation zone.

A healthy 4-1 win by the other Algarve team, Portimonense, saw them jump to mid-table. The victims were Gil Vicente who are definitively in a slump: they have just three points from their last seven games and occupy the slot above the automatic relegation places.

Holding the red lantern this week are Famalicão. Their game at home to BSAD had 0-0 written all over it: they had 13 draws between them all season and they’d scored a grand total of two goals between them in their last three games. Final result? Need you ask?

Marítimo are just two points off the relegation places after going down 2-1 at Tondela - their 5th straight defeat. Mis-spelt Venezuelan winger Jhon Murillo got his second in two games to put Tondela in front in the first half, with Cameroonian striker Joel Tagueu equalising on the stroke of half-time, his 6th of the season. Not to be outdone, Tondela’s Spanish striker Mario González got his 6th on 52 minutes to give CDT all three points. Marítimo coach Milton Mendes, who took over from sacked Lito Vidigal in December and seemed to be making a decent fist of things in the early days, will be meeting with club president Caros Pereira in the coming days. The latter is a notoriously impatient person...

Significant number: 10

(The lead Sporting have opened up over their nearest challengers FC Porto, with 15 games to play.)



Jornada 18 - 07/02/21

A significant jornada, with leaders Sporting extending their lead over their nearest rivals (FC Porto) to eight points. But club president Frederico Varandas had a warning: “Arrogance and bragging are halfway towards defeat and extra vitamins for our rivals.”

They won 2-1 at struggling Gil Vicente but had to bring out all their fighting spirit to turn it round after going behind to a goal from Japanese forward Kanya on 37 minutes. Sporting left it till five minutes from time to equalise, Uruguayan centre-back Sebastián Coates finishing off after Paulinho had cleared poorly. Then into added time, the same Coates headed home from a Porro free-kick, Gil keeper Denis fumbling on the line. Coates is proving an inspirational force this season after taking over sole ownership of the captain’s armband.

FC Porto dropped points for the second jornada in a row, late goals also proving decisive in the 2-2 draw at Braga. Porto appeared to be coasting with goals either side of the break by Sérgio Oliveira (his 8th of the season, five of them penalties, as here) and Iranian striker Taremi (his 9th). Then arguably their best player, Jesus Corona, was sent off on the hour for a second yellow, and they were struggling from then on. With three minutes left, Brazilian midfielder Fransérgio pulled one back for Braga, and deep into added time, Argentinian Nico Gaitán, plagued by injuries this season and on as sub, netted the equalizer.

So the gap at the top is now eight points, but it’s 11 over the next best-ranked teams: Braga and Sporting’s Lisbon rivals Benfica. The latter at least returned to their winning ways after three draws and a defeat. Famalicão were the victims at the Luz, sunk by two goals in the first seven minutes by Uruguayan striker Darwin and Argentinian centre-back Otamendi. Benfica coach Jorge Jesus was back on the bench after a bout of Covid; after the game he tried to hang Benfica’s bad form on the virus: “After the game at FC Porto (jornada 14) we had 26 people infected with Covid – ten players and 16 staff).” Fama, under new coach Silas, remain 2nd from bottom after four straight defeats.

Paços de Ferreira missed the chance of moving to the same 37 points as Benfica and Braga after they spoiled their magnificent six-game unbeaten run with a 0-0 draw at home to lowly Portimonense. Portimão thought they’d scored late in the game, Bruno Moreira turning to celebrate his shot, but Paços centre-back Marco Baixinho stopped it on the line. The game was held up for several minutes before the break when the heavens opened and let loose a hailstorm. Paços are on their on their own in 5th, two points behind B&B and four points clear of Vitória de Guimarães, who have a game in hand. “The objective is to stay up, which isn’t guaranteed yet,” said coach Pepa, somewhat incongruously, before admitting: “But we’re going to look up, not back.”

