Sporting lead the way in Europe as Dragons slain

And then there were two. Porto, Sporting and Benfica continued their European journey last week, but it was end of the line for the Dragons who were unable to hold to their narrow 2-1 lead against Arsenal.

Looking at the results, it is ironic to think that three weeks ago nobody would bet on Sporting being the team to spearhead the Portuguese attack on the UEFA competitions. Let’s see what happened...

Arsenal 5 FC Porto 0

Everybody knew that morale wasn’t exactly high in Porto squad after a crushing defeat at Sporting and a disappointing home draw against Olhanense, but few would predict the cataclysm they were about to face in London.

Jesualdo Ferreira raised a few eyebrows when he decided to include untested centre-back Nuno André Coelho in the starting XI to fill the holding midfielder role, and the move backfired as Porto were unable to get control of the midfield.

Porto's beaten stars look on as Bendtner makes it five

Arsenal started brightly and scored an early goal when Nicklas Bendtner was quick to pounce after Helton blocked a ball from Arshavin. The Gunners created many, many problems for the Dragons defence through Arshavin, Nasri and Diaby and naturally it didn’t take them too long to score the second goal.

The Russian wizard bamboozled Porto defence and assisted the giant Dane who just had to tap in.

After the break, Jesualdo tried to undo his conservative tactics and for the first 20 minutes in the second half they looked like they could pose some problems to the home side.

However, Samir Nasri pulled a giant rabbit out of his hat when he dribbled three players and struck an accurate shot into the bottom right corner. That was the moment of the night, not only because it was a sublime piece of skill, but because it killed off the match.

Eboué would add a fourth and Bendtner would still clinch a hat-trick in a late penalty to heap more misery on the Dragons.

Porto are usually such a resilient and mature side that few saw this coming, but this heavy loss signals the end of a cycle – the end of Jesualdo Ferreira at the helm of the club.

Atlético 0 Sporting 0

Sporting played at Vicente Caldéron in match that pitted two extremely inconsistent teams against one another.

Sergio Aguero couldn't get the better of Pedro Mendes and co.

Keeping up with their good form of late, Sporting were able to hold Atlético, even at a man down for an hour!

The Lions were very organized throughout the match and even created the best opportunity of the night when Liédson hit the woodwork in the first half.

Still, they will be happy to have taken the decision to their home turf where they have been feeling very, very confident. Even without Grimi and Tonel, Sporting have the upper hand and the quarterfinals are just around the corner.

Benfica 1 Marseille 1

Benfica hosted Marseille in what was one of the most intriguing ties of the Last 16.

"GOAL! Which competition is this again...?"

Buoyed by their position in the league, the Eagles were full of confidence ahead of the match and 60,000 supporters went to the stadium with hopes of seeing their team hammering yet another side.

Well, they must have been left disappointed because the Jorge Jesus side was schooled by an impressive Marseille.

Unlike the majority of the matches this season, the Eagles looked sluggish and unable to reproduce their gung-ho style as the French side controlled the affairs perfectly and created the best opportunities.

Lucho González and Benoît Cheyrou were the key men in the midfield and their tactical awareness and clever passing play was vital to dismantle the stunned host side.

Everything seemed to fall into the right place though, as goalkeeper Steve Mandanda botched a simple save and allowed Maxi Pereira to score. 1-0 was a good result and they could have turned it into a great result when Ramires rattled the woodwork from outside the box but ended up being a bad one as Hatem Ben Arfa scored in the dying moments of the match.

It is advantage Marseille and Benfica need to do a lot more at the mythical Vélodrome if they want to reach the quarterfinals of the competition.

Predictions

Sporting 2 Atlético 0

The Lions are expecting a packed stadium to witness their team beating Los Colchoneros and if they put another good performance they’ll win.

They are enjoying their football and look much more dangerous than at the beginning of the season which is why a lukewarm Atlético will be knocked out. Goals from Liédson and Veloso!

Marseille 2 Benfica 2

This one will be very tough but regardless of the result, the Portugeezer is predicting a thrilling match.

Benfica know they cannot play the same game they played in Lisbon and they’ll have to be at their best to have a chance. Vélodrome will play a role naturally, but Benfica will survive and conquer the French side.

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