Porto give Benfica plenty to ponder

Perhaps for the first time in recent years, Porto went to a match against Benfica as clear underdogs, as the two sides did battle for the Supercup on Saturday evening.

Having finished in third place and not impressed during pre-season, there was the feeling that the Dragons had to prove themselves and naysayers they could still do it against the reigning champions.

Well, not only Porto shot down the Eagles with a 2-0 victory, but they managed to do it with such ease that Jorge Jesus may still be wondering what went wrong.

Surprises in the starting XIs

There were two major surprises in both teams’ starting lineup - despite his encouraging performances in pre-season, Benfica new boy Franco Jara was surprisingly dropped for Cesar Peixoto; such move saw Coentrao play as a winger as Peixoto slotted in the left back role.

For Porto, it was Jorge Fucile – who may still leave the club – who didn’t start with manager Villas-Boas opting to give the nod to Cristian Sapunaru.

Capitalizing on a dream start

Porto started the match in brilliant fashion, breaking the deadlock in the third minute. After a corner from Joao Moutinho, centre-back Rolando was quick to pounce with a header and gave the Dragons an early lead.

The goal managed to stun Benfica who were completely unable to leave their own midfield in the first 30 minutes.

The midfield trio of Airton, Aimar and Carlos Martins were anonymous due to effective marking from Fernando and Moutinho and with no room to explore, Benfica couldn’t create a single clear-cut opportunity.

Many expected Jesus to introduce Jara after the break to try to turn the tide, but he would only do that at the hour mark.

Unfortunately for him, it was Porto who continued to have the best chances and they would clinch the all-important second goal in the 68th minute when the red-hot Varela found space down in the left flank, dribbled Luisao and crossed to predator Falcao who was quick to anticipate the defender and score another goal

The final whistle couldn’t come any sooner for an outclassed Benfica side that had no answer for a much superior opponent.

Highs and lows

Varela was back to his scintillating best as he tormented Benfica defenders all night long, especially Ruben Amorim.

The 25-year old winger - who had broken his fibula at the end of last season – was simply unplayable and was without a doubt the man of the match.

If Hulk – who was somehow shut out by Peixoto - had one of his inspired nights Benfica could have left with more goals in the bag.

Moutinho may have just played one official match, but he already endeared himself to the Porto faithful with a very promising performance.

The former Sporting captain lived up to this hefty price tag and showed a great understanding with his teammates, a good omen for the Dragons.

Benfica supporters were probably curious to see how Roberto would fare in his first official match for the club, but unfortunately for them the Spaniard confirmed their worst fears.

Roberto mistimed almost every cross thrown into the area, he looked nervous with the feet and could have done better in the first goal. Not only he looks far from justifying the €8.5 million invested in him, but he looks a genuine liability.

Supporters may have thought about Reina and Casillas when the club signed him, but they’re now thinking about Moretto...while shaking their heads in disbelief.Coentrao was also not as effective as he would probably have been had he played at left back.

He’s fast and can dribble, but he’s so much better when attacking from deep, which is why the decision to play him on the wing backfired. He looked uncomfortable in that area and subsequently Benfica suffered.

What next for Benfica?

Benfica are now forced to go back to June and rethink their strategy because their transfer policy this summer has been pretty mediocre. Gaitan? Not the player to replace Di Maria, and it’s not clear how he’ll fit in the current formation. Roberto? Not a goalkeeper who can win you matches. Rodrigo? A €6 million player from Real Madrid who may yet be loaned out to Guimaraes. Jara? The only good signing so far and in a position where Benfica already possesses quite a few options.

If they’re serious about using the 4-3-3 formation, they’ll need to buy a Ramires type of player that can complement Airton/Garcia and Aimar/Martins and fast. Running against the transfer deadline may be dangerous, but hey, after wasting buckets of money in random players, why would they stop now, right?

One last note: congratulations to young André Villas-Boas who despite all the razzmatazz surrounding his ability to lead the Dragons already claimed one title, Porto’s 17th Supercup.

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