Vitória could only manage a 1-1 draw at BSAD, the result decided in the first half through two Colombians – Cassierra for BSAD, Estupiñán equalising for VSC. It was a good, open game, but Vitória coach João Henriques was scathing about the National Stadium’s poor pitch beforehand and afterwards. “The players were all winners because they didn’t get injured,” he said. “It was football that lost.” The Liga inspected the pitch on the following Tuesday and banned games there until another inspection on 18 March; the pitch of Segunda club Mafra was made available, if necessary.

Azores side Santa Clara won the battle of the islands with a 2-1 win at Marítimo. Cameroonian striker Joel Tagueu’s penalty on the hour was cancelled out by Brazilian Crysan on 74 minutes after an excellent cross by compatriot Carlos Jr, and the same Carlos got one for himself four minutes later, his 6th of the season.

The scoring in Moreirense’s win at bottom club Farense was an all-Brazilian affair: Yan Matheus and Rafael Martins from the spot put MFC 2-0 up before Pedro Henrique gave the Algarve side a glimmer of hope deep into added time. But it was just that: a glimmer, and a very faint one. Farense stay rock bottom but still within touch of safety, while MFC breathe more easily with back-to-back wins.

Rio Ave got their first win in five games to skip up to 10th, two ex-Sportinguistas doing the honours at home to Tondela. The visitors had gone in front in the first half through Venezuelan forward Jhon Murillo with his first of the season, then in the second half, Carlos Mané, on a sub, equalised on 59 minutes and Rafael Camacho, on loan from Sporting, got the winner five minutes later.

Boavista continue to struggle, though their football is becoming a little more coherent than it has been. Coach Jesualdo Ferreira said they had three finals to play to get themselves out of trouble. The first was at Portimonense (won). The second at home to Gil Vicente (lost). The third was Nacional at home, and they lost that one, too. The only goal of the game was by Nuno Santos, putting past his own keeper with a neat header at the near post just before the break. If they were as clinical up front (20 shots, two on target …) they might not be in the fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into. Captain Javi Garcia getting sent off on 75 minutes for a second yellow (handing off Kalindi to take a free kick) didn’t help matters. BFC are third from bottom, on the same 14 points as Famalicão. Next up? Away to Porto rivals FCP. Gulp.

Significant number: 4

(The goals scored by Portuguese players this jornada, from a total of 21 ... and one of them was an own goal [Boavista’s Nuno Santos v Nacional].)



Jornada 17 - 05/02/21

The Liga season reached its halfway point with a number of surprises over the 17 games: Sporting, with their youth/veterans mix, are still unbeaten and going (very) strong at the top; Benfica, with their €100m investment at the beginning of the season and return of coach Jorge Jesus from Flamengo, are stuttering; Paços de Ferreira, with a budget that’s a fraction of the Lisbon giant’s, are on the same number of points; surprise club last season, Famalicão, find themselves in the relegation places; on the same points as Fama are Boavista, still struggling to find their form after drafting in practically a whole new squad at the start.

Sporting travelled to Madeira to face Marítimo, a traditionally difficult trip for any team. But this Sporting are not just any team; two goals by the Liga’s top scorer, Pedro Gonçalves, meant that the Lions brought all three points back in the hold. Striker Paulinho, the most expensive signing in the club’s history (€16m), made a promising debut after his move from Braga. Marítimo, after a promising revival initially under coach Milton Mendes, who took over from Lito Vidigal from jornada 9, have three straight defeats and just three points from their last five games. MM might be looking over his shoulder because they’re pretty trigger-happy with coaches at CSM.

Sporting extended their lead at the top because their nearest rivals dropped points. FC Porto visited BSAD (‘Belenenses’ SAD) at the National Stadium. BSAD have the worst attack in the Liga (still just eight goals scored) but the third best defence (14 goals conceded). A certain lack of inspiration on the part of FCP translated into a 0-0 draw, though they were incensed about some of the refereeing decisions. “We were robbed!” said coach Sérgio Conceição, who will face disciplinary action for his words. He was unhappy about BSAD not being shown at least one red, and for an incident near the end when full-back Nanu was involved in an aerial collision with BSAD keeper Kritciuk and defender Ramires, leaving him in hospital with concussion and spinal traumatism. Porto trail Sporting by six points with an FCP v SCP coming up at the end of the month.

