Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (Da Luz), Lisboa, Portugal
Former Benfica manager Jorge Jesus enjoyed his return to the Estádio Da Luz after his current Sporting side demolished his former club with an emphatic victory thanks to first-half goals from Teo Gutiérrez, Islam Slimani and Bryan Ruiz.
In a fiery and passionate contest, the hosts began the game well, pressing from the off, and dominated possession early on. However, it was the the visitors with their first real attack, who opened the scoring. Gutiérrez was played through and the on-rushing Júlio César came out to ricochet the ball off the Colombian and hand the Leões the lead, against the run of play.
The Águias made a good response and came close moments later with Jonas volleying wide after a great ball by Gonçalo Guedes. However, their lack of creativity was punished when Slimani headed a fine finish past the helpless César to double his side’s lead after 21 minutes.
The game had died down substantially after the goal, thanks to the many niggly fouls that prevented both sides from gaining momentum. After 29 mins, the Águias did come close to pulling one back when Jonas’ curling effort flashed over the bar. It was better from the home side though. Their neighbours always looked menacing on the counter and it was an impressive break that led to their third, with the impressive Slimani at the thick of it again. The Algerian surged through a lacklustre Benfica defence to fire a powerful strike that César could only push away to Ruiz and the Costa Rican made no mistake from close-range to give the Lionsa a three-nil lead at the break.
The beginning of the second half, had a cagey opening, knowing that the next goal would be the most crucial, and it was Sporting who almost got it. Jefferson found space in the area went close when his shot drifted just wide of the post. The game then endured another dry spell, with more nasty challenges disrupting the complexity of the game. Sporting looking the more likely to score with every attack, but rarely troubled César in the second-half. Benfica’s best chance came when Raúl Jiménez took advantage of Naldo’s failure to shepherd the ball out of play, but he selfishly chose to shoot instead of find Jonas who was free in the box. Moments later Andreas Samaris opted to shoot from range and it almost worked a trick but his effort caught the roof of the net.
With the number of fouls disrupting the game, it was remarkable that there were still eleven on both sides, Samaris, Gaitán and Slimani all lucky not to be given a second yellow for numerous fouls. Just when you thought that the game was over, Luisão almost hit the self-destruct button. His wayward and overhit back-pass almost rolled into his own net, had it not been for César’s heroics: clearing off the line to prevent the scoreline from getting even worse. That was the last real action as the referee blew his whistle to end a miserable defeat for the defending Portuguese champions at the hands of their noisy neighbours.
The defeat was Benfica’s first in the league in 56 matches at home (in 3 years), and handed them their third defeat of the season, possibly a damaging one in the title-race. They remained in eighth with 12 points although they have a game in hand, whilst their neighbours climb temporarily to first with 20 points before Porto face Braga.