Posts Tagged ‘Lima’

Benfica Champions 2014-15

Benfica’s goalless draw with Vitória Guimarães on Sunday was enough to clinch the Liga NOS title for a second consecutive season with one match to spare. It was their 34th Portuguese League title, the most of any club. No club in the top 6 European leagues has more.

It also marked the first time since 1984 that As Águias won the title in back-to-back years. It seems like manager Jorge Jesus has finally accomplished what he was brought in to do and that is break FC Porto’s dominance in Portugal. At least for now.

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

Jorge Jesus’ Adjustments

Benfica lost several key players from last season’s championship-winning side. It is certainly not easy for any manager to integrate so many new players into the squad. Andreas Samaris, Talisca and Jonas proved to be adequate replacements.

When Enzo Perez left during the January transfer window, Jorge Jesus managed to find a replacement within the squad by converting Pizzi into a central midfielder. Although Lima and Jardel struggled at times during the season, Jesus stuck with them and was richly rewarded in the end.

Jonas

The Brazilian has to go down as one of the best signings of the season. It sounded like an odd signing at first. Jonas, a 30-year-old striker, out of contract at Valencia, who would never command a large payout for the Portuguese club.

Still, he proved to be exactly what the club needed. Jonas scored a goal in his first match with the club in October and has hardly stopped since then. With a match to spare, Jonas was second in the league with 18 markers in 26 matches.

Júlio César

He was once touted as one of the best goalkeepers in the world but Júlio César has had a rough go since leaving Inter Milan in 2012. He passed through Queens Park Rangers before ending up on-loan at Toronto FC in MLS. And there was the matter of the seven goals against Germany in the service of Brazil last summer.

Benfica, still reeling from the abrupt departure of Jan Oblak, decided to take a chance on the Brazilian. It proved to be another masterstroke. The now 34-year-old has made the most of his Portuguese adventure. He has earned an impressive 15 clean sheets.

Early European Exit

European competitions have always been a mixed blessing for Portuguese clubs. And like we saw this season, an early exit from competition could have a positive impact on a club’s domestic form. Benfica, once again failed to advance passed the group stage of the Champions League.

From the time the club played their last match in the Champions League in December, Benfica lost only two matches in the league the rest of the way. FC Porto and Sporting’s domestic form seemed to suffer as the season progressed, while Benfica only got stronger.

Head-to-Head Record Against Sporting and Porto

Benfica managed one victory and three draws against the other two members of Portugal’s ‘Big Three’ clubs. The club’s 2-0 victory at the Dragão in December was the difference in the end. It was the first time Benfica beat FC Porto away in the league in Jorge Jesus’ tenure as manager.

Jesus’ critics would argue that Benfica did not show up out to win the April 26th O Clássico against Porto, it really matters little in the end. Benfica put themselves in the position to dictate terms with their stellar league form. They proved themselves worthy champions.

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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.

Just days after conceding the Portuguese League to rivals Porto, Jorge Jesus’ club completed a collapse of epic proportions not seen since Sporting Lisbon’s 2005 campaign. A late goal by Chelsea’s central defender Branislav Ivanović was the difference as the London-club defeated Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final in Amsterdam on Wednesday night.

Jorge Jesus fielded a familiar 4-3-3 formation, with Oscar Cardozo leading the attack. Eduardo Salvio and Nicolas Gaitan started on the wings. Chelsea were without the injured John Terry and Eden Hazard, but fielded a strong squad with former Benfica players David Luiz and Ramires.

The two clubs played to a scoreless first half, with Benfica controlling most of the possession and managing the most scoring chances. In the second half, Os Encarnados started brightly against the Blues. Benfica thought they scored after Oscar Cardozo capitalized off a brilliant cross by Nicolas Gaitán, but it was called offside. The replay shows that the call was very close, but it was probably the right decision.

Soon after the disallowed goal Chelsea’s Fernando Torres was put in alone by Juan Mata. Torres dribbled past Benfica Goalkeeper Artur and scored. Despite being the better team, Benfica were a goal down at the hour mark of the match.

But the Portuguese club did not quit and they were given life when Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta handled the ball in the box, giving Benfica a good chance to tie the match. Oscar Cardozo stepped up and scored on the ensuing penalty.

Chelsea quickly responded with a few good chances and seemed to come into the game more as the second half unfolded. Oscar Cardozo had the best chance for Benfica when he let go a good shot just outside the box which Petr Cech tipped over the bar.

