From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
The first round of 2010 – which also signals the end of the first half of the season – didn’t bring many surprises, with the rain that has been hitting Portugal contributing for a lukewarm weekend.
Still, after a three-week break, it would be interesting to see how teams from both ends of the table would react – and for most of them it was like Christmas and New Year never happened.
Braga were the first team to enter the field playing against fourth-placed Nacional – and if people were expecting an even match between the league's top dark horses, they would be disappointed.
Braga scored in the fourth minute with a header from club captain Vandinho and had several chances to score before André Leone killed off the game in the second half (see picture).
No matter how many times it is said, the Arsenalistas continue to impress everyone and it won’t be easy to dislodge them from the top.
Sporting played Leixões on Saturday without the injured Liédson and with new signing Florent Sinama-Pongolle on the bench. Despite dominating for most of the match, the Lions were only able to grab the three points in the 84th minute thanks to a header from centre-back Tonel.
A tough win, but one that gives them hopes for the remainder of the season.
After gaining a morale-boosting win against FC Porto in the previous fixture, Benfica went to Rio Ave knowing they would be handed a stern test against one of the surprise packages of the season.
It was a relatively even match, without many goalscoring opportunities, but the Eagles would prevail in the end with yet another goal from in-form forward Javier Saviola.
El Conejo has scored in the last six matches and is looking sharper each week. Again the Eagles didn’t soar like they did at the beginning of the season, but they were able to take the three difficult points home – which will certainly please manager Jorge Jesus.
In the most thrilling match of the weekend, Porto were made to sweat by a plucky União de Leiria side and were probably relieved when the referee blew for the end of the match. No doubt they were the best team, but Leiria twice fought back and wasted a penalty with just two minutes from time.
Therefore, even though Radamel Falcao scored two goals, the man of the match has to be Hélton due to his crucial penalty save – a moment that may later this year be remembered as a championship-decider.
On the up
Académica. André Villas-Boas is still to lose a game at home and saw his pupils beat Naval comfortably. They've managed to turn their home turf into a fortress and now lie a very respectable 10th with 16 points.
High on confidence and with less pressure to perform, can they claim a top-half finish?
Marítimo have lost their last three league matches and are gradually slipping down the table. The Islanders have been very inconsistent this season and they’ll entertain Benfica this weekend. Can they get back on track?
Goal of the round
Not many goals this round – a meagre 14 – and thus less chance of witnessing a jaw-dropper. Still, Javier Saviola’s takes the cake as he scored the goal that gave Benfica an invaluable win.
After a corner, Rio Ave’s defence tried to clear the ball away, but living up to his moniker, the Rabbit was quick to pounce and beat the goalkeeper with an unorthodox shot. See it here
* Rentería is back at Braga. The Colombian failed to impress at Atlético Mineiro and now returns to a club where he did well. The Portugeezer previously stated before that Braga could have some trouble up front with just Meyong as a prolific striker and this is a good move for both parties. Is it a sign of Braga’s intentions?
* Porto again struggled to produce a commanding performance and there are no signs Jesualdo Ferreira is delving into the market. But should the Dragons make one or two signings to improve their squad and increase their chances of claiming a fifth consecutive domestic title?
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