Edition 1488
18 August 2018
Edition: 1488

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Benfica and FC Porto battle for title as Sporting implode

by Chris Wright, in Sport · 12-04-2018 15:07:00 · 0 Comments

Sunday could be the defining moment as to who takes the Primeira Liga title with the top two going head-to-head at the Estádio da Luz; Benfica are just a point in front of their northern rivals.

Benfica and FC Porto battle for title as Sporting implode

Last weekend the top three in the Primeira Liga - Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting - all won whilst fourth-placed SC Braga could only draw at Feirense.
SC Portimonense picked up another valuable point at Tondela.
What should have been a comfortable away win for Benfica at Vitória de Setúbal proved to be anything but. The Eagles were dealt a blow before kick-off with the news that their goalscoring talisman Jonas had picked up an injury in the warm-up and would not be risked ahead of the title clash against Porto.
The problems mounted for Benfica as Setúbal took an early lead through Costinha with a back-post volley into the far corner. Jiménez levelled matters in the twenty-eighth minute, reading the trajectory of Rafa Silva’s cross to tap in at the far-post.
Edinho could have reclaimed the home side’s lead fifteen minutes after the break, but struck Nuno Pinto’s cutback high and wide. Just as it looked like Benfica would have to settle for a draw they were given the chance to secure all-three points.
Two minutes into stoppage time Luís Felipe grabbed Salvio’s shirt and Jiménez made no mistake from the penalty spot to keep Benfica at the summit of the table. Only a win
would suffice for Porto as they welcomed relegation candidates Desportivo Aves to the Estádio do Dragão.
A clear foul on Ricardo Pereira inside the area gave the home side the ideal start as Alex Telles converted from the penalty spot after seven minutes. That advantage was soon doubled in the tenth minute with a freak effort from Otávio as he blocked a clearance from the edge of the box. The ball rebounded into the bottom-left corner of the goal past a bemused Aves keeper Adriano Fachini who, in the second-half stood between Porto and goal number three. The Brazilian keeper was in outstanding form as he performed heroics to keep the score at 2-0 come full-time.
Following Sporting’s 2-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid in the first-leg of their Europa League quarter-final, president Bruno de Carvalho could not contain his annoyance at the result. 
He posted a message on Facebook lambasting Coates and Mathieu for their mistakes, Gelson Martins for failing to take his chance when clean through, and Fábio Coentrão and Bas Dost for collecting yellow cards that rule them out of the second leg.
Back in Lisbon, the atmosphere among the squad was evidently tense, although the club denied rumours the first-team squad had refused to train. The players shared a text on Instagram expressing their disapproval of the public criticism and “the absence of support from he who should be our leader.”
Among the group who posted the message were practically all of Sporting’s most important players, such as Rui Patrício, William Carvalho, fellow Portugal internationals Fábio Coentrão, Bruno Fernandes and Gelson Martins together with experienced senior players Bryan Ruiz, Coates and Montero.
Despite the rumours of wholesale changes, Sporting manager Jorge Jesus called on a large portion of big names to take on P.Ferreira at the Alvalade.
William Carvalho and Fábio Coentrão were out injured, while Cristiano Piccini was suspended. Bas Dost opened the scoring after twenty minutes when he nodded home Bruno Fernandes’ flick-on.
Sporting secured their 2-0 win through Bryan Ruiz converting Gelson Martins cross in the sixty-fifth minute. Sporting’s win sees them pull three points clear of fourth-placed SC Braga, who succumbed to a late Feirense goal to draw 2-2.
How the public spat between the President and players will be resolved is anyone’s guess; it appears just one more spectacular example of the club’s ability to shoot itself in the foot.

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Edition 1488
18 August 2018
Edition: 1488

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter

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