It was an interesting week in Portuguese Football with the Big 3 battling in the Champions League early and then their Liga matches culminating on the weekend. Definitely many a headline made by the Tres Grandes in the English press, so let’s round-up the week’s news.
Champions League Round-up:
Porto stretched their lead atop Group H when Portuguese Hero Quaresma came off the bench with a quarter hour to go and secured all three points at the Dragao for Porto who faced Spanish side Athletico Bilbao. Herrera had scored first before half time for Porto giving them the advantage but on the 58 minute mark Fernandez scored for the Basque club to draw level. The stage was now set for Quaresma’s late heroics to make the difference in the week three match, giving Porto the win 2-1. Great news for Porto and Portugal as it looks like Porto will qualify for the next round of the competition.
Nani and Sporting traveled to Germany to take on a buoyant Schalke. The Royal blues dominated possession early on although Sporting had the better chances and it paid off for SCP with an early Nani goal his second of the Champions League season. Sporting then continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack but Mauricio was sent off for his second yellow in the 33rd minute.
With the numerical advantage the tide turned for Schalke as an Obasi header slipped in under Patricio to draw the game level. Huntelaar then scored for Schalke to give him 3 goals in 3 games for the Royal Blues as they took the lead. Howedes then headed in for Schalke who looked to have sewn up the win against a 10 man Sporting.
Unfortunately for the Schalke side is what Sporting lacks in defense they have in spades in attack, and soon enough Carrillo was brought down in the box, leading to a penalty shot for the Lions. Adrien Silva converted from the spot bringing the visitors back to a 3-2 score line and with 12 minutes to go he subsequently headed in a fantastic goal at the far post to tie the game up.
This herculean 10 man performance to draw level was amazing and a draw in this Group G fixture looked inevitable. Unfortunately a horrible call from Russian Referee Sergei Kasarev who deemed Jonathon Silva to have handled the ball, when clearly the replay showed that he had headed the ball instead. This led to an injury time penalty shot and goal for Schalke that gave them the win in this entertaining match-up. Sporting rightly is protesting with UEFA for a rematch, but the chances of that happening are unlikely.
In the final match for Portuguese Clubs in the Champions League Benfica was playing Monaco away, confronting countrymen Jardim, Moutinho, Carvalho and Bernardo Silva in the process. Unfortunately Benfica started poorly early but took over the majority of the game with better attacks and if not for Monaco Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic who made many a highlight reel save, to keep Monaco undefeated in Europe this season, Benfica would’ve walked away with the 3 points. Unfortunately the playing advantage never paid off and Lisandro Lopez made a stupid studs up challenge on Moutinho that resulted in a straight red card for the Eagles CB that reduced them to 10 men. After that Monaco took over again and Benfica held on for the draw.
Benfica have one point on 3 matches in Europe and it is clear that JJ’s intent is to tank and focus on the Liga, much to the chagrin of most Benfica fans who would like to see another long run in Europe to maintain our #5 Euro club ranking.
Here is PortuGOAL’s great appraisal of the Big 3’s play in Europe at the halfway mark.
Primeira Liga Round-up:
What a weekend of matches in the Liga that resulted in only a 4 point gap in the standings (from first to 4th place).
It was an extremely entertaining brand of football played on the weekend one that has made the Portuguese Liga a fan favourite beyond the major Big 3 leagues in Europe.
First up was Porto who travelled to Arouca to put up the best Liga performance so far in their early season. They crushed Arouca with goals from Quintero, Casemiro, Aboubakar, and two from the monster Jackson Martinez to tie him at the top of the Liga scoring standings with 7 goals. It was a feel good story that continued on from the mid-week Champions League success against Athletico Bilbao. Porto looks very impressive when they are in full flight and we think they just hit their stride now. Porto still remains undefeated in the Liga.
Next up was Sporting who continued their recent great form in a wild shootout win against Maritimo. The Lions came out and pounded Maritimo with their offence, with 3 goals to take a 3-0 lead into the intermission. Nani was causing major havoc all game and the score line could’ve been even worse, but Maritimo regrouped and within 10 minutes of half Maazou had joined Jackson at the top of the Liga Scoring Table with two monster goals and threatened the rest of the night to add to that tally. Once again the Sporting backline was exposed in this game, but the best defence really is a great offence and Freddy Montero’s amazing scissor-kick goal brought some calm to the superior Sporting team that ran out with a 4-2 victory in the end. Sporting joined Porto as the only other undefeated team in the Primeira Liga.
