Primeira Liga Week in Review – Round 20

Jackson Martinez can't stop scoring for Porto.

Jackson Martinez can’t stop scoring for Porto.

Much of the news coverage for this past weekend’s action in Portugal was predictably centered around the Lisbon derby between Sporting CP and SL Benfica. While that game offered much in terms of excitement, there was plenty of other action in the league this weekend. Here’s the round-up:

The Liga’s only match on Saturday saw Moreirense host Porto. Both teams have enjoyed successful seasons thus far, in their respective contexts. Moreirense are enjoying a stable mid-table run this season, after being promoted from the Segunda Liga this season. Porto, on the other hand, while not at the top of the table, are just off at second place. Under new coach Julen Lopetegui, Porto have improved consistently this season, and with striker Jackson Martinez in the ranks, goals freely flow. And that theme continued in Saturday’s match. Jackson opened the scoring for Porto midway through the first half, controlling a chipped pass from Hector Herrera before turning the ball into the back of the net. And in the second half, Herrera provided once again, as his cross was converted by Casemiro to give Porto the 2-0 advantage and the win. Porto now find themselves four points adrift of current league-leaders, Benfica.

On Sunday, Pacos Ferreira hosted Penafiel. Each team has enjoyed opposite fortunes this season. Pacos find themselves at a respectable 8th place, while Penafiel are languishing near the bottom of the table. Though Penafiel broke the deadlock first through Joao Martins in the second half, a late two-goal comeback secured the victory for Pacos. Goals came from Cicero and a late own goal from Helder Ferreira. This 2-1 win sees Pacos rise to 7th in the table, while Penafiel slide to the bottom of the table.

Elsewhere, league-strugglers Gil Vicente traveled to Madeira to face Maritimo. Before the match, Maritimo found themselves at 10th in the league, while Gil Vicente occupied the bottom spot of the table. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Gil Vicente claimed a 2-1 away victory. After going behind thanks to a goal from Maritimo’s Ebinho, Gil Vicente scored two unanswered goals, the first coming through Joao Vilela before Simeon Nwankwo’s second half goal earned the victory. This result sees Maritimo slide down to 11th place, while Gil Vicente finally rises off of the bottom of the table to 17th place.

In a similar match-up, Arouca hosted Nacional. Arouca have struggled recently in the league, while Nacional’s recent form has been impressive. Nacional surged to a commanding 2-0 lead by the mid-point of the first half, thanks to two goals from Rondon. Arouca answered soon after through Rui Sampaio, and added to that with two goals late in the second half, both scored by Roberto. Minutes later, Rondon scored once again for Nacional to level the scores at 3-3, where it stayed. This result sees Arouca maintain its 15th place spot, while Nacional rises to 9th in the table.

In one of the more competitive and interesting fixtures of the weekend, a visiting Belenenses side defeated Vitoria Guimaraes 1-0. Vitoria Guimaraes’s rise in the table this season has not gone unnoticed, but Belenenses’s impressive form has flown more under the radar. Lito Vidigal’s side have performed positively so far this season, and prior to this match, found themselves in 7th place. This match saw the debut of Rui Fonte for Belenenses, as well as Guimaraes’s Otavio, Ivo Rodrigues, Sami, and Breno. Though the match was largely even, Belenenses perhaps looked the more dangerous. The game’s only goal came just after the hour mark. Jonatan Alvez gave the ball away to Belenenses, releasing Rui Fonte, who did well to out-muscle Joao Afonso before sliding the ball to Carlos Martins for the easy tap-in. Guimaraes had the opportunity to level the scores in the second half through an Andre Andre penalty, but he was denied by a superb diving save from Belenenses goalkeeper Hugo Ventura. This result sees Guimaraes drop further down the table to 5th place, while Belenenses rises to 6th in the table.

In Setubal, Vitoria Setubal and Academica played out a score-less draw. Both teams sit low on the table, and this result sees no movement for them.

Elsewhere, Estoril were defeated by a visiting Braga side 2-0, in one of the Minho’s most impressive performances of the season. Goals came from Ruben Micael and Pedro Santos. This win sees Braga deservedly rise to 4th in the table, while Estoril drops from 9th to 10th.

In the most anticipated match of the weekend, Sporting hosted Benfica. Prior to the match, both teams were in good form, though Sporting were in the better of form, having not lost in the league since November. Benfica were league leaders, and though there was no possibility of losing that status from a poor result against Sporting, a victory for Sporting would have predictably closed the gap predictably. The match was largely an even affair, with Benfica absorbing Sporting’s pressure adeptly for the majority of the match. Late on, however, Sporting really began to control the match, and were rewarded three minutes from time, when left-back Jefferson turned in the loose ball, following a save from Benfica goalkeeper Artur. Sporting attempted to hold on to their slender lead, but were undone just seconds before the end of stoppage time, as Benfica defender Jardel’s snapshot found it’s way into the back of the net. That dramatic goal leveled the scores at 1-1, and somewhat preserved Benfica’s lead at the top.

In the round’s final match, Rio Ave visited Boavista. Petit’s Boavista side have improved throughout the season, and look to finish this season at a comfortable mid-table finish. Pedro Martin’s Rio Ave side, on the other hand, look to push for European qualification, and look capable to do just that. The first action of note occurred in the 8th minute. Rio Ave’s Ukra picked out Hassan’s run with a diagonal pass. Hassan controlled the ball and surged into the box, but was brought down by Boavista captain Beckeles. The referee immediately showed the defender a straight red card, though replays suggest the punishment may have been a bit harsh. Nevertheless, Hassan converted the ensuing penalty to give Rio Ave a 1-0 lead. Late in stoppage time in the second half, Ukra was adjudged to having handled the ball in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty, which Tengarrinha converted, leveling the scores at 1-1. The game ended at 1-1, which sees Boavista stay at 13th place, while Rio Ave falls to 8th place.

Top Performers of the week (according to player ratings)*

9 – Rondon: Nacional

8 – Mika: Boavista

8 – Jefferson: Sporting

8 – Jardel: Benfica

8 – Pedro Tiba: Braga

8 – Ruben Micael: Braga

8 – Pedro Santos: Braga

8 – Hugo Ventura: Belenenses

8 – Roberto: Arouca

8 – Simeon Nwankwo: Gil Vicente

8 – Hector Herrera: Porto

8 – Jackson Martinez: Porto

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