FC Porto 1-0 Braga; Tondela 1-3 Benfica; Sporting CP 2-1 Chaves
All of Portugal’s Big Three sides earned victory this weekend as Braga’s title challenge took a significant hit.
The match of the weekend was undoubtedly the clash at the top, with Porto and Braga, joint first before kick-off with 21 points apiece, battling it out to separate themselves from the chasing pack.
Despite the lack of goals for nearly 90 minutes, the match generally lived up to its billing; both Porto and Braga had great chances to take the lead and, despite the former having the lion share of possession, it was Braga that came particularly close, hitting the crossbar on two separate occasions as their dream title charge was narrowly denied.
And, as is often the case in football, Braga’s lack of clinical finishing was punished when, in the 88th minute, Tiquinho Soares headed home Otavio’s cross to deliver a killer-blow to Braga’s aspirations, pulling three points clear of Abel Ferreira’s men.
Meanwhile, Sporting narrowly avoided dropping two points in arguably fortuitous circumstances. Having first taken the lead against relegation-threatened Chaves in the 23rd minute when Bast Dost, as he so often does, headed in Marcus Acuna’s cross, the points looked to be all sewn up when Chaves were then reduced to ten men when Bruno Gallo saw red with just 20 minutes to go.
However, against the odds, Chaves pulled the game back on level terms in the 81st minute, when Niltinho blasted a wonderful long-range curling effort into the back of the net off the inside of the far post, putting Sporting’s hopes of securing all three points in jeopardy.
However, just five minutes later and with just four minutes of normal time remaining, Bas Dost earned a debatable penalty after challenging for the ball, being held by substitute William Oliveira, and made no mistake in finding the back of the net after sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Benfica also stayed within touching distance of both Porto and Sporting, earning a victory of their own. It was, however, unconvincing, and they had to come from behind to secure the points as Tondela took the lead after just 40 seconds of the game had been played after Conti directed the ball into his own net. It was no doubt a concerning sight for manager Rui Vitoria, who had found himself coming under increasing scrutiny after failing to win any of his previous four fixtures, and this seemed a game he couldn’t afford to lose.
However, Benfica were not behind for long after veteran Brazilian striker Jonas found the back of the net after nine minutes, headering home Andre Almeida’s whipped cross.
Things were looking precarious for Benfica though, who were still level as the hour mark approached. But they were helped by the dismissal of Tondela’s David Bruno and, in the 64th minute, Seferovic turned in Almeida’s low cross to finally give Benfica the lead they were seeking. Benfica then increased their advantage and sealed all three points courtesy of Rafa Silva, before Tondela’s night got even worse, reduced to nine players after Icaro then saw red for a poor challenge.