Benfica seal title as question marks already surround Sporting-bound Sergio

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At last Liga Sagres has a winner, and (…drum roll…) it is Benfica!

Over 64,000 supporters packed Estádio da Luz to see their team being crowned 2009/10 Champions and when Paraguayan hitman Óscar Cardozo scored in the third minute, few believed the Eagles would somehow drop the ball.

Things would get even easier eight minutes later, when Wires was sent-off for a tough challenge on Brazilian midfielder Ramires.

With everything seemingly going for them, Benfica controlled the match without pushing too hard for a second goal. However that move suddenly looked to have backfired as Rio Ave somehow leveled through Ricardo Chaves in the 72nd minute to give Braga a glimmer of hope.

But that late drama would only last seven minutes as Cardozo grabbed his second goal to not only confirm the title but also surpass Porto forward Radamel Falcao as the league’s top goalscorer.

As for Braga, even though they were only able to claim the runners-up sport – which is a still an immense achievement considering their expectations at the beginning of the season – they can hold their heads high after a terrific campaign that drew many supporters and will see their team fighting for a place in the Champions League, ‘le crème de la crème’ of continental football. They have surely come a long way and it will be interesting to see how well they will fare next season.

Are Benfica deserving champions?

Though the Eagles have played the best football the Portugueezer has ever seen them play (hey, I am young!), their title isn’t without its shades of controversy: the tunnel controversies, some dubious penalty awards and the relatively high number of matches played against 10-men.

Managers usually whisper that the number of decisions for and against them pretty much evens out, but it is hard not to wonder how the Eagles would have coped with more decisions going against them.

Marítimo pip Guimarães to final Europa League berth

Guimarães enjoyed a somewhat slow start, but under Paulo Sérgio the team eventually blossomed into a rather plucky and organized side and for a while it seemed like they could dethrone Sporting from fourth spot.

However, they will be very disappointed to miss out on next season’s Europa League at the last hurdle as Mitchell Van der Gaag steered the Islanders to a surprising 1-2 away win to secure an unexpected fifth place.

Worth watching is Marítimo’s winner in the 81th minute, an example of simple yet beautiful team play!

Thumbs up to the young Dutch manager and thumbs down to Paulo Sérgio who will now be heading to Sporting with more question marks surrounding him…

Welcome Beira-Mar and Portimonense!

The duo were in pole position to clinch promotion ahead of the final round of matches in Portugal’s second tier, and both claimed wins in the final day (Beira-Mar 1-0 Carregado, Oliveirense 0-1 Portimonense) to join the big fish in the scenic pond of the Liga Sagres 2010/11 season.

How they will perform and whether they are capable of beating the drop next year remains to be seen, but we’d welcome any opinions on the matter below.

Just one point of interest to finish off, next season will be first since 1988/1989 that the Portuguese top-flight features two Algarvian teams (Portimonense and Olhanense).  It is also interesting to note that in a region with few developed clubs , nobody will play at Estádio do Algarve, one of the stadiums specifically built for the Euro 2004.

And to think AC Milan and Internazionale share their stadium!

RESULTS Sun May 09: Paços Ferreira 2-2 Olhanense, Naval 0-1 Académica; Vitória Guimarães 1-2 Marítimo, Benfica 2-1 Rio Ave, Nacional 1-1 Braga; Sat May 08: União Leiria 1-4 Porto, Vitória Setúbal 1-2 Belenenses, Leixões 1-2 Sporting.