Portugal's fab four on the European front
The latest European round produced a decent showing from the four Portuguese teams.
None of the results were particularly shocking, but Benfica still managed an eye-catching result that might put Europa League contenders on alert.
Stay tuned for the next matchday, because it might just decide the fate of Porto, Benfica, Sporting, Nacional.
Porto 2-1 APOEL (Champions League Group D)
Champions League? You're having a laugh. Halfway through the game, those present could be forgiven for wishing for pillows.
It really was that boring. The Dragons looked uninspired, but the Cypriots were simply happy to park the bus if that meant earning a single point Ã¢ÂÂ puzzling, considering that it wasn't a knockout match and smaller teams have nothing to lose.
As it was, APOEL managed to take the lead without actually having attempted a single shot.
After a poor clearance from ÃÂlvaro Pereira, a cross from an APOEL midfielder deflected off the luckless Pereira into his own net. Shocking perhaps, but there was still a lot of time.
Unsurprisingly, Porto leveled after a botched backpass from the Cypriots. Falcao was quick to serve Hulk and the Brazilian made no mistake with a well-struck shot.
Just three minutes after the break, Porto were awarded a penalty and it was despatched, again by the Incredible Hulk (whose morale has skyrocketed since being called up by Dunga).
APOEL failed to produce any reaction after the second goal and the home side continued to control the game.
The win was completely deserved and should Porto win again next time out in Nicosia Ã¢ÂÂ surely within their ability Ã¢ÂÂ they can start thinking about the knock-out rounds.
Ventspils 1-2 Sporting (Europa League Group D)
The Lions went to Latvia and came away with a 2-1 win.
Miguel Veloso scored directly from a corner kick and although Ventspils drew level, JoÃÂ£o Moutinho's spectacular long-ranger clinched the three points.
No surprise really: The Portugeezer has already said that only a cataclysm would prevent Sporting from finishing top.
And Sporting lead the group with nine points, five more than chasing Heerenveen and seven more than third-placed Ventspils.
One more win in the return against the Latvians would make the Lions one of the first teams through to the knock-out stages; they might focus on getting their act together domestically.
Benfica 5-0 Everton (Europa League Group I)
Yes, Everton were missing key players like Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar, Phil Jagielka and Joseph Yobo.
Nevertheless, the Toffees are usually an organised side, and it was a big surprise to see them manhandled.
It was quite a night for the Eagles, reminiscent of the clubÃ¢ÂÂs golden age, and Jesus will no doubt be happy to have seen his team bounce back from their disappointing loss at AEK Athens.
Javier Saviola opened the scoring on 14 minutes, but the damage was done by three goals in a six-minute killing spree just after half-time.
The inevitable ÃÂscar 'Mr Duracell' Cardozo bagged a brace before LuisÃÂ£o ended any Everton hopes and 'El Conejo' Saviola added the final gloss.
But the man of the match didn't even score.
Finally starting to fulfill his potential, Argentinian winger ÃÂngel di Maria has been much more dangerous and consistent this season. Against Everton, he was simply unplayable.
A word of advice to Jesus and his pupils. It will be a different game at Goodison Park as David Moyes' side aim to regain their pride.
But a good result in Liverpool would keep Benfica top and in a prime position to qualify with two further games to play against AEK and BATE.
Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Nacional (Europa League Group L)
DÃÂ©jÃÂ vu anyone? Nacional again started well and managed to get a surprise lead after yet another goal from RÃÂºben Micael.
But although the islanders fought hard against the Basques, they were unable to hold off their foes Ã¢ÂÂ just like against Werder Bremen and Austria Vienna.
Hosting the Germans, they had fought back from two goals down to level before losing in the 85th minute; in Austria they gave the home side a 76th-minute equaliser.
This time, the evergreen Joseba Etxeberria leveled on 67 minutes and Fernando Llorente scored in the 86th.
Although Manuel Machado couldn't have asked for more from his troops, Nacional currently sit at the bottom, with one point from three games.
With Werder on seven points and Athletic on six, the islanders have to win their home games against Athletic (next) and Austria Vienna (last) to have any chance of extending their European fairytale.
Even though the odds donÃ¢ÂÂt look too good, most fans in Portugal will hope to see Nacional putting their heart and soul into their games once more.
Who knows what may happen then?
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