Estádio AXA, Braga, Portugal
Benfica moved back to the top of Liga NOS after a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Braga at the Estádio AXA in Braga.
Kostas Mitroglou’s winner, ten minutes from time was enough against the Arsenalistas, who had earlier struck the post in the first-half. The Greek striker’s superb solo-effort capped-off a fine week for Rui Vitória’s men, who earlier in the week defeated Borussia Dortmund in the first-leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.
After an evenly contested first nine minutes the hosts had the first sight of goal when Pedro Santos volleyed a Marcelo Goiano cross just wide.
In the 22nd minute the visitors thought they had taken the lead when an Eliseu strike fell into the path of Mitroglou, who fired home but the flag was up for offside, although it appeared he was actually onside.
In the 28th minute Braga went close when Santos found former Benfica youth player Rui Fonte, who tried to bend an effort at-goal but Júlio César made a comfortable save.
A minute later the Águias should have taken the lead when former Braga winger Rafa Silva sent in a teasing delivery that Mitroglou fired over the bar from close-range under-pressure from Marafona, who ricocheted the ball off the Greek striker.
In the 36th minute the Arsenalistas very nearly went ahead when a Santos delivery from a corner was met by Rodrigo Battaglia, who saw his header come back off the post with César well-beaten.
Three minutes later the hosts went close again when a Goiano cross was cleared into the path of Santos, but he fired the ball just over the bar on the half-volley.
In the 42nd minute the visitors had a good chance when a Benfica caused havoc, the ball fell to Eduardo Salvio but he couldn’t sort his feet out and Marafona collected the loose ball.
The hosts had a good chance to take the lead three minutes into second when a Santos delivery from a corner was met by Nikola Stojiljković but his header was straightforward for César.
In the 76th minute Braga had a great chance when Eliseu lost possession on the half-way line allowing a counter-attack that saw substitute Rodrigo Pinho receive the ball, but his effort was tame and César made a comfortable save.
The visitors capitalised three minutes later and took the lead. Mitroglou did brilliantly well to keep hold of possession in the area and beat three Braga players before squeezing an effort home past Marafona.
In the first minute of injury-time the hosts had a great chance to salvage a point when a Braga freekick was met by substitute Artur Jorge but his header was tame and César made an easy save.
The result meant that Benfica climbed back to the top of Liga NOS and now moved onto 54 points, one point ahead of second-placed Porto, whilst Braga remained in fourth on 38 points.