Brave Braga lose top spot as Porto hit top form

The Portugeezer may have been away for a short spiritual retreat, but Portuguese football didn’t stop. So let's recap what has happened over these past 10 days.

Highlights from Liga Sagres

Benfica were made to sweat by basement boys Belenenses before sealing an expected victory. The Eagles only got a narrow 1-0 win through the inevitable Oscar Cardozo goal, but at this stage the three points are the important aim.

What else is there to say about Sporting? The Lions' indifferent run continued against Paços de Ferreira and Olhanense with two 0-0 draws. Most of their players and staff are probably waiting for the end of the season – and Carvalhal's spell at the club.

Porto dropped two points in the title race as they were unexpectedly held by Leixões. The strugglers' boss Fernando Castro Santos was happy to see his team park the bus and withstand heavy pressure to guarantee a goalless draw.

The Dragons would redeem themselves the following match as they trashed Braga 5-1 in a one-sided contest that showed once again why Porto should never be counted out.

They dominated Domingos Paciência’s side, who had conceded just eight goals before that match. A sign that the title race will go down to the wire?

At the other end of the table, things look pretty grim for Belenenses who lost at home against Académica and look closer and closer to the drop. Olhanense, Setúbal and Leixões are struggling to pull away from the relegation places, and one of the three will be join Belenenses in the Liga Vitalis next season.

European action

Sporting were first in action, and their 2-1 loss at Everton leaves everything to play for. Despite their domestic woes the Lions played well, without getting the upper hand.

Remembering that English teams usually find it hard to play in Portugal, and that the Europa League is Sporting's only chance to salvage something from this season, they might just be able to advance to the last 16.

Porto should send some fine Porto wine to Lukasz Fabianski, whose two schoolboy blunders cost Arsenal the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

Silvestre Varela, who tormented the Gunners' full-backs with mazy runs down the wings, scored the first when his low cross was somehow bundled in by the Polish goalkeeper.

Veteran Sol Campbell soon levelled for the Londoners, but Porto got the winner with another WTF moment. Campbell and Fabianski forgot to communicate and the goalkeeper picked up the defender's backpass.

If they were surprised to concede an indirect free kick, they were stunned when Rúben Micael quickly passed to Falcao, who scored past the hapless Fabianski. The move will hardly give them the Fair Play award, but they’ll be more pleased with the win.

Benfica are already through to the Europa League last 16, having followed up at 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin with a 4-0 demolition this Tuesday. They’ll probably play Marseille in a mouth-watering clash between two former giants itching to get to back to their old winning ways.

Talking points

*Hulk's heavy four-month suspension sounds even more exaggerated given that Benfica were only handed a €1500 fine. The Brazilian forward is already halfway through his suspension, but he will be only return for the last three matches of the Portuguese League.

The whole process raises many questions about the ability of the governing bodies of Portuguese football and unfortunately is tainting a season that has seen some good football. Will the champions be acknowledged by everyone?

*Benfica’s decision to bring forward their match against União de Leiria proved a very wise decision. The Eagles flew to Berlin last Thursday; had they played at the weekend they would only have a 48-hour gap between their league match and Tuesday's return against Hertha.

As it was, they were able to get proper rest – and ran the Germans ragged in the second half. Do you agree with their decision?

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