Derby and moan as Lisbon lacks fizzle

Round 11 Results: Mon Nov 30 Sporting Braga 2-0 União de Leiria Sun Nov 29 Académica 3-0 Vitória Setúbal, Paços de Ferreira 1-1 Leixões, Belenenses 2-2 Marítimo, FC Porto 2-1 Rio Ave Sat Nov 28 Nacional 1-1 Naval, Sporting 0-0 Benfica Fri Nov 27 Olhanense 0-2 Vitória Guimarães

Folks, who doesn't enjoy a good derby match?

A football battle between two old rivals is guaranteed to give the spectator more than what he gets in a regular match.

There’s the pre-game trash-talking, there’s the unlikely hero who scores in the last minute, there’s the refereeing blunder that will be discussed over and over and, of course, there’s the sheer pleasure of rubbing the victory in the faces of the rival fans.

Like many other people, The Portugeezer was curious to see how Sporting and Benfica would perform in what had been dubbed the second “big match” of the season.

In one corner, there were the Lions; boosted by the arrival of a new manager, they needed to win not only to keep their faint title hopes alive but also to gain a psychological edge over their old foes.

In the other corner, the wounded Eagles wanted to remain atop of the league and prove that the home defeat to Vitória Guimarães in the Cup was a mere fluke.

Having said that, let’s see how Sporting vs Benfica fared according to the basic items of a great derby formula:

Goals? Zero.
Red cards? None.
Opportunities? A handful, at most.
Controversies? None.

OK… thinking again, maybe not every derby is the epitome of awesomeness!

Sporting vs Benfica certainly wasn’t and ended with a 0-0 bore draw, a result that raised some questions over the credentials of both sides.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: it was a below-average event between two sides that were afraid to win.

But that gave SC Braga and FC Porto reasons to smile because neither team wasted the opportunity to benefit from the draw between the Lisbon rivals.

The Dragons left it late but they managed to overcome a plucky Rio Ave with a hard-fought 2-1 win.

They continue to stutter, but are nevertheless just three points behind Benfica. That will make the December 20 game between both teams much more interesting.

Braga hosted União de Leiria on Monday and recorded a comfortable 2-0 win.

The Arsenalistas continue to impress and while many pundits expect them to drop points at some stage, they seem happy to defy the odds.

On the up

Académica were impressive this week after hammering Setúbal 3-0. They’re now out of the relegation zone and will hope to build on that.

Buoyed by their Cup win against Benfica, Vitória de Guimarães travelled to Algarve to beat Olhanense.

Since Paulo Sérgio arrived at the club, they look a completely different side and are playing attractive football at the moment.

Going down

Olhanense lost once again and they are now second from bottom. For a side that promised so much in the first few games, they now look a Liga Vitalis side. That surely isn’t a good omen for them…

Talking points

Trailing Braga by 13 points, Benfica by 11 and Porto by eight, can Sporting still be considered title contenders this season?

Is Jorge Costa’s time at Olhanense coming to an end? The former Porto centre-back was the one to steer the Algarvian side to Liga Sagres, but everybody knows that, unlike museums, managers don’t live on past achievements.

After watching his side overcoming União de Leiria, Domingos Paciência declared that “Braga are the best team in the league”.

And you know what? He’s right, they have been. However, such loud and clear boasting may put opponents on alert and invite undesired pressure.

Nevertheless, if you’re a stats junkie you’ll be pleased to know that when you compare Braga’s performance so far to the one of the championship-winning Boavista side, the Arsenalistas have been better.

Goal of the round

There weren’t many spectacular goals this weekend, though Tiago Targino’s against Olhanense was a good one.

The midfielder is enjoying his recent performances and is finally fulfilling the potential shown earlier in his career.

After terrorising Benfica defenders with his mazy runs on the wings, Targino bagged an assist and a goal. Well done!

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