Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Benfica defeated Sporting Lisbon 2-0 on goals by Eduardo Salvio and Lima to take another major step towards winning the domestic title this season. Jorge Jesus’ club overcame a resurgent Sporting side to remain four points ahead of rivals FC Porto in the Liga ZON-Sagras.

Benfica fielded a regular first-choice squad with Oscar Cardozo and Lima in the striker roles in front of a sell-out crowd at the Estádio da Luz. Jesualdo Ferreira’s Sporting side were hoping to build on some positive performances but they were without the services of right-back Cédric Soares.

Ferreira continued to put his faith in youth by placing Tiago Ilori, Andre Martins, Bruma and Eric Dier in the starting line-up. Ilori was solid in central defence, while the three-man midfield of Rinaudo, Martins and Dier gave Benfica trouble all night.

Sporting began the match well, with early chances by Bruma and Wolfswinkel. Benfica struggled to find their rhythm, as Sporting consistently looked dangerous going forward.

But it would be the home side that would break through. Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo delivered a cross-field pass to Nicolas Gaitán on the left side, who then quickly crossed it to an on-coming Eduardo Salvio for the opening goal of the match.

Sporting responded well but were unable to tie the match before half-time despite being the better side in the opening frame. In the second half, Sporting continued to press for an equalizer. In the 75th minute, Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan, in a brilliant display of skill alluded two defenders, before passing it to Salvio who delivered a brilliant volley to Lima for the second goal of the match.

The match was not without controversy, as is usually the case when Portugal’s Big Three play one another. Ricky van Wolfswinkel was brought down by Ezequiel Garay in the box midway through the first half when the score was still 0-0. Replays show that Garay did make contact with Wolfswinkel, who still managed a shot on goal.

Sporting manager Jesualdo Ferreira, as well as several players complained after the match about the officiating of Joao Capelo. “I am not saying that the official influenced the result, but in my opinion they were not impartial,” Ferreira said after the match.

“It is not easy for a manager to say that his club was better than the one that was victorious, but this is truly what happened. Benfica is a better club, they have more experience, they are higher in the standings than Sporting, but today we were better,” Ferreira said.

“We controled the most dangerous supply lines of Benfica, we took control of the match, we pressed high up the pitch and we caused the defence problems with our quick attacking. At the minimum, I think we were penalized by the result.”

“With only two shots, they created two dangerous opportunities and capitalized on them. In those situations, we were not good enough and they won as a result.”

On one final note, Sporting’s Eric Dier left the match in the second half with an injury. After being evaluated on Monday, it was determined that he suffered a contusion of the left rib cage instead of a fracture. Dier will receive treatment and be out indefinitely.

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