From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
OK, so matchday 10 of the Portuguese League didn’t produce any 5-5 thrillers.
But the round had the ingredients of a good footballing recipe: drama, controversy and upsets.
Liga Sagres will now go on a break for two weekends – this weekend we’ll have international matches and the one after is reserved for the Portuguese Cup – and many teams will take that opportunity to regroup and return stronger.
Let’s start with the intense match between historical rivals Guimarães and Braga.
This derby is the kind of match where form matters little: each team just wants to inflict as much damage on the other as it can.
Guimarães were the best side in the first 45 minutes and took the lead with an amazing goal by French midfielder Yves Desmarets.
After the break, the league leaders tried to salvage something from the match, but were ultimately unable to do so.
This was Braga’s first loss in 10 games and their reaction will tell us about their real credentials.
Should they bounce back and continue to produce solid performances, they can definitely be labelled title contenders.
As Rocky Balboa said: “It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” The ball is now in Braga’s court.
Rookie manager André Villas Boas continued his encouraging career start as Académica almost claimed a ‘smash-and-grab’ win at surprise package Leiria.
The away side thought they'd won when they broke the deadlock in the 89th minute, but Leiria were still able to score in injury time to share the spoils.
In a match between two sides that want to avoid relegation at any cost, Setúbal played Olhanense to a dull 0-0 draw – a result that won’t please either team, in a match that didn't please any viewer.
In another match between strugglers, Paços de Ferreira claimed a convincing 3-0 win at Belenenses.
This surprising victory will give Paços a much-needed lift and something to build on.
You know, Sporting almost had it. Two up at half-time, it looked like they would return to winning ways.
Rio Ave, however, produced an amazing comeback in the second half to snatch a 2-2 draw.
It could have been even worse for Sporting: centre-back Daniel Carriço was sent off with 25 minutes still to play.
This fortnight's break will help the Lions to lick their wounds, as a new manager will hope to inject confidence into a very disheartened team.
Which team lost to Marítimo? It surely wasn’t the FC Porto we’re all used to watching.
There’s no denying it: Porto are struggling at the moment. They have yet to gel as a team and even their star performers have been unable to make a difference.
They're also missing someone who can dictate play in the midfield. Lucho González was very effective in that role and Fernando Belluschi still needs to prove he can replace ‘El Comandante’.
The former Olympiakos player has shown a few glimpses of his talent, but doesn’t seem to have earned the trust of Jesualdo Ferreira, who opted for Colombian midfielder Freddy Guarín.
Marítimo won 1-0 – like Braga, they're undefeated against the Big Three – with an own goal from Rolando.
But not all is gloom and doom for the Dragons, through to the Champions League knock-outs and ready to watch Sporting play against Benfica next round.
Still, trailing both Braga and Benfica by five points is enough reason to see some supporters voicing their concern about recent performances.
The match between Leixões and Nacional was marred by controversy. The hosts had two players sent off and two penalties awarded against them.
Those decisions naturally tipped the scales in favour of the islanders, who won 4-2 with a hat-trick from Edgar.
Benfica dominated Naval from the off but, without Paraguayan hitman Óscar Cardozo, seemed to lack a cutting edge.
Peiser made a string of eye-catching saves but Benfica pushed on and Javi Garcia got the winner in the 88th minute.
(Until then, the match had been spookily like the 2005 game against Boavista which effectively ended Benfica’s title chances. Watching that old relic again, it's impossible not to smile and wonder how the hell Benfica failed to score.)
Ecuadorian forward Felipe Caicedo, on loan from Manchester City, missed an incredible sitter for the second week in a row.
With the game tied at 2-2, he had a great opportunity to score Sporting’s third goal when he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
From what he has shown so far, he'll be lucky to play in the Liga Sagres, let alone the Premier League.
The mooted €10 million fee to make the deal permanent seems like a joke now – I wouldn’t want him for free!
What do you think?
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