It was an exciting weekend in the Primeira Liga, with a lot of movement in the table. Victories from Braga, Porto, Benfica, and Sporting all helped cement their places high up the table, while further losses from Gil Vicente, Nacional, and Vitoria Setubal slipped them further down the table. The match of note this weekend was Braga’s convincing 3-0 victory over the impressive Pacos de Ferreira. Let’s take a look at all the action.
On Friday, Porto hosted Domingos Paciencia’s Vitoria Setubal. Predictably, the Dragons rolled over Vitoria Setubal with ease, with goals coming from Ricardo Quaresma (penalty), Jackson Martinez, Yacine Brahimi, and Danilo (penalty). Jackson’s goal further cemented his spot as the top goalscorer in the league with 11 goals. Vitoria Setubal are slowly slipping further down the table, despite being managed by a proven manager in Domingos Paciencia, who famously led Braga to a second-placed finish in the 2009/2010 season.
On Saturday, Estoril hosted in-form Vitoria Guimaraes, who were sitting at third in the table at the time of the match. After a slow start to the season, Estoril have improved greatly, and were on a six match unbeaten run coming into the match. Other than losing against Braga in the Taca de Portugal in late November, Vitoria Guimaraes had not lost a match since late September. Both teams were in-form, and the game was a close one, but Estoril edged out as victors. A 74th minute goal from Kleber was enough to earn Estoril the victory.
Much of the action occurred on Sunday. First up was Moreirense hosting Boavista. An early goal from Andre Simoes was enough to earn Moreirense a vital 1-0 victory. The newly-promoted side is enjoying an impressive season, and currently find themselves at 9th in the table. Elsewhere, Academica and Penafiel drew 1-1, with goals from Hector Quinones (Penafiel) and Ivanildo (Academica). At the Estadio da Luz, Benfica edged out a resilient Gil Vicente side 1-0, courtesy of a Nicolas Gaitan goal. The match was very possibly Enzo Perez’s last in a Benfica shirt, as the Argentine midfielder has agreed to a transfer to Valencia. The match also saw Cesar’s first league start for Benfica. Cesar was purchased this summer, but after appalling performances in pre-season, hadn’t seen playing time until the team’s Champions League clash against Bayer Leverkusen at the beginning of the month. His performance against Leverkusen earned him a place on the Champions League Team of the Week, and as a result, he has earned a starting spot at Benfica. In Sunday’s final match, Nacional hosted Sporting Lisbon. Nacional have a bit of a reputation for being a difficult team to play in Madeira. Nevertheless, Carlos Mane’s lone goal earned Sporting a priceless 1-0 victory. In the final match of the day, Arouca gained an important 1-0 victory over Maritimo, which pulls Arouca further away from the relegation zone, where they had been languishing lately. Arouca’s goal came from Roberto just after half-time.
The first match on Monday was Braga vs Pacos Ferreira. Pacos have been very impressive this season, following the return of manager Paulo Fonseca, who famously led the team to a third-place finish two seasons ago. With Fonseca gone last season, the club’s fortunes were not as kind, but this season, the team has performed impressively, and find themselves in sixth place. Braga, on the other hand, is also a team in form. Following the hiring of Sergio Conceicao this season, the team’s performances have improved with every game. Braga’s 2-1 victory over Benfica in late October still stands as Benfica’s only league defeat this season. Going into this match, Braga were on a nine-match unbeaten run. This match saw two in-form, surprise-package teams face off in what was expected to be a close, exciting match. It was exciting, all right, but it wasn’t close. Braga ran out 3-0 victors, thanks to goals from Rafa, Eder, and Felipe Pardo, the team’s front trio which has become a feared partnership this season. In the league’s final match of this round, Belenenses and Rio Ave, two surprise packages this season, drew 0-0.
Overall, it was an exciting weekend in the Primeira Liga. Braga’s win saw them become level on points with Vitoria Guimaraes, but be third on goal difference. Other than that, there was very little movement in the table, besides Arouca climbing further away from the relegation zone. The Liga resumes after the new years, with Sporting hosting Estoril, Vitoria Guimaraes hosting Nacional, and Sporting Braga visiting Maritimo.
PortugalFutbol Player of the Week: Rafa Silva