Benfica managed the same result at home against high-flying Vitória de Guimarães, with Jorge Jesus still at home recovering from Covid. VSC came to keep it tight, and SLB just didn’t have the nous to unlock their defence. They slip to 11 (!) points behind their Lisbon rivals; the way they’re playing, the smart money would be on them being unable to claw that difference back. VSC are four points behind Benfica and Paços but have a game in hand.

Paços de Ferreira march on. Their 2-1 win over Tondela was their 6th straight win, and they’re unbeaten in eight. All credit to coach Pepa, who has instilled a spirit of hard work and solidarity at the club. And yes, they’re 5th, on the same 34 points as Benfica.

Two points above them in 3rd are Braga, who edged out struggling Portimonense at The Quarry. Lucas Piazón got his first for the club after his move from Rio Ave, Aylton equalized for the Algarve side, then Ricardo Horta got the winner 20 minutes from time with what Portimão coach Paulo Sérgio called “a soft penalty”.

Another penalty, from Carlos Jr, gave Azores side Santa Clara a point at Farense, who had taken the lead with a neat back-heel-flick goal from captain Ryan Gauld; he’s put on a bit of muscle since his early days in Portugal, is a force in the Algarve side, and should by rights be on Steve Clarke’s radar for the Scotland side. Having said that, the dropped points would mean that Farense finished the primeira volta rock bottom of the Liga – a rude welcome for new coach Jorge Costa, taking over from Sérgio Vieira. But three points separate the bottom seven sides, so it’s far from over for them, or for any of those teams.

Gil Vicente are witnesses to that truth, leaping from the bottom two to 13th with a 2-1 win at Boavista. BFC coach Jesualdo Ferreira had called this and the two games to come – Nacional and FC Porto – finals. They looked strong early on but went behind to a Lino penalty for a foul by Reggie Cannon on the same Lino. Just before half-time, Paulinho put through his own goal for the Boavista equaliser. Then, with the final whistle just four minutes away, BFC central defender Devenish and keeper Léo Jardim got into a terrible mess, the ball fell for Barayé and the Senegalese forward found the empty net. The VAR had a word with the ref and it seemed clear from replays that Gil forward Marques had shoved Devenish in the back before the goal. The ref went to take a look for himself … and decided the goal should stand. “We were robbed!” said Boavista president Vítor Murta after the game, echoing the FC Porto coach’s words the day before. Boavista were left 3rd from bottom – an ignominious position for a club with such a rich history.

Sandwiched between Farense and Boavista are Famalicão. The first game of new coach Silas, replacing the sacked João Pedro Sousa, couldn’t have gone much worse: a 2-0 home defeat to Moreirense, who have their own newish coach, Vasco Seabra. That’s three straight defeats for Fama; how are (last season’s) mighty fallen!

Finally, yet another penalty could have decided it for Rio Ave at home to Nacional. Italian keeper Piscitelli had brought down Gelson Dala, deep into added time. Pelé approached the spot kick with a little shuffling run-up that fooled no one, least of all Piscitelli, who parried the poorly-placed kick. Pelé snapped at the loose ball and blasted over. Rio Ave are bubbling just above the relegation places, Nacional a more comfortable 9th.

Significant number: 11

(The number of points between leaders Sporting and their eternal Lisbon rivals Benfica.)



Jornada 16 - 31/01/21

(edited 02/02/21)

An important week at the top of the Liga. Leaders Sporting met Benfica at Alvalade, knowing that FC Porto had won earlier. A draw would leave both exposed to the FCP drive. A win for Benfica would keep them well in the mix. A win for Sporting would put nine points between them and their Lisbon rivals. The last outcome is the one that transpired.