Now into injury time, disaster struck for Benfica. Chelsea’s defender Branislav Ivanović scored off a corner by Juan Mata. Jardel and Andre Almeida could do nothing but watch as Ivanovic brilliantly executed a header to put Chelsea ahead for good.

Manager Jorge Jesus told SIC television that he was proud of his club’s performance. “We conceded another goal in the 92nd minute. But it was a final between two good clubs, Benfica were better for most of the match. We were missing that lucky break which would have put us ahead, which we would have deserved.”

Jesus is likely to receive most of the criticism for the last two defeats but club president Luís Filipe Vieira told media after the match that he will remain with the club.

“I have already said that Jorge Jesus is my manager and he will continue to be for many years. He is part of our plans and I am very satisfied with what he has been able to accomplish.”

Second half substitute Lima told media that Benfica deserved to win based on its overall performance. “We were the better club on the field. It is difficult to explain. We want to thank our supporters who came to support us by the masses. We wanted to win for them, for us and for our families. Unfortunately, we were not able to do so. Now we have to hold our heads high.”

Jorge Jesus’ club entered Saturday’s match against Porto with a one point lead over their archrivals, only to lose on a late goal by Kelvin. The loss means that Porto could clinch a third straight domestic league title with a win on the weekend against Paços de Ferreira.

On Wednesday night in Amsterdam, Jorge Jesus’ club was hoping to erase the memory of the devastating loss on Saturday by winning their first major international trophy since their second European Cup trophy win in 1962. But it was not to be.

In the span of less than a week, Benfica have lost their slim lead in the Portuguese League, as well as the Europa League final. To make matters worse, both matches were lost on goals in injury time in the second half.

José Peseiro’s Sporting Lisbon side had a similar thing happen to them in the 2004-05 season when they gave up the lead in the Portuguese League and lost the UEFA Cup final to CSKA Moscow within a week. The UEFA Cup final was held at their home ground, the Estádio José Alvalade that year.

The loss to Chelsea means the most successful and popular club in Portuguese football have lost a total of seven consecutive finals in major European competitions. The two-time winners of the European Cup/Champions League have lost in the finals of that competition a total of five consecutive times (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988, 1990).

Wednesday’s loss in Amsterdam to Chelsea was their second loss in the UEFA Cup/Europa League tournament. They also lost to Anderlecht in 1983. They have never won the tournament.

Benfica entered Saturday’s match against FC Porto with the possibility of winning three trophies this season. A win against Vitória Guimarães in the Portuguese Cup final on May 26th would now be little consolation for Benfiquistas who within several days have seen their club’s promising season come to a disappointing end.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Edgar Jiménez

A late second-half goal in injury time by Porto’s Kelvin was the difference as the Dragões earned a 2-1 victory to overtake Benfica at the top of the Portuguese League. Vitor Pereira’s club will go into its final league match against Paços de Ferreira with a one point lead over their great rival.

Benfica’s Lima drew first blood in the 19th minute but the visitor’s lead was cancelled out by a Maxi Pereira own goal only minutes later. In the second half, Porto continued to press with Benfica assuming a more defensive strategy as the match reached its final stages. Just a minute into injury time, second half substitute Kelvin struck a brilliant shot from the left side that alluded Artur.

It was another dramatic development in what has been one of the most exciting campeonato in recent years. After the goal was scored Benfica manager sunk to his knees as if to emulate the anguish of Benfiquistas around the world. Jesus talked about the moment after the match to journalists.

“I did not think the championship was lost, but I knew it was going to be more difficult. Before the match I understood that only one of the clubs could have finished this match as champions, that was Benfica. FC Porto won and are obviously in a better position.”

The defeat was Benfica’s first of the campaign in the Portuguese League after 29 matches. They will face Premier League giants Chelsea in the final of the Europa League on Wednesday in Amsterdam.

VIDEO: Highlights Porto 2 – Benfica 1

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.

Benfica will go into the second-leg of their Europa League match-up against Newcastle United with a two-goal lead on aggregate. Jorge’s Jesus’ club managed a 3-1 victory over Newcastle on Thursday night in Lisbon, which means they will go into next Thursday’s match at St. James’ Park with a comfortable lead.

Benfica were without winger Eduardo Salvio who missed the match with a knee injury. Promising midfielder André Gomes made a surprise start in the left side of midfield for the Águias. Oscar Cardozo played upfront, with Rodrigo and Nicolas Gaitan on the wings.

Despite the final score line, it was Newcastle that started the match with greater energy. They were rewarded when Moussa Sissoko crossed the ball into the box to Papiss Cissé who struck it into the wide-open goal. The English side continued to press after going one up.

