Week in Review – Portuguese Football Highs and Lows


Jose MourinhoIt was a week where fortunes changed in the Portuguese Liga with Benfica soaring ahead in the standings as usual there were 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

It was a trying time for the teams a top of the Primeira Liga and no one came out of the weekend matches unscathed.

Friday brought us the clash of the giants as Sporting faced off with Porto in the Classico, an exciting duel between two of the Big 3. Sporting drew first blood carrying their momentum from their 4-0 thrashing of Gil Vicente, scoring early on with a goal from Jonathon Silva in the 2nd minute.

It was a dream opening for Sporting CP and they controlled much of the first half, unlucky to only get a one goal lead.

After a double switch Porto swapped Tello/Oliver on for Quaresma and Neves this drove FCP back into the match applying enough pressure to cause Sporting fans to worry resulting in Sarr scoring an own goal in the 55m, that drew the teams level. Porto clearly was the better of the two in the second half and in the end a draw was a fair result for both sides.

So far the battle of the Big 3 has been extremely exciting with both matches ending in a draw.

Benfica on the other hand went to Estoril looking to wrestle a 4 point lead atop of the standings and they came out on fire with Anderson Talisca scoring two quick goals to put Benfica into a comfortable lead 8 minutes from the start. Unfortunately for SLB some players were too comfortable and the holes in the backline and DM position were exposed. Samaris, Jardel, and Eliseu looked at sorts at times defensively and it allowed Estoril to come back and draw level by the 53rd minute with goals from Amado and Kleber.

Fortunately for the Red & White, Cabrera took an unnecessary second yellow card on a rash challenge and was sent off allowing Benfica to wrestle back control of the game. Within minutes of the sending off and the substitution of Samaris for the ill-favoured Ola John, Benfica retook the lead on a goal by Lima (which made it 2 weeks on the trop that he has scored). It was smooth sailing from there to the win but questions have to be asked of Jorge Jesus and his squad selections, as Samaris is more suited to a box to box role, the better option at that position is Almeida who came on later in the game and only got a mere seconds to play. Also JJ’s love affair with Jardel who has been exposed badly in repeated matches, with a game Lopez on the bench, also comes into question. Not to mention his adoration of Derley who has got in 4 games so far and is the first sub off the bench is confounding considering he hasn’t scored a goal and rarely looks dangerous. JJ’s squad selections are clearly a detriment to the Portuguese players on the bench who haven’t had a look in yet, namely Oliveira, Bebe, and Pizzi and are much more deserving of a run out. In the end Benfica won rightfully but made much more work of it than they should have.

There were a couple more important matches in this weekend’s Liga battles one of which was Sporting Braga taking on goal smashing Rio Ave at home. Braga silenced everyone by crushing the Cinderella team 3-0 on the back of goals by Ze Luis, Micael, and Pardo all in the second half. SCB has vaulted into the 4th spot in the table off of this result, and another team at the top in Rio Ave took a tumble this week.

V. Guimaraes’ impressive start has come to an abrupt halt, as they traveled to Madeira to tumble down the Liga table and be leap frogged by their hosts in the standings. Maritimo scored 4 goals in the first half before taking pity on their visitors. Fransergio had 2, Costa, and Maazou added singles in the one sided win.

The Big 3 as usual made a lot of headlines this week so let’s review what made the headings in a busy week of news.

Benfica

Headlines continued to be churned out over Mourinho’s stalking of Benfica hero Talisca as he has apparently been scouting him for 2 years even though the youngster has snubbed Chelsea for Benfica, Jose won’t take no for an answer and has vowed to target Benfica’s leading scorer.

Many other headings covered Benfica’s soaring into sole possession at the top of the Liga, even as far as Texas. Much news was made of Eliseu’s pile driver gollasso.

This led to many teams eyeing up Benfica talent again with Inter looking at Salvio, Juve targeting Luisao on the cheap.

Even the Benfica youth ranks got in the headlines as Jose Gomez’s stunning volley helped the Portugal U17’s beat Slovenia.