In typical clássico fashion, there was much huffing and puffing, fouling, one-to-one duels (SCP’s teenage forward Tiago Tomás against veteran Otamendi was always fascinating) and little in the way of goalmouth action. Sporting had the best chance in the first half, a corner from the right glanced on by Tiago Tomás at the near post to the back post where the unmarked Neto … headed wide (though the angle was tricky). At the other end, Darwin Núñez was seeing if he could break offside records.

But it was Darwin who had the first chance in the second half, blasting a shot from ten metres that Adán parried. The second half was more open than the first, but still with little danger to the goals, and so it seemed that the game was heading for a share of the points … until the 92nd minute. Jovane Cabral, on as sub, crossed from the left, Pedro Porro picked the ball up, crossed it back, and Vlachodimos flapped it onto the head of Matheus Nunes, who half-dived to head in. Sporting remain unbeaten, while Benfica have dropped nine points in the last five games.

“It’s not over. No one in this group is giving up,” said Benfica’s stand-in coach João de Deus – Jorge Jesus was at home with Covid. But nine points is a lot to make up.

FC Porto’s 2-0 win at home to Rio Ave keeps them four points behind Sporting. It was a game in which they did just enough against a wobbly Rio Ave, now under coach Miguel Cardoso, returning to the club after a successful season there in 2017/18. Luis Díaz and Evanilson – after great work by Taremi – got the goals. Near the final whistle, Luis Díaz, a winger, sprinted and slid to save a corner and put the ball out for a throw-in; it’s that kind of spirit which suggests the Porto mystique is well and truly back. They’ve gone ten games unbeaten, with just two points dropped.

Now on the same 33 points as Benfica, Braga made easy work of Moreirense, with a 4-0 win in Moreira de Cónegos (MFC’s new coach Vasco Seabra lost 1-4 to Braga when at Boavista earlier in the season). After the game, Braga announced that striker Paulinho had been transferred to Sporting for €16m, Sporar and Borja going the other way; on tonight’s showing, they may not miss him.

There’s a bit of a battle going on for 5th and 6th place between Vitória de Guimarães and Paços de Ferreira. VSC nosed in front by a point, provisionally, with a 1-0 win over Marítimo on Sunday, but then the surprising Paços leapfrogged VSC again on Tuesday with a 2-1 win at Gil Vicente. On a night of torrential rain, João Amaral and veteran midfielder Luiz Carlos gave Paços a two-goal cushion by half-time, and they held that until the 87th minute when Iraqi forward Alaa Abbas netted, the goal allowed after a VAR check. Cue a desperate push for an equalizer by Gil, but Paços held out for their 5th straight win (for the first time in the club’s history in the top flight), 7th game unbeaten. And the goal they conceded against Gil was the first in those five wins. They’re now just two points off 3rd/4th spot (Benfica & Braga) and inviting comparisons with the record-breaking 2012/13 team that finished 3rd in the Liga with 54 points under now-AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca. Great work from unassuming coach Pepa. Gil, on the other hand, stay second bottom, although such is the closeness of the teams in the bottom half that a win for any immediately launches them into mid-table.

For Vitória against Marítimo, the marvellous Ricardo Quaresma spent much of the game firing pinpoint crosses in from the right, many to the back post where Rochinha, 1m69, was supposed to head them. He couldn’t. Then on 48 minutes, one of the crosses fell to Rochinha’s feet, he shot, Amir blocked it and the ball fell to Colombian striker Estupiñán, who made no mistake. At 37, Mustang (Quaresma) appears to be really enjoying his football and giving it 100% … like an irrepressible colt, in fact.

At the bottom, Farense picked up the ‘red lantern’ again after going down 2-0 at irregular Tondela, who moved to relative safety in mid-table (CDT’s last six games: LWLWLW). The defeat meant the sacking of coach Sérgio Vieira, the hero of last season’s promotion; such are the unwritten rules of football.