Last up was the explosive match-up between Braga and Benfica at the Axa. Benfica was beaten for the first time this season in a highly controversial match that had many talking points from both sets of fans.
Benfica came out strong and dominated early leading to a fantastic run from Eliseu concluding in a Talisca goal in the 2nd minute for the Eagles. It looked like a blow-out was on the way as they thrashed Braga for the first 25 minutes and were unlucky not to make it a rout early. Here are the Highlights or Lowlights for some.
Benfica who had 3 or 4 quality chances that barely missed in that time, came so close in the 27th minute when a marauding run by Salvio, that broke the Braga midfield, led to a clever pass to Lima that froze the Braga CB’s and left Gaitan onside to his left and alone in the box to fire home a goal, but instead of passing Lima held onto the ball and attacked the packed CB’s alone. He proceeded to get dummied with his inept shot that ricocheted all the way into midfield and within 9 seconds of that Lima hash Braga had stolen all the early momentum with a masterful strike from Eder on a beautiful outlay from Pardo that bulged the twine behind Artur. The game was drawn at one against the run of play at that point Marco Ferreira the Referee lost control of the match and his senses.
Although Benfica out chanced Braga the Arsenalistas clearly were dominating through their rough controlling play, which resulted in 8 yellow cards, and one dismissal (Danilo) in injury time. Of those fouls two were clearly straight red cards that weren’t called. I will post the images here for your amusement.
The first was the studs to the face of Talisca from Santos in the 9th minute that earned him a yellow.
The second was Ruben Micael’s brutal challenge on Jonas in the 79th minute that left the Brazilian crumpled on the ground.
But that was not it there was missed offside calls, and even worse many penalty calls that were questioned from both teams in this match.
I counted three questionable penalty calls but in this scrappy match there probably were more.
The first one came in the 33rd minute as Pardo attacked Eliseu down the right side of the box. Eliseu shoulder checked him and stepped in front of him before Pardo gets tangled up in his legs and falls to the ground. In one of the replays on Sport TV that did not make the highlight pack Eliseu appeared to touch the ball which would’ve made it clean and the English commentators said as much, but after reviewing these highlights I posted it appears he doesn’t touch the ball. So it comes down to whether you think the shoulder challenge is legal or not. To error on the side of offence first we will say that it should’ve been a penalty (unless someone else can find the angle where Eliseu touched the ball), but I like a good shoulder smash so I am still on the fence.
The second came in the 52nd minute on another Pardo run that was clearly offside but we are just focusing on the call itself and the merits of a penalty. Lopez does tap him with the foot but the touch is meaningless, and then Pardo took a split second wait before he looks like he hit an electrified line (my way of saying he embellished the call), for me this warranted the yellow card he received. But it was a split second call can’t say I could fault the Referee on that one, it was a judgement call and he could’ve handed out the penalty kick as contact was made, and I wouldn’t have had an issue with it.
Third questioned penalty was the clear one for me from a Benfica free kick in the 85th minute the ball is hit directly to Gaitan who is going for it in the box, Andre Pinto rugby tackles Gaitan from behind literally right in front of Marco Ferreira the Referee who had the best vantage point in the house. I personally love a bit of the argy bargee in the box as it puts hair on a man’s chest, but that was a rugby tackle not a football challenge and was inexcusable.
Of course all this rough play when the Ref loses control of a game always leads to a Bailou dos Equipas and the band was in full swing in the 88th minute when Enzo Perez on a whistle, hip checked Braga’s Danilo to the ground, which led to Danilo pushing Enzo over as he retrieved the ball from the Braga bench. Both teams found a dance partner and a melee ensued, fortunately cooler heads prevailed as it easily could’ve gotten out of hand.
In the end two cards were lashed out on the play one to Enzo (yellow) and Danilo got his marching orders with a red, as well as Conceicao the Braga Manager who was agitating in the melee thereby was thrown out too.
Let this not take away from Braga’s hard fought win and dogged determination which dominated at times and led to Benfica first Liga loss of the season. Clearly this was a controversial match for everyone concerned but great nonetheless as both teams could’ve potted another 4 goals. If not for the brilliance of Matheus (in net for Braga) who spectacularly stopped a set of double goals in injury time to preserve the 2-1 victory, Benfica would’ve won.
Here were the headlines for the Tres Grandes:
Nani has been truly lighting up the Liga since his loan from Manchester United with many claiming this is the best Nani ever. There is even talk of him extending his stay in Portugal, it is definitely a rebirth of the hugely talented winger as well as talk about a permanent move away from Old Trafford was discussed in the news.
