Portugal close gap on Russia in UEFA Coefficient after Guimaraes earn late victory in Luxembourg
It was far from convincing, but Guimaraes managed to grab a narrow 0-1 victory over Jeunesse Esch in their Europa League second qualifying round clash in Luxembourg.
Guimaraes went into the match as overwhelming favourites, and had plenty of opportunities to put the game to bed, but failed to convert their possession into goals.
Their goal came as late as they come though; in the 93rd minute, a cushioned chest down by Davidson was met on the volley by Joseph Amoah, who lashed the ball through the ‘keepers legs and into the back of the net.
It was a goal of relief, Guimaraes getting that crucial away goal that puts them in the driving seat going into the second leg in Portugal.
It was Ivo Vieira’s first competitive match in charge of Guimaraes, and he will be pleased to have avoided an embarrassing opening result, albeit narrowly.
The second leg takes place next Thursday, and should Guimaraes win over the two legs, they will then face one of Ventspils or Gzira United in the third qualifying round. It is likely to be the former, who earned a 4-0 home victory in the first leg over their Maltese opponents.
Portugal making strides to catch Russia in the UEFA Coefficient?
The benefit of Guimaraes’ victory is not only for the club itself, but also for the nation as a whole. With Portugal currently sitting 7th in the UEFA Coefficient rankings, they are only allocated one automatic place in the Champions League group stage, with another club (the Primeira Liga runners-up) getting a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
Meanwhile, Russia, who are ranked 6th in the UEFA Coefficients, get 2 automatic Champions League group stage allocations, in addition to a third spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
It is therefore highly desirable to catch Russia in the coefficient rankings - and Portugal are making good strides to do just that.
Indeed, last season, due to Benfica and Porto’s endeavours in the Europa League and Champions League respectively, Portugal earned 10.900 points for the UEFA Coefficient last campaign alone. Russia, by contrast, earned just 7.583 points collectively, meaning that Portugal closed the gap on Russia by 3.370 points.
It meant that Portugal were just 1.734 points behind Russia going into this season - and if Portugal perform to the level they did last year, they are in a good position to catch Russia in the rankings and earn an additional Champions League qualifying berth.
And there has only been further good news for Portugal in their bid to catch Russia in the UEFA Coefficient, with Russian outfit Arsenal Tula falling to a shock 0-1 home defeat to FK Neftchi in the Europe League second qualifying round.
It means that, while Guimaraes earned points towards Portugal’s UEFA Coefficient, Russia remain as they were at the start of play, meaning that Portugal are already starting to make up ground on Russia in the rankings.
The chances of Portugal catching Russia by the end of the season are looking promising, but will heavily rely on at least 4 of the 5 teams performing to high standard in European competition this season.
Indeed, Portugal are, officially, actually behind Russia in terms of UEFA Coefficent points this season alone, due to both Zenit and Lokomotiv being awarded 4 bonus points each as a result of already qualifying for the Champions League group stage.
For Portugal, only Benfica are guaranteed to be in the Champions League group stage, and therefore are the only ones to be given the 4 points bonus:
That is inevitable at this point though, and is no cause for concern; indeed, Portugal should quite easily be able to make up that deficit and it’s so far so good in Portugal’s bid to leapfrog Russia in the UEFA Coefficient.