Famalicão also said goodbye to their coach, João Pedro Sousa, who was a hero last season too, leading a campaign that saw the club finish 6th, narrowly missing out on Europe. The final straw for the board was the 2-1 defeat at Nacional; Fama have three points from their last six games. Two second-half goals in five minutes for the Madeiran side, through Róchez and Francisco Ramos, did the damage and left Fama 4th from bottom, just two points above Farense. The second half was typical of games at the Choupana stadium, built halfway up a mountain; the mist rolled in and it became difficult to see exactly what was going on from the p.o.v. of the main camera, though the ground view was better, obviating the need to suspend the game.

Boavista moved off the bottom with only their second win of the season, 2-1 at Portimonense. In a first half in which they repeated their apparently default dismal performances, they went behind to an Ewerton goal but clawed back level just before the break through Honduran striker Alberth Elis. In the second half they put together some spells of much better football, while the Algarve side seemed to shrink, before Paulinho secured all three vital points for the Panthers.

Santa Clara scored back-to-back victories with a 2-0 win over Belenenses SAD on a lovely, sunny day in the Azores (c.f. recent appalling weather there); it was strange to see a five o’clock kick-off (four o’clock locally) on a Monday, but Covid …. BSAD still have only eight goals in 16 games; it’s a minor miracle that they’re not holding up the table.

(Gil Vicent host Paços de Ferreira on Tuesday.)

Significant number: 9

(Sporting’s lead over Benfica in 3rd, the number of goals they’ve conceded in 16 games [!] ... and the number of points dropped by Benfica in the last five games. Also, the number of points between 7th-placed Santa Clara and bottom club Farense.)



Jornada 15 - 24/01/21

Sporting kept their four-point lead at the top (now over FC Porto only – more on that later) with a 2-0 win at hapless Boavista. In a first half in which they had 70% possession, Sporting did what they wanted and Boavista showed nothing going forward. SCP took the lead on 22 minutes, Nuno Santos, guiding home a delicate cross from Nuno Mendes. He looked suspiciously offside, the VAR had a look, and a couple of minutes later the goal was given. The critical distance? Ten centimetres onside. Just before the break, Boavista’s Colombian centre-back Porozo, drafted in with Rami to replace the suspended Chidozie and Devenish, cleared a Jovane shot off the line, then keeper Léo Jardim saved with his feet from João Mário, who should have scored. In the second half, Boavista were much improved, but such is the poor quality of their play this season that it didn’t mean much. Still, the result was in doubt until the 77th minute when full-back Pedro Porro easily rounded BFC’s Nuno Santos and unleashed a blistering shot from 25 metres that sailed into the top left-hand corner. Sporting were very good for their win, while Boavista are playing the worst football in the Liga and sadly deserve to be where they are, holding ‘the red lantern’. They have one win this season, and that happened ten games ago.

Sporting’s Lisbon neighbours Benfica slipped up again, dropping two points for the third time in four games. Their starting line-up was decimated by positive Covid tests: ten players were out, including Vlachodimos, Grimaldo, Waldschmidt, Gilberto, Vertonghen, and Otamendi. Even so, a club of SLB’s stature should perhaps have got more from a home game against a team hugging the bottom reaches of the table and with three straight defeats. Benfica had asked Nacional to postpone the game, but the Madeiran club are no mugs; you don’t get a shot at a weakened Benfica every day of the week. So the game went ahead, and so did Benfica on 14 minutes through Chiquinho, who Jorge Jesus has asked the Board to keep despite interest from abroad. But three minutes into the second half, Honduran striker Bryan Róchez was quickest to a cross to the back post on the right and headed in from point blank range, stand-in full-back João Ferreira particularly guilty of daydreaming. And that was that. It would have been Eusébio’s 79th birthday … and he would have been turning in his grave at his club’s poor form.

