Posts Tagged ‘Nemanja Matic’

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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Just days after midfielder Nemanja Matić expressed his willingness to leave Benfica, Os Encarnados announced the signing of fellow Serbian Ljubomir Fejsa from Greek club Olympiacos.

The 25-year-old signs a five-year deal with the Portuguese club and is widely expected to take over Matić’s position in defensive midfield.

Benfica’s newest signing was unveiled to the public on the club’s official television channel on Monday where he talked about how excited he was about joining the club.

“This is a big step in my career. I am very happy. I know that Benfica has fans around the world, it has been European champions twice and has won more than 30 championships. I play football because I want to win titles. I won three titles with Partizan, two with Olympiakos, and I do not see why I cannot do the same here,” he said on Benfica TV.

The Serbian was asked whether he would be happy to share playing time with countrymen Matić in case the former Chelsea player does not leave the club this month. Fejsa responded with: “The best case scenario would be that we could play together, in order to avoid any difficulty.”

Fejsa played with Olympiacos for two seasons after coming over from FK Partizan. Last year at the Greek club he found it difficult to gain playing time under then manager Leonardo Jardim, who is now managing Sporting Lisbon.

After Jardim was fired in February despite the club being in first place, Fejsa saw more action and finished with 15 total appearance in the Greek championship. He has received 13 caps with the Serbian national team.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Paulblank

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Paulblank

Benfica formally announced the signing of Serbian winger Miralem Sulejmani from Ajax through an official statement on Tuesday. The deal is for five years, and Sulejmani will come at zero cost to Benfica after his contract expired with the Dutch club.

The 24-year-old Sulejmani joins a growing group of Serbians at the Estádio da Luz, which includes defender Stefan Mitrović, forward Lazar Marković, midfielder Filip Đuričić, and brothers Uroš and Nemanja Matić.

Like Lazar Marković and Nemanja Matić, Sulejmani is a product of the FK Partizan youth academy. In 2006, he left for Dutch side Heerenveen where his impressive displays caught the attention of Dutch powerhouse Ajax. In 2008, they paid over €16million for him, setting the record for the highest transfer fee between two Eredivisie clubs.

This past season, Sulejmani refused to sign an extension with the club. Manager Frank de Boer would eventually demote him to the reserves. He played in only five Eredivisie matches all season.

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TRANSFER WINDOW: Serbian Central Defender Stefan Mitrović Will Join Benfica Next Season

TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Officially Sign Lazar Marković To A Five-Year Deal

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Benfica will reportedly sign 22-year-old central defender Stefan Mitrović. According to A Bola, representatives from his current club K.V. Kortrijk in Belgium, have confimed that the Serbian defender will be at the Estádio da Luz next season. The transfer fee is expected to be 1,1 million Euros. Mitrović will be under contract with the club until 2018.

Mitrović will join countrymen Nemanja Matić who has been a central figure in Benfica’s success this season. The Portuguese club also signed attacking midfielder Filip Đuričić.

Mitrović has become an ever more present figure in the Kortrijk squad in the second half of the campaign. He is physically tall at 1.89m and could kick with both feet.

Former Benfica winger Ljubinko Drulovic told Portuguese radio station Renascença that Mitrović could prove to be an excellent addition to the Portuguese side.

“Mitrović is having an excellent season. He is a young player, with great potential, who plays well with both feet and is very strong with his head. And he still has a large margin for improvement which could be the reason Benfica showed such interest in him. He has many great years ahead of him.”

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TRANSFER WINDOW: Serbian Midfielder Filip Djuricic Joins Benfica From Heerenveen

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.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Round 18 of the Portuguese league was certainly one to remember. FC Porto missed an opportunity to go top of the League on Sunday when they drew 1-1 with Olhanense at the Dragão.

Targino opened the scoring for Olhanense in the 7th minute, allowing the Algarve club to assume a more defensive approach. Porto’s Colombian striker Jackson Martinez evened the score in the 55th minute of play.

Manager Vitor Pereira told Sport TV after the match: “Olhanense managed to score early and from there they were never disorganized. We wasted many good opportunities. We never like to lose two points but they deserved the draw. We tried everything to win but in the end it did not go our way. We have to continue working hard,” Pereira said.

Benfica drew 2-2 with Nacional in Madeira earlier in the day in a match full of controversy. Referee Pedro Proença issued three red cards in the match including two straight reds to Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo and Nemanja Matić.

