Week in Review: Portuguese Football Highs and Lows


Luka Zahovic in action against Sporting midweek

Luka Zahovic in action against Sporting midweek

With another Liga week wrapped up and the opening round of the Champions League being contested by 3 Portuguese teams, there was a lot of interesting stories to read. So here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in Portuguese Football:


 

Liga Match Round-up

As I was posting my report from abroad last week I only managed to catch and cover the stunning Benfica victory over Setubal, but the games didn’t stop there as there was a few setbacks for the clubs at the top of the Primeira Liga.

Rio Ave ended their impressive run with a tie to lowly Moereirense away 1-1.

Porto’s blazing hot start got hosed down away to Guimaraes in a 1-1 draw. Porto stumbled for the first time this season with the opportunity to gain sole possession of the lead in the Premeira Liga much to the shock horror of their fans. Accolades have to go to Guimaraes who stayed at the top of the table with their gutsy performance.

Sporting unfortunately continued their frustrating start to the season as they were also held to a 1-1 draw at home in the Lisbon derby with Belenenses.

This all culminated in a 4 way tie at the top of the Primeira Liga with Rio Ave, Guimaraes, Benfica, & Porto leading the way. Sporting has dropped back to 8th spot behind Belenenses, not a good start to the campaign for their loyal fans but their team still has a lot of potential.

With the Big 3 going into important Champions League matches the news to start the week focused on them so let’s cover what was going on in the headlines mid-week for the Big 3.

Benfica

SLB was kicking off first and we teamed up with RussianFootballNews.com to do an in-depth Preview of the match at the Luz between hot Russian giants Zenit who ventured to Lisbon to face the fiery Eagles.

Unfortunately as noted in my report one of the weaknesses of Benfica was the slow back 4, mainly referring to Jardel. In the end Andre Villas-Boas wisely attacked the loss of Garay in the backline and used Hulk to give Jardel & Eliseu fits, leading to an early goal. With the subsequent dismissal of Artur after a clumsy challenge on Danny of Zenit, the writing was pretty much on the wall. The nails in the coffin came from two Liga exports as Hulk and Witsel bulged the twine to give Zenit the win.

As one user so aptly put on twitter if you can’t beat them, buy them as Zenit has done.

Porto & Benfica are now both tasting home defeat to the Zenit Mega Million Squad in subsequent CL campaigns. Ouch!

I have to say though I was impressed with the SLB player’s character on the pitch as even though they were down to 10 men they continued to fight and had some glorious chances to score in an end to end battle, unfortunately it was not meant to be, but the fans sure did praise their home team for their effort in the end.

High praise has to go to Luisao as he had 4 opportunities to score in attack and was tooling Garay in the air. On the defensive end he did everything in his power to overcome the Hulk v Jardel mismatch by running around his team-mate many times throughout the night to go stop Hulk. But Hulk and AVB forced the match-up at every possible moment, much to their credit.

Also hitting the headlines was Mourinho’s love affair with Talisca, after his 3 goal performance on the weekend for Benfica. It led to an amusing back and forth battle of the big heads as Jesus said the talented Talisca was not even on anyone’s radar, and was quickly retorted by the Special One saying he doesn’t like when a professional colleague doubts his words. Mourinho says that Talisca is one of two long-term targets for Chelsea. Fortunately for Benfica LFV did a grand job of making his release clause 45 mil.

O Jogo reported that the Spy’s were out en mass at the Luz scouting the Eagles as Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, QPR, Southampton, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were all in the house to watch SLB.

Not all Benfica runaways had success this week though as Oblak got thoroughly routed in Greece in-between the Atletico posts.

Sporting

Continuing on the Lisbon sour note in the Champions League, Sporting travelled to Slovenia to take on minnow Maribor in the first round. Everything looked in control with a Nani wonder goal in the 80th minute, but 18 year old Portuguese born Zahovic nodded home in injury time to stop the Sporting celebration train in its tracks. Another cruel twist in the early season SportingCP campaign that has them on 4 draws from 5 games. This had Manager Marco Silva in a furor as he slammed his team for their performances.

Nani continued to be a lightning rod of headlines, as the mercurial winger got agitated with Sporting management in a press row. His scintillating goal also brought many pundits out of the wood work to talk about his definite talent and why Manchester United was right to loan him out, Jamie Carragher made his opinion heard on the subject. But it was not all bad on the night as Nani proved a match for Messi, topping the CL.

In other news Wenger talked about how he regretted narrowly losing out on Cristiano Ronaldo back when he was at Sporting.

E Pa if you weren’t so cheap you could’ve had him, and you are going to miss out on another Portuguese legend in William Carvalho by being frugal, as Manchester United and many other clubs are in the hunt for the Patrick Vieira type midfield defensive juggernaut.

Porto

After the draw on the weekend Porto came out guns a blazing in the mid-week Champions League clash with BATE Borisov and thoroughly thrashed their opponents 6-0 in the game of the week. UEFA proclaimed them Team of the Week and had Brahimi make their exclusive squad list chosen by media members from around Europe.