Here are more headlines on Nani as there was just too many to comment on:
I am super happy to see Nani performing the way we have expected him to with his talent and the truth is he still looks like he can turn it up another notch or two, exciting times at the Alvalade.
Carrillo has rightfully gained many suitors as well.
To close out on Sporting I thought it was pretty funny how Schalke management slammed UEFA and made fun of them for the horrible officiating that resulted in their win, which says a lot, other Germans joined in on the fun too.
Gaitan hit the headlines again for reneging on his verbal agreement with LFV and wants a better deal as Manchester United make a bid to gain his services, as well as Arsenal, Newcastle and Monaco showing interest. Jardim also has eyes for Salvio.
Rubbing salt into Jesus’ wounds this week was Bernardo Silva a sensation at Monaco as well as the constant reports that Andre Gomes is the driving force in the New Valencia attack. JJ always wears Portuguese egg on his face.
The best headings for Benfica this week were that finally news that LFV escalating player’s buy-out clauses finally hit the UK media, which took over a week (snail mail) for them to realize that 17 million pounds had turned into 65 million Euros. Wenger the cheap Arsenal boss who screwed LFV in the summer over Campbell at the last minute, was told to stump up Mega Money for Talisca who has continued to score. To make matters worse for Wenger his love of the Benfica wonder-kid Guedes has turned into an equally impressive 65 million Euros price tag. Wenger has definitely been dealt a blow to his wallet.
Peter Lim was also back in for Enzo Perez for the January transfer window as Valencia are loving their recent purchases from the Eagles.
Many English clubs were in attendance in Braga to scout the Eagles players also.
Benfica are also interested in a young Argentine from Palermo, who plays as a forward.
It was a great week for Porto with the two wins and of course they were making headlines around the globe especially with the 15 minute wonder Quaresma not only scoring a crucial goal for Porto in the Champions League but also with the sublime assist on the Ronaldo winning goal for Portugal.
But the main man in the limelight for Porto was not Quaresma it is the wonder-kid Neves who is being scouted by many a Euro giant, too many to comment on, here are the links:
Unfortunately besides Sporting CP it takes foreigners to recognize the greatness on show in the Portugal youth ranks, because Portuguese Managers like Jesus can’t see the wealth they have at hand. Neves is a Phenom and I am glad that Lopetegui has recognized the huge talent at such an early age. Neves is going to be special.
Andre Silva the talented Striking Porto wonder-kid once again made news as Chelsea & Arsenal are in a battle for his free transfer.
In other Porto news Casemiro made the Brazil squad, Carlos Eduardo who Porto loaned to Nice scored 5 goals on the weekend. Manchester United wants Martins Indi in January, Man City wants Herrera, and super star Brahimi for me needs more press for his help in making Porto a force.
Let’s conclude with the round-up of this week’s Highs and Lows in Portuguese Football:
- Porto’s double win this week including the CL victory over Bilbao and the thrashing of Arouca in the Liga
- Sporting’s 2 goal claw back in the Champions League with 10 men was impressive
- Nani and Sporting’s continued rise in the world of Portuguese Football
- Quaresma’s return to form is a welcome addition to a strong Porto squad
- 4 points separating the Top Four Liga Teams means we are in for one hell of a season
- Porto and Sporting climb back into the Liga race.
- Braga’s combativeness in coming back to win what looked like a sure defeat early on
- Maazou’s two goal game was massive especially considering he came close to bagging more
- Jackson with two goals and Talisca with one to join Maazou at the top of the Liga Scoring Race.
- The rise of the 17 yr old Wonder-Kids Neves and Guedes are gaining European recognition
- Russian Ref’s colossal gaffe at such a crucial point in the Sporting CL campaign and match with Schalke
- Marco Ferreira had one of the worst officiating performances I have ever seen in the Braga game
- It seems foreign clubs have more of an interest in playing our young Portuguese talent than the majority of the clubs in Portugal
- Benfica dropped points and lacked the killer touch when it was needed
- Lima incredibly off form, clearly JJ’s decision to keep him over Cardozo was the wrong one.
- The studs up fouls from Braga’s Santos and Micael are simply unacceptable in the modern game. It is one thing to play hard and another to intend to injure.
- Jesus finally played Almeida at his natural DM position and gave him high praise for his play versus Monaco in the CL then went back to a box to box midfielder in Samaris on the weekend as the DM, Duh!!
- Not really a low as much as an embarrassment to UEFA, when the winning team is making fun of your officiating crews decisions, and poking fun at your initiatives, it is not a good thing Mr. Platini.
- Gaitan reneging on his gentlemen’s agreement with LFV
Once again it was 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.