Sporting plummet as Braga show their strength
ROUND 18 RESULTS: Sat Feb 6 Sporting 1-2 AcadÃÂ©mica, SetÃÂºbal 1-1 Benfica Sun Feb 7 Olhanense 1-0 Nacional, MarÃÂtimo 1-0 UniÃÂ£o de Leiria, Rio Ave 2-0 LeixÃÂµes, GuimarÃÂ£es 1-2 PaÃÂ§os Ferreira, Porto 3-0 Naval Mon Feb 8 Belenenses 1-3 Braga
Sporting's game against AcadÃÂ©mica was intended to prove that the heavy loss to Porto was just a bad day at the office.
Instead, it showed that the 2009/10 season is one to forget.
Credit to AcadÃÂ©mica for playing a good game and winning three invaluable points.
The jury may still be out for Florent Sinama-Pongolle, but the Frenchman is yet to convince The Portugeezer heÃ¢ÂÂs better than academy product Carlos Saleiro, let alone the Lions' spearhead.
For CarvalhalÃ¢ÂÂs sake, the Ã¢ÂÂ¬6.5 million signing better start scoring...
Before facing SetÃÂºbal on Sunday, Benfica had played UniÃÂ£o de Leiria in midweek to give them more preparation time for the Europa League Ã¢ÂÂ and presumably to put more pressure on Braga.
They had few problems in beating Leiria 3-0, but SetÃÂºbal was a different story.
It was a good TV match: lots of action at both ends and a fair result.
The Eagles have every reason to feel disappointed with dropping two points, but SetÃÂºbal forwards HÃÂ©lder Barbosa and Keita were worthy opponents for the Benfica defenders.
Curiously, two own-goals settled the tie with David Luiz registering a one-of-a-kind moment.
As SetÃÂºbal were pushing for a leveller, the highly-rated defender botched an easy clearance and scored a bizarre own goal.
Hilarious or atrocious? You decide...
Oops-a-daisy... watch it here or click the pic
Porto and Braga didnoÃ¢ÂÂt miss the opportunity to cut the gap with Benfica and enjoyed two comfortable victories.
Braga went to bottom-placed Belenenses and recorded a resounding 3-1 win despite playing with 10 men for more than an hour.
Without Vandinho and MossorÃÂ³, Braga showed off their strength in depth as Luis Aguiar and Matheus were directly involved in the goals.
Porto cruised against Naval in a match that looked more like a warm-up exercise for the Dragons than an actual challenge.
Goals from TomÃÂ¡s Costa, Falcao and Varela built the final score and theyÃ¢ÂÂll be looking to heap more pressure on their title rivals.
On the up
Porto and PaÃÂ§os de Ferreira.
Ever since RÃÂºben Micael arrived, the Dragons look a different team: assured and with a meaner edge.
This is the best Porto of the season and it couldnÃ¢ÂÂt have shown up at better stage.
PaÃÂ§os de Ferreira built on their home win against AcadÃÂ©mica as they stunned GuimarÃÂ£es away.
They're now up to eighth and preparing to host Sporting Ã¢ÂÂ now only five points ahead of them in fourth Ã¢ÂÂ in what will be a very intriguing match.
As if things werenÃ¢ÂÂt already bad for Sporting, they fell to yet another loss at home.
Still reeling from defeat at Porto, the Lions were powerless to prevent an organized AcadÃÂ©mica side from winning.
Where do they go now?
Goal of the round
This one is a toss-up. It could be PaÃÂ§os de Ferreira defender OzÃÂ©ia making many dead-ball specialists blush when he curled in a long-range free-kick against GuimarÃÂ£es.
Or it could be Wason RenterÃÂa Ã¢ÂÂ who returned to Braga in January Ã¢ÂÂ scoring his team's third at Belenenses to cap another solid performance.
After stealing the ball from a defender, the Colombian ran into the box and finished with a delightful chip somewhat reminiscent of Davor Suker at Euro 96.
* Are Braga the best team in Liga Sagres? Vandinho and MossorÃÂ³ werenÃ¢ÂÂt able to play but Matheus, Luis Aguiar and RenterÃÂa shone for the club.
* In the fourth and final European spot but chased by half a dozen teams within five points of them, could Sporting miss out on Europe? Or are they Ã¢ÂÂtoo big to fail?Ã¢ÂÂ
* Can Belenenses pull off a 'Great Escape'? The odds are against them, but there are definitely worst squads in terms of talent. What do you think?
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