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Drilling down on: at Benfica 2, Sporting Braga 1

Benfica's Cesar celebrates his goal against Braga during their Portuguese Premier League match at Luz stadium in Lisbon

Benfica’s Bruno Cesar (C) celebrates his goal against Braga with his team mates during their Portuguese Premier League soccer match at Luz stadium in Lisbon March 31, 2012. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)


Man of the Match: Until the final goal, nearly everything Benfica did going forward went down their left, with Nico Gaitan again showing why he’s linked with so many of the world’s biggest clubs. In a small bit of irony, Gaitan’s assist on Bruno César’s winner didn’t come from the left; rather, it came after he broke through the right of the box, beat Nuno Coelho (who had had a very good game) before cutting the ball back for the stoppage time decider.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Ultimately, the 2-1 was a just result, as Benfica dominated possession and chances while imposing themselves on the match. Strong performances from Braga goalkeeper Quim and central defenders Coelho and Douglao meant Benfica didn’t get their only open play goal (the winner) until the 92nd minute. Still, Benfica were the better side.
  • The result snaps Braga’s 13-match winning streak in Liga and also sees them fall from first to third. Porto’s 2-0 win over Olhanense in Saturday’s opening match leaves the holders first. Benfica now sits second, one back, ahead of their mid-week trip to Stamford Bridge.
  • Still, Braga could have snagged a result, and you can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Marcio Morrosó converted an open header mid-way through the second. With the score still 0-0, Lima put in a cross from the right of the box, allowing the Braga attacking midfielder to run onto a ball from eight yards out that was grazed wide of the far post. A stronger play on the ball, and Braga goes up 1-0.
  • Lima created that chance after Benfica central defender Miguel Vitor appeared to suffer a serious leg injury while in pursuit. Vitor pulled up while turning to chase Lima and was eventually carted from the field, to be replaced by Nemanja Matic.
  • Jorge Jesus was nearly made to pay for taking off his leading scorer, Oscar Cardozo, near the hour mark. The Benfica boss brought on Nélson Oliveira for his first choice No. 9. Shortly after, Benfica was given a direct kick from 19 yards out - normally Cardozo’s domain. Bruno César put the kick over the bar, while in the 77th minute Benfica was awarded a penalty kick that normally would have gone to Cardozo. Axel Witsel saved Jesus blushes by burying the opener.
  • The result sets up a wild 26th round next weekend in Portugal. On Saturday, Braga can reclaim the lead when Porto visits the Estádio Municipal. Depending on that result, Benfica could end the match day in first, provided they take three on Monday from the Jose Alvalade in their latest derby with Sporting CP.