From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Round 21 results Fri Feb 26 Leiria 0-1 Guimarães Sat Feb 27 Naval 2-1 Marítimo, Braga 3-1 Olhanense, Leixões 0-4 Benfica Sun Feb 28 Paços Ferreira 5-3 Setúbal, Académica 0-1 Rio Ave, Sporting 3-0 Porto Tue Mar 2 Nacional 1-0 Belenenses
If The Portugeezer were creating a PR kit to promote Liga Sagres, this past week would provide a lot of material.
It was one of the most exciting in quite some time: lots of goals, some surprising results and very few controversies, which is how football should always be.
Sporting v Porto was the most anticipated match of the round and the only suitable word to describe what happened at Estádio José Alvalade XXI is "Un-freakin’-believable!"
How on Earth did Sporting recover from their dismal run of seven winless matches to beat Everton and Porto with such ease?
With the 5-2 Portuguese Cup battering by the Dragons still fresh in their memory, Sporting were hoping to get their pride back while inflicting a title blow to their opponents – and they couldn’t have wished for a better start when Yannick Djaló broke the deadlock in the sixth minute.
Such an early goal stunned the reigning champions, who were unable to cause any trouble for the home side in the first 25 minutes.
Porto would gradually recover and started creating some chances on their own, but it would be Sporting who scored again just before half-time when Russian starlet Marat Izmailov tricked Raul Meireles and struck an accurate shot into the bottom right corner.
Whatever Jesualdo Ferreira told his players at half-time didn’t work because two minutes after the break the Lions settled the final score. Miguel Veloso was quick to pounce on Porto’s apathy to add the final gloss to the scoreline.
It was a big victory for Sporting and hopefully they found some inner peace with that impressive result.
The Portugeezer would like to reserve some praise for Marat Izmailov. The Russian midfielder was very close to return to Lokomotiv Moskow the previous week, but he stayed put and was one of the star performers against Porto.
Not only did he score a good goal, but he was a threat for large periods of the match. Izmailov may not be as good as Andrei Arshavin, but he’s certainly an underrated talent that can shine at the highest level.
Both Braga and Benfica were naturally happy to see the Dragons lose, especially as they had already claimed their three points the day before.
Braga entertained Olhanense at home and, despite an early hiccup, overcame the plucky Algarvian side with a 3-1 success to keep the pressure at the top.
Benfica went to Leixões' Estádio do Mar and racked up another big win – 4-0. With Airton and Éder Luis in the starting XI, the Eagles looked very comfortable and could have scored more.
They’ll play against Paços de Ferreira at home with their morale at a season high...
On the up
Vitória Guimarães staked their claim for a Europa League berth after snatching a 1-0 win at surprise package Leiria. They currently sit in fifth place and are just two points behind Sporting.
Paços de Ferreira won a 5-3 thriller against Setúbal and claimed their second consecutive win to cement their place in the top half of the league. By playing good football and managing on a tight budget, they are an example that other “smaller” clubs should follow...
Nobody saw it coming, but Porto dropped three crucial points in the title race and played like a Sunday League team. The Dragons were miles from being the side that trashed Braga the week before and succumbed to a heavy defeat at Sporting.
Trailing Benfica by nine points and Braga by eight, can they still be crowned champions?
Goal of the round
Angel di Maria capped off an electric individual performance at Leixões with a hat-trick.
The talented forward completed the 4-0 rout when he received the ball from Maxi Pereira and unleashed an unstoppable shot that left the keeper stranded. Impressive stuff from the much sought-after Argentinian!
Can Carlos Carvalhal stay at Sporting next season? Even though he’s unlikely to win any silverware, the Lions' last two matches were impressive and should they continue to perform, he might just have a chance of renewing his contract...
Belenenses and Leixões lost once again and look odds-on to be playing Liga Vitalis football next season. Belenenses are hosting Sporting while Leixões travel to Leiria: can they get a result?
Game over or game on for both Porto and Jesualdo?
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So... I guess I can call SCP a big team now? It's ok right?
So,like... Are FCP a little team now?
Off-topic, how come nobody ever covers Futsal on this website? I've been watching Portuguese Futsal and I lvoe it, I can't wait for Brazilian Futsal to start-up again (which is today by the way)...
Regarding Porto, once Cristian "Cebolla" (that's Onion) Rodriguez is 100% healthy, they should start winning again.
Izmailov's goal was by far the best goal of the week if not one of the goals of the season. His total control of the ball before he put it away was world class.
How could Benfica's win against an extrememly poor Leixoes team in awful conditions put their moral at a seasons high? They have a very tough schedule ahead. Di Maria's form has been so up and down you dont know which one will turn up each week..
Long way to go... Morale doesnt win points. Only results do.
The thing with Sporting is that they cannot have it both ways. One day they're hailing their academy and the next Carvalhal is saying you cannot win championships with only youth products.
Same thing when they claimed they couldn't compete financially with Benfica and Porto...We all know what happened in January.
If they're as big as they claim, they only need to acknowledge they failed to meet expectations. That's my "problem" with them.
Hi Karl! Long time, no see!
I think Izmailov's goal was a really good one, but I found Di Maria's effort more eye-catching. Guess it is just a matter of opinion.
About Benfica being with their morale on a season-high, it's not only about their continuous good performances and results but also about gaining a psychological edge over their rivals. That's why I think they're on the right track even though they'll have very tough matches ahead.
Like you said, everything is still open and the league is more exciting because of that...
Yorugua, give us chance!
We're covering as many leagues as we can, and if any bloggers wish to cover futsal for a feature they can, but I'm not sure we can commit to a full-time blog for what is, for better or worse, a minority sport.
We try, but we need sleep occasionally...
Cheers for your support
Gary (FFT.com editor)
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