Gaitán shines, SL Benfica wins Lisbon’s derby against Sporting CP


At the Estádio da Luz, Lisbon with 63,000 in attendance, Salvio and Lima gave the win to the home team. It was the sixth straight game that Sporting CP was not able to score in the “clássico” (since 2006). SL Benfica took a huge step towards the league title while Sporting CP may have compromised the 2013/2014 UEFA Europa League qualification.

The Sporting CP that came to this game was the youngest (the average age was 23.32) in history in games against SL Benfica. It was the derby number 79 at Estádio da Luz for a league game. This game gave SL Benfica the 44th win (56% victories) and a boost of confidence for the remaining of the season. The team leads the league by four points, achieved the Portuguese Cup final a week ago against Paços de Ferreira and battles with Fenerbahçe SK for a spot in the Europa League final. The triplet is a possibility but without a trophy granted, the Eagles show no signs of slowing down. Sporting CP has struggled all season long (8W, 9D, 9L). Not used to this, the team is going through a similar process that Liverpool FC faces. Once battling with FC Porto and SL Benfica (Liverpool with Manchester United and Arsenal FC), Sporting CP sits in the 10th place of the table, two points behind Estoril Praia and the Europa League qualification spot.


Slow start

The game started with the miss of Ricky van Wolfswinkel with only six minutes played. The forward, that was sold last March to Norwich City due to financial troubles, ran away from Ezequiel Garay and saw Artur saving with the chest. Just a minute after, Diego Capel fell inside the box in a dispute with Maximiliano Pereira. The referee kept the whistle in his hand. Bruma (already targeted by Man. City and B. Munich) and André Martins took control, early in the game. The Sporting CP’s duo participated in the best attacking efforts of their team, despite the major control of the game, Artur (just like his opponent Rui Patrício) was not tested. In the meantime SL Benfica missed a lot of passes in the midfield. While the visitors came to the game with three players in the middle, SL Benfica played with two, Nemanja Matic and Enzo Pérez. The home team began to grow and earned some corners in the first half (ended the game with 10), but Luisão, Cardozo and Matic (the shortest has 193 cm/ 6.3 ft) were not able to create danger. With 15 minutes left to play in the half, Nicolás Gaitán crossed to Lima, who was not able to shot and saw Salvio scoring with the left foot,  leaving Rui Patrício nailed to the floor.



More intensity, more opportunities

At the begining of the second half, Sporting CP was more agressive. It could have tied the game with a header by Eric Dier at the angle, Artur saved to corner. Immediately after the corner, Joãozinho crossed with danger, the ball almost kissed the goalpost. Oscar Cardozo and Garay tried the 2-0 after a sequence of corners. SL Benfica’s coach, Jorge Jesus, changed Cardozo by Ola John. This enabled Gaitán to play as a playmaker (balanced the midfield with three players in each side), leaving John and Salvio in the wings. At the 75′, Gaitán, with a superb play (see the goal here) assisted Lima for his 16th goal in the league, who is second (alongside his teammate Cardozo) in the league scoring list. Sporting CP tried to change the score but were not able to beat Artur, leaving the Estádio da Luz for six years in a row scoreless.


Managerial grades

Jorge Jesus (SL Benfica) : B

SL Benfica was slow during most of the first half. The team missed too many passes and seemed nervous. Despite that, the eagles were able to play a much better second half. Changing Cardozo to put Ola John in the game was key, balancing the number of men in the midfield. With this win SL Benfica remains undefeated (22W 4D 0L) in the league and keeps the four point distance to FC Porto with four games remaining to play (both teams will face eachother in the 29th fixture).


Jesualdo Ferreira (Sporting CP): B-

Let’s be fair. Jesualdo Ferreira embraced a tremendous task by joining Sporting CP. The team is young, there is no much money for transfers and the three previous presidents have done more damage than the opponents in the games. The team strategy worked untill the first goal. The young Dier left the game by injury and the midfield lost a key player. The right back, Miguel Lopes, had to be replaced too.  But playing with such young players (Bruma is 18 and Tiago Illori 20) has a cost. In the future they might be great values, and will only be if they play regularly, but these young players cannot manage their stamina so well. André Carrillo and Zakaria Labyad did not played, a questionable move by Jesualdo Ferreira.

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