Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Benfica now have a four point lead over rivals FC Porto in the domestic title race after an impressive 4-0 defeat of Vitória Guimarães on Sunday.

Oscar Cardozo scored on a penalty just before half-time to put the capital club ahead. Ezequiel Garay, Edoardo Salvio and Rodrigo would score in the second half to earn Jorge Jesus’ side a decisive victory.

After the match, Jesus spoke about how Benfica’s slump in March last year would eventually cost them the Championship and stressed that his club need to remain focussed.

“A four point advantage does not change things, we need to remain responsible and humble. We have not won anything, we are just in first place. We still have seven matches left to play, if we want to end the season in first, we need to win more matches,” Jesus told journalists.

Benfica were able to take advantage after FC Porto slumped to a 1-1 draw against Marítimo. James Rodriguez scored the only goal for the two-time defending Champions in the 33rd minute of play but Maritimo struck back a few minutes later with a goal by Hyun-Jun Suk.

In the second half, David Simão brought down defender Danilo in the box and Porto were given a chance to go ahead. Jackson Martinez took the penalty but had his attempt stopped by Martimo’s Romain Salin.

Manager Vitor Pereira spoke about the result after the match and admitted that the Portuguese league championship now depends on Benfica’s results.

“We created chances, missed a penalty and conceded a goal on a play that was under our control but Mangala slipped. I give the team credit, because they gave it their all but in the end we did not get the victory. I regret the result, it is not what we wanted,” Pereira said.

The draw was the second in three matches in the Portuguese league, allowing Benfica to take advantage. João Moutinho missed his third straight league match after re-injuring himself in his return in Porto’s 2-0 loss against Malaga on Wednesday.

Moutinho’s absence has been felt, as FC Porto have lost their place at the top of the Portuguese league to Benfica, as well as being eliminated from the Champions League with the loss to Malaga. Moutinho is currently in Óbidos with the Seleção but did not train with the team on Monday. He continues to recover from a bruised thigh. Portugal face Israel in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Sporting Lisbon continued their revival under veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira with an important 2-1 win against Vitória Setúbal. Vitória’s Amoreirinha scored an own goal in the 16th minute, which was followed by a penalty by Zakaria Labyad a few minutes later to give Sporting a 2-0 advantage. Makukula would score for Vitória before half-time but the Leões held on the rest of the way.

Sporting manager Jesualdo Ferreira was pleased with his club’s effort but added that they need to continue to improve. “In some phases of the match, this was Sporting’s best game, in others not so much. It could have been an easy victory if we had played well the entire match,” Ferreira said.

Sporting are currently in 10th place after 23 matches, but only four points away from the final Europa League spot for next season which currently belongs to Estoril. Ferreira said that European qualification is still a very real possibility.

“We have seven matches left, next we will face Braga and I believe we will play a good match because we are better motivated. When the team is calm, attentive and concerted, we could make things interesting and could control the match against any opponents. We have to continue to work hard in order to qualify for Europe. We have to believe in what is possible.”

Elsewhere, Sporting Braga retained third place with an impressive 3-1 defeat of Gil Vicente in Barcelos. Hugo Viana scored two and Zé Luís scored the third. Hugo Vieira scored the lone goal for Gil Vicente. It was his 5th goal in 8 matches since returning from his unsuccessful loan spell at Sporting Gijón.

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