Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Portugal February/March 2014

Four games in Lisbon including visits to Benfica and Sporting.

The Eagles fly high.

27th February 2014  Benfica 3 PAOK 0  UEFA Europa League    27,000 (c.700 away)

Benfica led 1-0 from the first leg and they progressed to the last 16 with three goals in a ten minute spell in the second half.

The Estadio da Luz was less than half full but it did have a lively group of Greek fans positioned in the upper tier behind one goal.
For an hour it seemed like their team might hold the Portuguese league leaders.

But it all changed when Katsouranis received a red card (and a sympathetic reception, as an ex-player, from the home supporters) and from the subsequent free kick Argentinian star Nicolas Gaitan neatly chipped in over the wall.
Subs Lima, with a penalty, and Markovic, from a breakaway, added the clinching goals.

PAOK had one moment of hope when a long shot was fumbled by Artur but generally they lacked the necessary quality to trouble a home side well marshalled by defenders Luisao and Garay.
It will be interesting to see those two up against Spurs’ Adebayor in the next round.

Prior to the game we had a respectful silence for ex-captain Mario Coluna who passed away recently not long after another Benfica star, Eusebio.

On a cool cloudy night I made a brisk exit via the metro and was back at my hotel, near Praca de Espanha by 10.30pm.

Mostly bad Santa.

1st March  Benfica B 2 Santa Clara 1   Segunda Liga  c. 500

More rain made Lisbon feel just like home, only about 4 degrees warmer.
The weather meant I made only a brief visit to the Feira da Ladra where the stall holders were mostly trying to keep their goods dry.

So I stopped at Starbucks before eventually getting the ferry south to Seixal for this second level match.

The stadium used by Benfica B is a fairly short walk from the ferry.
It comprises a decent sized main stand plus open seats behind one goal. Naturally the seats are painted red.
And next door they’re building another stadium.

Benfica B mirrored the passing strategy of their ‘A’ team.
They took the league early on when Funes Mori converted a penalty.

The visitors from the Azores, low down in the league, had one moment of threat from a set piece before out of the blue a long ball found Pacheco who cracked in a left footer over Bruno Varela.

That stunned the home side into more action and Funes Mori headed in a cross to restore their advantage.
Santa Clara never looked like conjuring up another stunner.

On a fashion note Benfica paraded players with numbers 90, 92, 93, 94 and 97.

Again the weather was not conducive and the walk back to the harbour was uncomfortable, but at least there was a convenient return ferry at 16.30.

Slimani settles it.

1st March  Sporting Lisbon 2 Sp.Braga 1  Primeira Liga   30, 294 (c. 50 away)

Easy enough to go from Cais do Sodre to Campo Grande on the metro.
And I joined many of the Sporting fans in the stadium shopping centre before watching the match.

This time the silence for Coluna was less well observed with the Sporting ultras continuing their chanting.
In the game Algerian striker Islam Slimani played a key role. Missing chances in the first half before driving in a poor clearance for the winner in the second half.

From the start Sporting had applied pressure to Eduardo in the Braga goal before the visitors took the lead when a cross shot from Rafa went in via two deflections.
The visitors then tried hard to waste time including coming out very late for the second half.

But eventually Sporting responded, with well regarded midfielder William a class act, as.Jefferson converted a penalty before Slimani delivered the winner.

As at the Luz it was easy enough to exit through to the metro afterwards.

Gaitan again.

2nd March  Belenenses 0 Benfica 1  Primeira Liga   10,118 (c. 9,000 away)

Some culture beforehand as I visited the Museum Berardo in the Belem Cultural Centre.
Modern Art (eg Warhol, Bacon and Picasso) plus an impressive display of advertising poster art was the focus.

For many tourists the visit to Belem was not complete without a stop at the famous pasteis shop and some time in the monastery (though I chose Starbucks)

A short walk up the hill and you get to the Restelo stadium - a mainly three-sided covered ground with curved ends well able to accommodate the home fans.
And a large number of Benfica supporters.

The visiting ultras kept up a decent level of noise as they watched their team consolidate top place in the Portuguese league with this single goal victory.

Again it was Nicolas Gaitan who made the difference, this time with a surging run and nine-iron chip over Matt Jones in the home goal.
Benfica were then content to pass it around since Belenenses never really got too close.

It didn’t help that petulant sub. Fredy received two yellows, first for a foul then for arguing but Belenenses always looked second best.

As you might expect it was very much like watching a big team against a small team with the former also having the vast majority of support as well.

I took the tram back to the centre of Lisbon and enjoyed a pizza and a carafe of red.

more pictures at

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