In the 89th minute Cardozo reportedly kicked Brazilian defender Fernando Marçal when he would not give up the ball. Proença also issued Marçal his second yellow of the game for time wasting. Later, Matić was sent off deep in extra time for allegedly striking Olhanense’s forward Candeias in the face.

Cardozo’s agent Pedro Aldave told Radio Renascença that there is always controversy when Proença is assigned to referee matches involving Benfica. The league is expected to look at both incidents and suspensions are likely.

Diego Barcellos and Mateus scored for Nacional, while Benfica’s goals came by way of an own goal by Nacional defender Mexer and Uruguanyan midfielder Jonathan Urretaviscaya.

Porto and Benfica are tied at the top of the league with 46 points in 18 matches this campaign. Os Encarnados play German club Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League on Thursday.

The news was much worse for Sporting Lisbon. Jesualdo Ferreira’s side lost to Marítimo on Sunday. Hyun-Jun Suk scored in the 18th minute to win the match 1-0. Sporting were unable to get much offense going. They have scored the fewest goals of any club in the league so far this year.

Ferreira remarked that he could not remember a time when Sporting had the worst attack in the league this late in the season.

“We have scored 5 goals in the last five games, today was the only match where we failed to score. The team has been producing more scoring chances than before, but our recent form has been marked by poor finishing. This creates a general lack of confidence, especially in critical moments,” Ferreira added.

Highly regarded youngster Bruma played the entire first half for the club and generally played well. We was subbed in favour of Andre Carrillo to start the second half.

Sporting now remain 9 points behind 5th place Rio-Ave for the final Europa League position for next campaign. The Vila do Conde club beat Academica of Coimbra 2-1 on Sunday. Bebé scored the winner early in the second half.

On Monday night, Sporting Braga host Paços de Ferreira at the Estádio AXA. Braga could reclaim third place with a win.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Benfica 2 VS 2 Porto

(0-1) Mangala 8′
(1-1) Matić 10′
(1-2) Martínez 15′
(2-2) Gaitán 17′

Benfica XI: Artur, Maxi, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo, Matic, Perez (Martins 58′), Gaitán (John 88′), Salvio, Lima (Aimar 69′), Cardozo

Porto X1: Helton, Danillo, Mangala, Otamendi, Alex Sandro, Fernando, Moutinho, Lucho (Castro 90+2′), Defour (Izmaylov 75′), Jackson, Varela (Abdoulaye 88′)

Benfica hosted Portuguese champions Porto in the first Clássico between the two clubs this season and the game did not disappoint.

French defender Eliaquim Mangala began the scoring for Porto in the 8th minute off a Joao Moutinho free kick. The capital club quickly responded with a brilliant strike from Serbian Nemanja Matić to even the score at the ten minute mark.

In the 15th minute, Benfica goalkeeper Artur woefully mishandled a pass from his own defender resulting in an easy goal for Jackson Martinez.

But two minutes later, Nicolas Gaitán again equalized for Benfica. The score was even at 2-2 at the 17 minute mark of the game. From then on, both teams tightened up defensively with good chances being hard to come by.

In the second half, Benfica had the best two chances. Oscar Cardozo was put in alone on goal against Helton but saw his shot deflected out of play by the Brazilian goalkeeper.

Later, substitute Pablo Aimar missed a diving header from a few yards away through a nice feed by Matić.

That seemed to seal the draw for both teams in a scintillating contest in the Portuguese capital on Sunday. Matić and Moutinho were the Men of the Match for their respective teams.

Porto manager Vitor Pereira questioned the performance of referee João Ferreira after the match.

“I have to disagree with three offsides that were wrongly called against us, that could have left us alone on goal. Two players should have been sent off, one right in front of me,” Pereira said.

“Maxi Pereira, right in front of me, should have been expelled and Matic should have been given a second yellow with 15 minutes left!,” Pereira said noticeably agitated.

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus dismissed Pereira’s claims and added that Cardozo’s miss in the second half was key to the match.

Benfica currently lead the Liga with 36 points after having played 14 matches. Porto remain three points behind but have played one less game.

Elsewhere in Portugal on Sunday, Jesualdo Ferreira’s Sporting side beat Olhanense 2-0 with goals from Labyad and Adrien Silva.