Has The Balance Of Power Shifted In Lisbon?

SupertaçaFor those who are unaware, last night was the Supertaça in Portugal. If you’re not too familiar with Portuguese football, the Supertaça is the Portuguese equivalent of the English Community / Charity Shield. The winners of the league from the previous season, take on the winner’s of the Taça de Portugal (Portuguese FA Cup) the week before the season begins.

For the new campaign Benfica took their place as league winners against their cross city rivals, Sporting, who had won the Taça de Portugal. As if that was not spicy enough for a good contest, it was also the first game in charge of sporting for the outspoken coach, Jorge Jesus. He surprised even the experienced pundits and fans alike this summer when he made the move from, you guessed it, Benfica. It wasn’t an amicable divorce and much has been said by both Jesus and Benfica since their parting. All of this stoked the fires ahead of the game at the neutral Estádio Algarve, down in the south of the mainland.

A capacity crowd of 30,000 made the noise of double that number as the two sides duked it out in what was anything but a glorified pre-season friendly. Indeed, 8 bookings told the story of the competitiveness of this fixture, despite both sides missing key players. Benfica’s back four raised eye brows prior to the game with the omission of the experienced Eliseu at left-back. The 31-year-old Portugal international was replaced by Sílvio instead, while 21-year-old, Nélson Semedo, was given his first team debut at right-back in place of the departed Maxi Pereira. Meanwhile, in the centre of defence, Lisandro López was given the task of replacing captain, Luisão, alongside Jardel.

Sporting missed perhaps their most sought-after star at the current time, William Carvalho. Jorge Jesus effectively played a 4-4-2 system with João Mário and Adrien Silva in the middle of the park. Colombian, Teo Gutiérrez, partnered Islam Slimani up front on his debut, while another new signing, Brian Ruiz, started wide on the left.

And it was Sporting who started the brighter of the two sides. Benfica defended resolutely including one superbly timed last-ditch intervention by Jardel. However, Benfica also had their chances and Jonas should have done better when he was left alone at the back post and headed into the side netting from a corner. Julio César earned his money between the sticks for Benfica as the ex-QPR ‘keeper made several good saves to deny Sporting’s forwards. Ultimately, he was undone by a wicked deflection on 53 minutes when Carrillo’s long-range shot cannoned off of Gutiérrez and wrong-footed the Brazilian to roll into the net.

Benfica did create further chances as the game went on and were denied what looked a clear penalty for a foul on Jonas and, indeed, Jonas did also have the ball in the net late on only to have it ruled offside. New Benfica coach, Rui Vitória, threw on Greek striker, Kostas Mitroglou, for his compatriot, Samaris, in the 72nd minute. But the new loan signing from Fulham was unable to find the net and become an instant hero as Sporting’s backline remained resolute and held on for a 1-0 win and a the club’s first trophy since 2008.

Jorge Jesus was unable to hide his elation at the final whistle and, make no mistake, the big three is alive and kicking again in Portugal. Sporting’s trophy drought has left many referring to Benfica or FC Porto to win the title in recent years. However, it looks as though Sporting will be a force to be reckoned with again this campaign. And whilst Porto remain many people’s favourites for the title, it looks as though Benfica will have their work cut out to remain top dogs in the nation’s capital.

Benfica 0

Júlio César – Nélson Semedo, Lisandro Lopez, Jardel, Sílvio – Fejsa, Samaris (Mitroglou 71), Talisca (Pizzi 57), Gaitán, Ola John (Gonçalo Guedes 80) – Jonas.

Subs not used: Ederson (GK), André Almeida, Eliseu, Jonathan Rodríguez.

Sporting 1 (Carrillo 53)

Rui Patrício – João Pereira, Paulo Oliveira, Naldo, Jefferson – Adrien Silva, João Mário, Carrillo (Gelson Martins 92), Bryan Ruiz (Rúben Semedo 85) – Téo Gutiérrez (Carlos Mané 69), Slimani.

Subs not used: Marcelo Boeck (GK), Jonathan Silva, Tobias Figueiredo, Montero.

Man of the Match: Adrien Silva (Sporting)

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