Artur the Hero as Benfica Make History

Artur played a huge part in Benfica's win. Photo Andre Alves/ASF

Artur played a huge part in Benfica’s win. Photo Andre Alves/ASF

Rio Ave 0-0 SL Benfica (2-3 on Penalties)


Artur the hero as Benfica make history

Benfica won their fifth Supertaça and fourth domestic title of 2014 as they met Taça de Portugal runners up Rio Ave for the opening fixture of the new Portuguese footballing season. The clubs made their 16th and maiden appearance, respectively, in the annual Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira at the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro in front of a crowd just short of 30 000. A replay of the Taça de Portugal and Taça da Liga finals, both sides hoped to add some silverware to their trophy cabinets in the hope of gaining some much needed momentum ahead of the league’s commencement in under a week’s time.

 SL Benfica: Artur; Maxi, Luisão, Jardel, Eliseu; Salvio (Bebé 106), Talisca (Derley 69), Enzo Perez, Ruben Amorim; Gaitán (Ola John 100) and Lima

Rio Ave: Cássio; Nuno Lopes (Wakaso 88), Marcelo, Prince-Désir, Tiago Pinto; Pedro Moreira (Diego Lopes 55), Filipe Augusto, Tarantini; Ukra, Hassan (Boateng 55) and Del Valle

Benfica’s line-up was an adaptable 4-4-2, with young Brazilian signing Talisca playing off Lima as a second striker, accompanied by the usual cast of Enzo and co. The greatest change was seen at the back, with a new-look left side as Jardel replaced Garay, with Eliseu at left-back.

Rio Ave came into the match with competitive fixtures under their belt having earned a spot in the play-offs of the Europa League. Pedro Martins chose a starting eleven including Pedro Moreira and Valencia-bound Brazilian youngster Filipe Augusto playing behind captain Tarantini. Both Lopes and Pinto would provide attacking threat from full back, with a talented front three consisting of Ukra, Hassan and Del Valle.

Talisca lively as Benfica dominate

From the outset, Benfica showed an attacking intent demonstrative of Jesus’ footballing mentality, nearly scoring as early as the 3rd minute with a dangerous Gaitán set-piece. Delivered into the heart of the box, it was met by a dangerous header from Luisão that was well-saved by Cassio.

Eliseu and Maxi both provided danger from the flanks, the latter blasting an effort across the face of goal, with Talisca’s outstretched leg at the second post only centimetres from searching from a defining touch

Gaitán and Salvio were efficient with their play, cutting in and running laterally, with Talisca’s incisive runs the outlet, although his shots lacked polished, seen just after 20 minutes when given a golden chance to break the deadlock from a Gaitán ball after cutting in from the right.

Benfica’s dominance continued through the first-half, accounting for of 67% possession, with chances created at a premium, as an Eliseu cross resulted in two consecutive opportunities for Salvio, the first cleared off the line by Prince and the second saved.

Rio Ave continued to struggle to muster any real attacking threat as constant pressure from Benfica, especially from Ruben Amorim as the midfield anchor, and Enzo, with the latter’s work ethic duly awarded with man-of-the-match.

The northern club’s best chance came from a silly error from frango-prone Artur, taking on his opponent and nearly losing the ball in the process to Venezuelan De Valle. This short-lived respite from a Benfica attack didn’t last long, as a quick counter-attack after a clearance was followed by a Talisca effort down the throat of Cássio who coughed it up to the oncoming Gaitán who couldn’t finish it.


Martins’ move earns some respite but Benfica roll on

The second half brought with it several changes in personnel, skewing the tie slightly more towards Rio Ave’s favour, although Benfica still continued to pepper Cássio’s goal. Martins showed his attacking intent in bringing on Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Boateng for the ineffective Hassan, and Diego Lopes for Moreira. Both showed their intent going forward in taking advantage of space left in between the Benfica’s lines and down the flanks.

This change stemmed the flow of Benfica chances but still brought little to change the complexion of the game as the capital club settled back into their rhythm; recording a total of 32 shots to Rio Ave’s 5. Jesus brought on former Marítimo striker for Talisca in the hopes of putting the game to bed, fruitless as the match remained scoreless upon the end of normal time.


Cassio heroics nearly the difference

The first-half of extra-time started with two Benfica set pieces, a corner and free-kick, leading to two stunning saves from the Brazilian shot stopper from Enzo and Jardel headers, respectively.

Jesus took initiative, bringing on Bebé and Ola John, but the last two chances fell to Rio Ave, both from corners. The first nearly snuck in, with Artur having to palm it over the bar. The second came at the 118th minute, Jardel misreading the ball’s projection, steering the ball onto the bar!

The match ended after 120 minutes with still no goals to account for, leaving the result to be decided by dreaded penalties.


Redemption for Artur

The battle of the keepers continued into penalties as the first two spot kicks were saved by Brazilian shot stoppers. Launching himself off his line, Artur guessed right, saving skipper Tarantini’s penalty. Cássio followed suit with a brilliant save from Derley. Finely dispatched penalties from Augusto, Lima, Ukra and Bebé followed; but the much maligned Artur was the hero with three penalty saves to his name.

Jesus Jorge and his Benfica side were justly rewarded for their sheer dominance in a game earmarked by the heroics of Rio Ave keeper Cássio and a tenacious Rio Ave defence. Although their general play was largely excellent, Jesus still has work to do as his side was dogged by inefficiencies in the final third. With reinforcements needed in various positions, underlined by Jesus himself; a lot can be taken from a positive performance. It is paramount that established players, such as man-of-the-match and midfield lynchpin Enzo, stay on. Both sides will have a lot to take from the match in Os Encarnados’ vying for more silverware and Rio Ave’s journey through Europe as the new season goes under way in less than a week.

-Mitchell Rua

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