From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Everyone loves to watch David vs Goliath match-ups, especially those that have the underdog claiming a surprising win at the end. Round 4 of the Portuguese Cup was far from spectacular, but it witnessed some upsets as three top-flight sides crashed out of the competition.
In what was perhaps the most anticipated match of the round, Benfica hosted Vitória Guimarães and, despite being the hot favourites for the match, were stunned by a resilient and well-organized away side.
In many ways, this match was similar to the one Benfica had played two weeks before against Naval: the Eagles had more possession and created more opportunities, but the goals just wouldn’t come.
It has been claimed that Benfica can’t win a match if their opponents score first, and opponents seem to have found a strategy to beat them.
Under Jorge Jesus, the Eagles are a feared team that often commits four or five players in each attacking move. Opponents have realised that trying to beat them at their own game can be like playing Russian roulette.
So what are they doing now? They weather the initial storm and try to frustrate the overeager Eagles; later in the game, Jesus will most probably bring on more strikers to push for victory – and that’s the perfect time to hit them.
Those gung-ho changes affect Benfica's balance and leave them vulnerable to quick counters. It’s a double-edged sword: sometimes it will get them a result, but other times it will cost them.
The match between Sporting and Pescadores da Caparica (literally Fishermen from Caparica) signalled the start of the Carlos Carvalhal era for the Lisbon giants.
The Portugeezer: Carvalhal unveiled as Sporting manager
Things could have been calamitous as the fourth-tier minnows were in front at half time. But Pescadores were unable to hold on and Sporting scored four without reply through Miguel Veloso (twice), Moutinho and Liédson.
Last week when Portugal played the crucial second-leg play-off match against Bosnia, the Portuguese Federation were quick to criticise the pitch conditions at Zenica. However, they were less proactive about the Oliveirense vs Porto match. The pitch at Oliveirense had looked unplayable for a couple of days, but the match was only postponed a few minutes before kick-off.
They should have seen that coming – it would have been easier to find crocodiles in such swampland than play football. The Dragons have every right to feel aggrieved as they spent 20 days with no competition. Bad, bad call from the federation.
Braga showed yet again why they’re table-toppers, with a commanding 3-0 win over Setúbal. The Arsenalistas remain impressive and will be hoping to claim some silverware this season.
Naval and Gil Vicente get the nod for the most entertaining match of the round. Two up with only a couple of minutes remaining, Gil Vicente thought they had won the game. But two injury-time goals from Naval forced the game into extra-time where the home side managed to get a third goal and complete a dramatic comeback.
Nacional and Paços de Ferreira only just squeezed through the next round, both teams requiring penalties to see off Fátima and Tirsense respectively.
Académica and União de Leiria didn’t enjoy the same luck in the penalty lottery: they were the other two Liga Sagres sides to bow out of the competition. Académica were defeated at home by Liga Vitalis (second-tier) side Beira-Mar after a 1-1 draw, while União Leiria were knocked-out by Freamunde after a 2-2 draw.
In other matches involving Liga Sagres teams, Belenenses won 1-0 at Olhanense’s conquerors Valenciano and Rio Ave defeated Azores side Santa Clara at home 1-0.
Goal of the roundNot many great goals this round, but Braga’s second goal from Márcio Mossoró is a good one to watch. A screamer from the pint-sized midfielder that killed off Setúbal!
Food for thoughtWith Benfica already out of the competition and both Sporting CP and Porto looking sluggish, can anyone predict the winner of the 2009/2010 edition of the Portuguese Cup?
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