Brahimi has been a juggernaut ever since transferring to Porto and became only the 7th player in UCL to record a hat-trick in debut for his team. It was an awesome night as the Strikers also got in on the action with Martinez & Aboubakar scoring too.

Although it was not all dazzling headlines in the Porto performance of the week as Danilo took some major flack for one of the worst dives in recent memory, talk about adding insult to a score line injury. Why tarnish such a great result?

Lopetegui was quick to temper the result saying “We go home mildly satisfied, since there are five games left. Now we are on top of the group, but there’s a long way ahead of us.” I must admit when he was hired I was wary of him as a Manager at such a big club like Porto with high expectations and pedigree, but I have to say he impresses me more and more as the weeks go by.

It was nice to see Porto at the top of the headlines worldwide for positive reasons as the headlines in all the major media outlets recently from Portugal have been for all the wrong reasons (Portugal’s loss to Albania). Porto too had many spies out to watch their match.

Unfortunately with only Porto winning in Europe, that dropped us in the co-efficient nation ranking below Serie A, although as I pointed out to @Portista one week does not make a year, and I believe the Liga teams in the end will get better results than their Italian counterparts.

Portuguese National Futebol Team

With Bento fired/leaving many headings of interest popped up concerning the National Team. Portugal needs a Manager and it is not an easy decision to make, and should take some due diligence in acquiring the right Manager to coach one of the most talented teams on the planet.

With Roberto Mancini saying it would be an honour to coach Portugal, especially with Ronaldo in their ranks as he makes it extra interesting it made for an interesting week. Bundesligapremier reported that he is close to signing (you’ll need translation software for that one), but I don’t necessarily believe in that as the FPF has a clear Xenophobic policy that requires a Portuguese ear that they can bend.

Other names to hit the headline as possible Managers are Jardim at Monaco and of course Fernando Santos who is currently serving an 8 match ban for his theatrics during the World Cup for Greece. Many fans want him for some reason including questionable reports. Santos has apparently asked for a quick decision regarding his appeal to help his cause, but anyone in their right mind who takes a look at career honours can’t think a Portuguese puppet like Santos is the right man for the job. Here are the career honours for Mancini and Santos so you can verify the results for yourself.

I am not saying Mancini is the man for the job, just saying that the FPF should take a look at all the best candidates for the job no matter what their nationality is, and Santos is not the man. CR’s window of opportunity is dwindling as we speak, and if not for poor management he would probably already have an International trophy to back up his stellar career.

The continual use of 4-3-3’s against the minnows of this world have taken their toll on this squad. What the national team needs is a tactician to balance the squads flare with a game plan, especially when it comes to dead ball situations. Their lack of organization and creativity has cost Portugal many a big game.

So for me Mancini should be the front runner at this point, but any other major tactician should be considered also. Portugal needs a Manager that when the FPF comes calling says “Leave me to do my job, or fire me.” Unfortunately not many Portuguese Managers have that sort of clout.

This has led to many people coming out of the wood work to voice their opinions on the subject, including Mourinho who says he has no interest in taking the job now he would like to finish his career as Portuguese Supreme Leader. Although distancing himself from the role he was very xenophobic in his response to Mancini’s interest, “Portugal should be coached by a Portuguese. If the federation have problems picking one it’s not for lack of options or quality.”

This annoyed Mancini who retorted with, “I thought Mourinho was the manager of Chelsea and not the President of the Portuguese FA.”

Mancini concluded with, “Would I be the Portugal Coach? It would be fantastic, because they are one of the most talented sides in European football and any Coach would love that job.”

Clearly Mancini has an eye for talent with this statement, henceforth should be considered for the Portuguese Supreme Leader role (tongue-in-cheek).

In other interesting Portugal news Tom from PortuGOAL posed the question if Luka Zahovic the Lion tamer was the answer to Portugal’s Striker problem.The Portuguese born Slovenian Zahovic was quoted as saying, “If I received a proposal to play for the two national sides I would have to think hard about it, but I’d probably choose Portugal.”
Anyways I am sure many more headlines are coming in the near future as it pertains to the National Team so stay tuned.

Let’s round-up this week’s Highs and Lows in Portuguese Football:


Highs

  • Porto Crushing in UCL – Team of the Week
  • Brahimi on fire
  • Mancini’s love affair with our National Team
  • Nani’s wonder goal
  • Close battle at the top of the Primeira Liga
  • Lopetegui’s Management skills
  • Zahovic choosing Portugal first
  • The major Scouting of Liga teams

Lows

  • Benfica losing badly at home to Zenit
  • Artur Red Card
  • Jardel’s play in the UCL
  • Porto dropping points in the Liga
  • Sporting dropping UCL points to a minnow in injury time
  • Mourinho and the FPF’s Xenophobic views
  • Danilo’s shameful dive
  • Sporting drawing their Lisbon Derby with Belenenses
  • Hulk vs Jardel mismatch

Once again another interesting week in the Headlines for Portuguese Football, follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

Make sure you check out Mitchell Rua’s in-depth article on Marcos Lopes, who many believe is ready to make the step up to the full Portuguese National Team. Also, PortugalFutbol was happy to welcome Daniel Martins to our writing team this week. Feel free to give him a shoutout in the comment section on his introductory article!

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