Posts Tagged ‘Ezequiel Garay’

Sport Lisboa e Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Sport Lisboa e Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Benfica’s 2-0 defeat of Olhanense at the Estádio da Luz allowed the Lisbon club to clinch the Primeira Liga title with two matches to spare. They overcame the memory of last season’s epic collapse to win their first League title in four seasons and the 33rd in their long history.

It could end of being a historic year for the Portuguese club. The Eagles are still active in the Portuguese Cup, League Cup and the Europa League. Although, Juventus will be a major challenge in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

After a difficult start to the season which saw them drop points in three of their first six matches, Benfica dominated their opponents the rest of the way and were fully deserving of their title.

Here now are the 5 reasons Benfica won the Portuguese title this season.

Jan Oblak

The goalkeeper is usually the most unheralded member of any championship squad. But in this case, many Benfiquistas will look back at the moment Jan Oblak replaced an injured Artur in a December League match against Olhanense as the turning point of the season. The Slovenian has been solid ever since. And so have Benfica.

Benfica would win 15 out of the next 16 League matches with Oblak as the regular starter. The Slovenian goalkeeper conceded only three goals along the way. Artur was not necessarily at fault for the club’s early season struggles. However, the squad did play much better in front of Oblak.

Squad Adjustments

Jorge Jesus has demonstrated an ability to alter his squad when needed this season. Guilherme Siqueira, Silvio, Ljubomir Fejsa, Lazar Marković and Miralem Sulejmani gave Jesus more options in key positions. In the event of injury or poor form, Jesus was always able to find a more than reliable replacement.

For example, Bruno Cortez proved unconvincing at left-back early in the season. With Silvio unavailable due to injury, Jesus had an excellent option in Guilherme Siqueira. Also, when last season’s Player of the Year Nemanja Matić moved on to the Premier League, his countryman Fejsa was more than able to fill the void.

Ezequiel Garay/Luisão

Benfica’s centre-back pairing was the spine that kept the club together this season. At 33-years-old, Luisão is probably having the best season he has ever had in Portugal. The Brazilian looked determined at the start of the season. He has scored some key goals in Europe as well.

Ezequiel Garay is also having an excellent season. The Argentine has scored six goals in the Portuguese League, a very impressive total for a centre-back. He is widely expected to move on to a bigger club this summer. Garay and Luisão have helped Benfica to the best defensive record in the league.

Squad Depth

As mentioned, Benfica’s summer signings gave manager Jorge Jesus better options. With the exception of Matić, the club did not lose any key players this season. Perhaps motivated by a three-year drought and the memory of last season’s collapse, the club spent heavily in the summer to boost their chances of winning the League.

Their great rivals, FC Porto lost several good players last summer. While, Sporting Lisbon has revived themselves through their famous academy. However, the long-awaited League title will have to wait another year. Benfica’s squad was so deep that Jorge Jesus could afford to rest many of his key players in the Europa League and Cup matches, and often still managed to get a good result.

Maturity and Experience

This year’s Benfica squad was not only deep but also determined and mature. Several players like Oscar Cardozo, Luisão, and Maxi Pereira were on the 2009-10 squad which was the last to win the title. Their maturity and expertise proved valuable this season. Perhaps the memory of last season’s collapse also served as extra motivation.

And with players like Ezequiel Garay, Nicolás Gaitán, and Rodrigo expected to move on this summer, finally winning a League title with the club is no doubt a relief. In the end, Benfica had the right combination of youth, talent and experience to come out on top. Manager Jorge Jesus may have silenced some doubters as well, at least until next season.

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Benfica have officially signed Argentine central defender Lisandro López from Arsenal de Sarandi. The deal is for five years and will reportedly include a €35million buyout clause.

The 23-year-old told Benfica TV that former Benfiquista midfielder Pablo Aimar played a role in him choosing the Lisbon club.

“Pablo Aimar and I have spoken several times and he has said that Lisbon is very beautiful and that Benfica is a magical club. He advised me to take advantage of the opportunity to work with so many Argentinian players who could help me adapt easily,” Lopez said.

“I have played with Arsenal de Sarandí since I was 20 years old, playing in over 100 matches and gaining a good amount of experience. It helped me transfer to one of the best clubs in Europe.”

It is believed that Lopez was brought in to potentially replace countryman Ezequiel Garay who has been widely linked to a move to Manchester United. Club captain Luisão is also 32 years of age and is expected to fade.

Benfica have also signed central defenders Steven Vitória and Stefan Mitrović this summer.

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stevenvitoria1

Portuguese football website O Jogo is reporting that Benfica have entered into negotiations to sign central defender Steven Vitória. The 26-year-old’s contract with his current club Estoril expires at the end of the season and he is widely expected to move to a bigger club.

Born to Azorean parents in Toronto, Canada, Vitoria was signed by Porto in 2005. After graduating to the senior side in 2006, Vitoria was loaned to Tourizense, Olhanense and finally Covilhã. In 2010, he signed with Estoril and was the key reason for the club’s promotion to the top tier of Portuguese football this year.

Vitoria has been a revelation for the suburban Lisbon club. Standing at 1.95m tall, he is also known for his goal scoring ability. He has scored a total of 10 goals this season for Estoril, including 8 in the Liga Portuguesa. This puts him in the top 20 in league scoring overall. Though 8 of his goals have been penalties. Vitoria did score an impressive goal off a free-kick in a Taca da Liga match against Porto in December.

It is believed that Vitoria would be a long-term option for Benfica who expect first-choice central defender Ezequiel Garay to leave this summer. While club captain Luisão is now 32 and Jardel is not seen as a good enough option going forward.

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SCOUTING REPORT: Estoril Defender Steven Vitória

Jorge Jesus’ Benfica side earned a well-deserved 3-2 victory over Ligue 1 side Bordeaux on Thursday to earn a place in the quarterfinals of the Europa League where they will face Newcastle United.

With injuries to Luisão and Ezequiel Garay, Jesus was forced to use Jardel and Roderick Miranda as Benfica’s central defence pairing. Strikers Lima and Oscar Cardozo began the match on the bench, with Rodrigo playing upfront.

Jardel justified Jorge Jesus’ confidence in him by scoring the opening goal of the match in the 30th minute. Benfica went into half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead on aggregate.

In the second half, Jardel misplayed a long ball which Bordeaux’s Malian striker Cheick Diabaté was able to capitalize on, giving the French side a glimmer of hope. But it was short lived.

Just a minute later, Nicolas Gaitán found Oscar Cardozo in the box. After getting past a defender, the Paraguayan slid it past Bordeaux goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso.

After an own goal by Jardel, Cardozo scored his second of the match two minutes into extra time, sealing the victory for the Portuguese side.

After the match, Jorge Jesus said that Oscar Cardozo’s introduction into the match in the 66th minute for Rodrigo was the decisive moment. Jesus also spoke about his decision to rotate his squad this season.

“It has been the Europa League where we have used the most regular starters. The response from the players who have not played regularly has helped alot. It is not me, I believe in the players who play for me and especially what they are capable of,” Jesus said.