Much has been made of Benfica’s developing of young talent from their Junior ranks as well as the lack of room for them with the senior A squad, many are thriving away from JJ’s bench. In that respect the majority of the Portuguese contingent in the A squad have had their time limited or have not played at all. Bebe for example wants to prove his greatness after a flop at Manchester United.

Former Benfica stars like Matic are on the rise for their respective clubs, as well as Rodrigo at Valencia.

On Benfica’s radar is Atletico CP striker Bjorn Maars Johnsen whom they are thinking of luring the striker to the Luz.

USA Today reported about Benfica’s win over Estoril on the weekend.

It should be a busy week as SLB travels to Germany for a Champions League clash against Levekusen so expect a rash of Previews on the match-up hitting the headlines early this week.

Sporting

Nani made the headlines for his spectacular goal in the Sporting route of Gil Vicente to start the week off on a good note, some reports rubbed in salt on the Manchester United wound, they who discarded Nani and are off to a humiliating start. Some reports praised Man U as they viewed the Nani loan as player development so that he could puff out his chest once again. In my opinion the only one deserving credit besides Nani is Bruno de Carvalho who attained the loan with an imploding Man U footing the majority of Nani’s wage bill.

Sporting has finally found their form which is good, but the headings turned stormy towards the end of the week as we were inundated with some Sporting negative press. Suggestions were made that William Carvalho was unsatisfied at Sporting and that he tried to force a transfer, which he quickly denied, saying, “I’ve always been satisfied at Sporting,” Although this hasn’t stopped speculation that Arsenal are keen to snap up the Defensive Monster in January.

Reports also surfaced that Mahmoud Shikabala has been disciplined by Sporting because of his failure to report after international duty. He is the 3rd such player to be disciplined by the no-nonsense BdC with Rojo and Slimani being the others, both also for failure to show up.

Things got pretty ugly in the Sporting camp as reports surfaced that UEFA was investigating SCP for a Financial Fair Play violation. They weren’t the only ones to be investigated as Liverpool, Roma, Inter Milan, Besiktas, and Monaco are also under the governing body’s microscope. Sad news for dedicated fans that have been happy with the continued improvement since the Godinho Lopes era, and sanctions could affect Sporting’s ability to compete especially in Europe. Bruno de Carvalho has masterfully raised the SCP stock value and with the club on the verge of becoming perennial challengers once again this setback would not be good for Portuguese Futebol as well as the Sporting faithful who have had to endure a lot of suffering the last few seasons. Hopefully BdC can get the club out of the 3rd Party mess, as well as get a green light from UEFA investigators in the process.

Ryan Gauld made the headlines again asking if he is ready to step up to the Scottish Messi moniker.

News of the Sporting v Chelsea Champions League match started making the rounds with Ex-Liga star Ramires out of the clash between the two giants at the Alvalade. Diego Costa is also doubtful for the encounter with a hamstring injury.

Mourinho was up to his usual mind games ahead of the clash suggesting that Chelsea have a Sporting chance of winning. Even though Sporting has an impressive record at home going unbeaten in 16 matches in European play. The former Sporting Assistant Mourinho won’t stop there and more headlines will be made before the opening whistle Tuesday in Lisbon, even in the face of SCP’s fearsome record.

We will close with an interesting guide for Chelsea fans visiting Sporting Lisbon.

Porto

Porto started the week off regrouping after the disappointing away draw to Boavista in the torrential downpour that almost saw the game called off.

Former Porto stars Fernando and Mangala have been making a lot of waves in the EPL demonstrating the class of the Porto Player factory. Especially Mangala who has been mentioned in many media outlets considered the Man at Man City yet he still is on the bench for the most part. He made his dream debut against Chelsea on the weekend coming out with high praise. Although it was reported that Mourinho rejected the opportunity to buy the Center Back in the summer, balking at the price, a decision that could come back to haunt him considering how well Mangala handled Diego Costa on the weekend.

Friday brought about the Classico with Sporting which had many viewers interested. The exciting battle made headlines all over the planet as Porto snatched a draw and were unlucky in the end not to get the win.