FC Porto were the first team to take advantage of Benfica’s woes, bringing all three points back from the Algarve against a lowly but resilient Farense. Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi got his 8th Liga goal of the season, knocking the ball coolly home after a surging run down the right and low cross from full-back Manafá. Defendi in the Farense goal kept FCP at bay on more than one occasion, with Bure and Cássio providing blocks to goal-bound shots from Uribe and Otávio respectively. But Farense had their chances also, notably late in the 2nd half when the ball hit the woodwork twice in quick succession through Mbemba (a potential own goal) and Seco. The Lions of the south coast will have been miffed at what looked to be a clear penalty for handball by Corona, spotted by neither the ref nor the VAR. FCP could also have had a penalty for Cássio’s high studs-up challenge (to the shoulder!) on Marega. But FCP weathered a late storm and the Taremi goal proved enough. The tension must have got to the Porto players; at the final whistle, captain Pepe and Loum, on as sub, had a go at each other in the centre-circle and were lucky not to get cards from the ref, who was on hand to break them up.

Braga got the slimmest of victories at the Quarry over struggling Gil Vicente, who have three straight defeats and one point from the last four games. The goal came on 73 minutes, Iuri Medeiros finishing off a threaded through pass by Paulinho, the latter making amends for hitting the post from the spot on 33 minutes after Nogueira had brought down Galeno. The same Galeno hit the loose ball against the bar. Braga keep 4th place, now only three points behind Benfica.

Paços de Ferreira march on, this time with a 3-0 win at Marítimo – their 4th in a row and 6th unbeaten. They were very clinical against a CSM that were also in form, with ten points bagged from their last five games. Hélder Ferreira laid off for Bruno Costa to strike the first on 29 minutes, veteran midfielder Luiz Carlos made it two on 48 after Amir had spilled a catchable shot, and the same Luiz Carlos fed sub Luther Singh on 85 to complete the scoring. Paços’ coach Pepa praised the squad’s spirit and it’s true; they seem very buoyant and went provisionally 4th after this win, slipping back to 5th after Braga’s win.

Vitória de Guimarães keep in touch with Paços after a 1-0 win at Famalicão, who just can’t seem to put a string of results together and are hovering perilously close to the drop zone. André Almeida got the only goal for VSC.

The gap between Vitória and the first of the peloton, Moreirense, widened to eight points; MFC could manage only a 2-2 draw at home to Portimonense, Rafael Martins getting his first goal on his return to Portuguese football from a 3-year spell in China.

Joining Moreirense on 18 points are Santa Clara, who got their first win in six games, away to very irregular Rio Ave. The winner came late in the game from midfielder Hidemasa Morita, signed from Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale.

Also with their first win in six games, and scoring more than one goal for only the second time this season, Belenenses SAD beat Tondela 2-0 at the National Stadium, helping them to leap to mid-table.

Significant number: 6

(Santa Clara and Belenenses won their first game in six, Paços de Ferreira have gone six undefeated, … and Benfica have dropped six points from their last four games.) 



Jornada 14 - 17/01/21

(edited 17/02/21)

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.

(With better weather, the game was completed on 17 February. Vitória will be kicking themselves for letting two points slide: Pepelu had put them in front, heading in f rom a corner, Gauld equalised from the spot after Jorge Fernandes brought down Madi Queta, and Marcus Edwards made it 2-1 from 20 metres. On 60 minutes, Farense’s Alex Pinto was sent off for a second yellow, and it seemed that VSC would be able to kick on ... but ten minutes from time, Stojiljkovic headed in from a long-throw on the left, and a point was heading back to the Algarve. While that point was valuable in Farense’s fight to avoid the drop, Vitória’s two dropped points left them three points behind Paços de Fereira in 6th.)

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.

(Vitória played their postponed game v Nacional on 21/01/21, winning 3-1, the goals coming from Ricardo Quaresma - a trivela from the edge of the box - Estupiñán and Lucas Kal with an own goal; Gorré had put Nacional in front on 16 minutes.)

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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