Estádio Da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
37′ Jonas (P)
90’+3′ Santos (P)
Benfica extended their lead at the top of the Primeira Liga to five points after defeating Braga 5-1 at the Estádio Da Luz.
Goals from Kostas Mitroglou, birthday boy Jonas and Pizzi gave the Eagles a three-nil first-half lead. Mitroglou got a second before substitute Andreas Samaris curled in a brilliant freekick to ensure the victory for the Eagles despite a late Pedro Santos consolation from the penalty spot.
Despite the scoreline, it was actually the visitors who started the better between the two sides and very nearly took the lead within the first 30 seconds of the match. Ahmed Hassan picked out Wilson Eduardo with a cross, but the latter’s header struck the wood-work with Ederson beaten.
In the 10th minute the visitors should have taken the lead again. Rafa Silva, who has attracted a handful of Europe’s biggest clubs recently, was played onside – but with just Ederson to beat, his lobbed effort drifted just wide.
The hosts took full advantage seven minutes later. Benfica’s high-pressing tactics were too much for the Arsenalistas, especially Mauro, who lost possession after his side decided to play the ball out from the back. The Braga man tried to recover the ball, intercepting a pass only to play the ball into the path of Mitroglou who curled home first-time.
Since the breakthrough, the hosts were in the ascendancy and were awarded a penalty when Renato Sanches drove into the box before his cross hit the arm of Ricardo Ferreira. It was an incredibly harsh decision given the Braga man’s arm was in a natural position by his side, and that the ball hadn’t travellled very far. Nevertheless the hosts took full advantage with birthday boy Jonas stepping up to convert the spot-kick, the perfect present for the Brazilian who returned from international duty barely 24 hours ago.
Three minutes later the hosts made it three. Jonas found Pizzi who cleverly used the run of Mitroglou to create half a yard before curling home from outside the area to give the Eagles a commanding lead at the break.
The Lisbon-side started the second period as they ended the first and went close to putting the game to bed. In the 49th minute goalscorer Mitroglou and his skipper Nicolás Gaitán combined – with the Argentine played through, but his effort was smothered by Matheus.
Five minutes later Gaitán very nearly got onto the scoresheet again. Pizzi’s lobbed effort from outside the box was excellently tipped away by Matheus before Gaitán’s rebound was palmed away by the keeper.
A couple of minutes later the visitors went close to pulling a goal back. Hassan managed to get onto a long-ball played forward, but he lost his footing before his tame volley was palmed behind by Ederson.
A minute later Pedro Santos went close for the visitors. The Braga man beat Eliseu with ease before sending in a dangerous square pass that pin-balled around the area before finding Luíz Carlos who shot over via a deflection.
On the hour-mark the visitors were within inches of pulling a goal back again. The referee had played an advantage after Jardel bundled Baiano down in the penalty area and Hassan obliged, curling an effort that hit the post. The second occasion in which the woodwork came to Benfica’s aid.
Eight minutes later the visitors went close again when an Eduardo freekick was palmed away by Ederson.
Three minutes later the hosts put the game to bed. A brilliant move saw Gaitán find Jonas who surged free before unselfishly squared for his striking partner Mitroglou, who despite a poor initial first-touch, fired high into the roof of the net for his second of the game.
In the 75th minute the home side made it five. After Jonas was fouled outside the box by Carlos, substitute Andreas Samaris stepped up to brilliantly curl the freekick home despite Matheus getting a hand onto it.
The visitors were unfortunate not to have been on the scoresheet earlier in this match but were given a golden opportunity from the penalty spot when substitute Nélson Semedo clipped Santos in the area. In the third minute of injury-time, Santos stepped up to slot the penalty home sending Ederson the wrong way to grab a consolation. The only positive for the Arsenalistas was that they prevented Ederson from keeping a clean sheet.
The result for the hosts meant that they moved onto 70 points, now going five points clear of second-placed neighbours Sporting who are yet to play. The Arsenalistas remain in fourth on 50 points, 20 shy of tonight’s opposition.