But in the 25th minute, Oscar Cardozo struck a hard shot from distance which Newcastle Tim Krul stopped but was unable to hold on to. Rodrigo quickly grabbed the rebound and scored. This was the break that Benfica needed.

In the second half, Lima took advantage of a defensive mistake by Newcastle Davide Santon to put Benfica ahead. Soon after, Newcastle’s Steven Taylor handled the ball in the box and Benfica were given a penalty.

Oscar Cardozo scored on the initial attempt but it was waved off due to obstruction in the box. His second attempt was successful and Benfica had a comfortable lead with just under 20 minutes to play in normal time. Benfica held on to a deserving win.

“We are in the quarter finals and every club here is playing at a high level. Newcastle started well and they took advantage of a mistake by us, but we responded well and we deserved the win,” Rodrigo told Sic television.

“Nothing is decided. We still have to play one more match that will decide everything. We have a good advantage but we need to play like its 0-0 and win again. We will maintain a winning spirit, regardless of the result of the game.”

Benfica earned a well-deserved 2-1 victory against Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen at the Estádio da Luz on Thursday night. The win means that the Portuguese side advance 3-1 on aggregate and will face French side Bordeaux on March 6th in the next round of the Europa League.

After a scoreless first half where Leverkusen created the majority of chances, Jorge Jesus’ club emerged a better club in the second half. In the 60th minute, they were rewarded when Dutch winger Ola John dribbled into the box and struck the ball over Bernd Leno for the opening goal.

The German side, though looking increasingly frustrated did not quit. In the 75th minute, Leverkusen forward Andre Schürrle struck a well-timed volley past Artur. Two minutes later however, substitute Lima received a long-range pass from Artur deep into Leverkusen territory which he crossed to Nemanja Matić for the deciding goal.

Jorge Jesus spoke to SIC television after his club’s victory and was quick to praise his club’s effort. “We played against a good team, who plays in the best league in the world. Germany has three clubs in the Champions League, Bayern Munique, Dortmund and Schalke. Leverkusen is at their level. In order to eliminate them, we had to play very well both games. We are happy but we have more to do,” he said.

Jesus added the club needed to remain focused on their next opponents which is Paços de Ferreira who have surprised everyone this season and remain third in the domestic league. He added that the match against Bordeaux will be a “duelo duro” or golden duel.

The news was not all positive for Benfica on this night. Nemanja Matic picked up another yellow card in the closing minutes of the match and will miss the next first leg against Bordeaux. Carlos Martins also left this match with an undisclosed injury in the second half.

In other Europa League action on Thursday, Andre Villas-Boas eliminated Olympique Lyonnais advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Despite losing 3-1 to Liverpool at Anfield, Zenit St.Petersburg hung on to advance on away goals. Former Porto player Hulk scored the only goal for the Russian side, while Portuguese internationals Danny and Luis Neto both started the match.

With much of the futebol news in Portugal focusing on the top two teams Porto and Benfica fighting it out for domestic silverware or the ongoing soap opera at Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Braga has quietly become a model of quality in the game.

In the last decade, its rise has been very gradual and consistent. Currently in third place this season, Braga has only finished lower than 5th once. In that time they have played in the Champions League twice, the Europa/UEFA League eight times.

Their UEFA ranking has climbed from 139th in 2004-05 to as high as 28th. Few teams can claim such a dramatic improvement. In addition, they have developed an excellent reputation for discovering talent.

Brazilians Lima and Artur made their names at Braga and moved on to Benfica. They also discovered the terrific striker Éder who seems poised to become a star on the international scene.

Even more remarkable, Braga has renewed the careers of many players once written off by many people, such as Hugo Viana, Ruben Micael, Quim and Pedro Barbosa.

Managers from Sporting Lisbon’s Jesualdo Ferreira to Benfica’s Jorge Jesus found success with the club and moved on to bigger stages. While young managers like Deportivo’s Domingos Paciência, Leonardo Jardim and now José Peseiro have continued Os Arsenalistas winning tradition.

In this year’s January transfer window, they continued to be busy and like always very understated. This week, they signed promising Russian goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk to replace Portuguese international Beto who left on loan to Seville.

On attack, Braga signed Portuguese striker Rabiola from second division Desportivo das Aves. The 23-year-old has scored 20 goals in total for the club this year in all competitions. The deal lasts until 2017. Not to mention, Portuguese forward João Pedro who has shown great form with Naval 1º de Maio this year.

Braga also signed French defender Vincent Sasso from Beira-Mar to a permanent deal that will last until 2017. Sasso has played for France at the junior level.