Porto continue historic run while Sporting crash out of the cup

Last weekend saw five matches of the Last 16 of the Portuguese Cup, while Benfica and Braga, who had seen their Last 32 match postponed, played for the right to face Olhanense in the next stage.

RESULTS Last 32 Benfica 2-0 Braga Last 16 FC Porto 4-0 Juventude Evora, Vitoria Setubal 2-1 Sporting, Rio Ave 4-1 Atlético, Vitoria Guimaraes 2-0 Torreense, Leixoes 1-1 Pinhalnovense (4-5 pens)

Hits

James Rodriguez

Porto hosted minnows Juventude de Evora and claimed a comfortable 4-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals of the competition. Manager André Villas-Boas decided it was a good time to give the Colombian ‘whizkid’ a chance to shine, and the former Banfield starlet was lively throughout the match.

The superb curling cross for his fellow countryman Radamel Falcao in the first goal may just well be the first sign that ‘El Bandido’ (or ‘The Bandit’ as he’s known) is about to steal the Porto faithfula’s hearts; Rodriguez’s display pleased his manager who already declared the winger would be starting against CSKA Sofia for the Europa League.

André Villas-Boas

The Porto manager had warned against complacency prior the match, and the team responded with a professional display against the third-tier side. Retaining six of the usual suspects in the starting XI, Villas-Boas extended his impressive unbeaten streak to 24 matches, helping the club break a record previously set by none other than Jose Mourinho (The Real Madrid manager had a run of 33 matches without loss during hi spell in charge of the Dragons, but Jesualdo Ferreira’s 10 at the end of last season and Villas-Boas’s 24 this term have now topped that).

Julio Cesar

Many Portuguese newspapers hailed Saviola’s performance against Braga, but the Argentinean was anonymous for large periods of the match. On the other hand, Julio Cesar, Benfica’s Europa League goalkeeper last season, proved he’s more than a mere back-up for number one Roberto Jimenez.

The 24-year old Brazilian custodian, whose hair appears to have travelled forward through time from the 1990s, didn’t have the busiest of nights, but was up to the task every time he was required.

His amazing save minutes before the end of the crucial match summed up what manager Jorge Jesus wanted earlier this season: a goalkeeper who could win a match. But will his performance give Jesus food for thought?

Braga full-backs

Portugal coach Paulo Bento was closely monitoring the match between Braga and Benfica from the stands, and he’ll be very pleased with the development of Braga full-back Sílvio, who is maturing into a well-rounded defender.

The former Rio Ave player dealt with Gaitan and Coentrao and was not afraid to venture himself into offensive manoeuvres as well.

The Portugeezer’s tip of the hat though goes to Guilherme, the young Brazilian left-back who looks the mirror image of Rafael da Silva (or is it Fabio?). Not long ago, he was playing for Braga’s feeder club Vizela, but due to his ability to fill a variety of roles he was called back.

While Guilherme adopted a generally conservative approach – his natural position is left midfielder after all – his effort at the back and overall performance hint at a very bright future.

Manuel Fernandes

Here’s a man who has professed his love for Sporting so many times, he would marry surely them if such a thing was legal in Portugal… Unfortunately for the Lions, he was able to keep his feelings in check and steer current club Setúbal to a famous 2-1 win against a largely full-strength Sporting side.

Ney Santos opened the scoring in the 29th minute, before Zeca doubled the lead five minutes later to mute the Lions’s roars. After the break, Setubal focused on defence and an organized performance kept Sporting at bay with the exception of Liedson’s flabbergasting goal (below). Kudos to Fernandes and Setubal, who are just two matches away from Jamor!

Pinhalnovense

For the second year in a row, this little club from the third division has managed to reach the quarterfinals of the competition, which is a huge achievement in itself. They beat Leixoes on penalties and will hope their happy-go-lucky approach helps to extend their dream just a little bit longer. The competition would welcome that for sure…

Misses

Sporting

Living up to their ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ pattern, Sporting produced a very bland performance and were outsmarted by a resilient Setubal side.

Manager Paulo Sérgio fielded his preferred starting XI in order to guarantee a win, but the loss means no end of season cup glory, and heaps more pressure on the coach.

Two questions should be answered as soon as possible: Are Postiga and Liedson good enough to start? And is a good showing in the Europa League a goal ambitious enough for the club?

Braga

Playing at Estadio da Luz is never an easy task, but Benfica have been sloppy this season and have already suffered home defeats to sides weaker than Braga. The Eagles eventually claimed a 2-0 success but it felt the success was down more to Braga’s lethargic display rather than Benfica’s free-flowing football.

One has to wonder whether Braga would have been more capable of pulling off a win at the beginning of the season…

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