A good result considering, but some loyal fans might be worried that it is 3 draws in a row, which has slowed down the Porto express train that came out of the gate flying. Not to worry it is still early in the campaign and it will be a close battle all season for the eventual team that becomes Liga champions. The four point gap has been closed a couple of times in the last few seasons, so there is still so much to play for, and Porto’s player depth looks good. More concerning was the Casemiro ankle injury.

Match previews will start rolling out for Porto’s visit to war torn Ukraine where their match with Shakhtar Donesk has been moved to the Arena Lviv. Here is the UEFA background on the two opponents. Watch out for a flood of previews making news before Tuesdays clash between Shakhtar and Porto.

Portuguese National Futebol Team

The FPF came out of their moment of silence after the dismissal of Paulo Bento (following the appalling loss to Albania) with a confounding decision to hire Fernando Santos as the National Team Manager. What makes the decision extremely perplexing is that Santos is currently serving an 8 match ban from FIFA from his time with Greece in this summer’s World Cup.

The Federation’s decision has many fans and pundits divided on the new hire, with some saying it is a good hire and others like me angry at the selection.

Clearly Santos was not the most qualified for the position especially in light of Roberto Mancini saying it would be an honour to coach Portugal. Once again the FPF has proven that they would rather have an inbred Manager that they can manipulate and bend an ear on than a World Class tactical Coach that could take a team full of flair players and transform them into International trophy winners.

Santos is not even the most qualified Portuguese Manager for the job with Vitor Pereira, Jesualdo Fereira, and many others ahead of him in coaching honours.

What made the whole situation ludicrous is that he won’t even be able to manage the National squad for 8 matches by which point we could be eliminated from the Euro 2016 tournament altogether.

Wouldn’t the sensible decision have been (since Santos will be out of the main event action till roughly November 2015 unless more matches are added to the calendar or FIFA reduces the ban) to have hired an Interim Manager and then possibly had more options on a new more qualified Manager in the long-term?

This isn’t a Liga ban, 8 games for the National team is more than a full calendar year. The FPF have put themselves in an untenable position, as no result going forward can be blamed on Santos, and as the months go by the Portuguese news media will have a field day with any poor results. Heads will roll at the FPF long before Santos is even allowed into the team dugout during a match. Not that I feel sorry for any of them at the Fed as Bento’s firing was forced upon them and was long overdue. Clearly the word sensible and the Portuguese Federation should never be used in the same sentence.

There is no point now as fans to cry about the spilt milk, the floor is thoroughly wet, and cow has been sent to the abattoir. Let’s hope that the players as they have done the last 4 years continue to manage themselves and pull out good results when needed.

I am sure we will hear more about this foul situation over the next year but I will give Santos a chance when he does take over the helm because he does seem passionate about the job. Sam Biggers takes a very balanced look at Santos and what fans could expect him to bring to the National Team in his recent report. It is a very good read.

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

Highs

  • Great Classico battle between Sporting & Porto
  • Benfica move 4 points clear at the top of the Liga
  • Talisca adds 2 goals to his tally
  • Sporting continue their turnaround with a hard fought draw
  • Porto fought back to draw the match after going down early
  • Braga decisively claws back in the standings by hammering Rio Ave
  • Maritimo moving to 3rd place with a thumping of V. Guimaraes
  • Sporting’s impressive Euro home record
  • Portuguese players thriving abroad
  • Former Liga players proving that the Portuguese League is the best training ground to excel at the highest levels

Lows

  • Santos being hired as National Team Manager whilst being banned for 8 matches
  • Sporting under investigation by UEFA for FFP
  • Benfica making hard work of a game that was in hand
  • Porto drawing their 3rd consecutive match
  • Speculation over William Carvalho not being happy?
  • Rio Ave tumble from top and are winless in last 3 games
  • Guimaraes also winless in 3 after a good start
  • Jesus’ inability to play promising Portuguese talent in the A Squad
  • Jardel’s defensive liabilities once again exploited

Another interesting week with many headings that had fans talking about Portuguese Football, follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news on a daily basis. Last week we had over 50k views 152 RT’s and 541 clicked links all on Twitter so there is always something of interest for a Portuguese Futebol Fan.

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