Sunday, February 9, 2020

Benfica drop Classico with poor first half

Benfica Blog
Benfica drop points in the O Classico once again this season losing for the second time this campaign with both of those loses coming to rivals FC Porto. Benfica came into the game ready to take a commanding lead atop Portugal as a victory would have the Encarnados up by ten points on second place Porto but a poor first half would see their advantage actually shrink to four points and turn this season back into a race for the Portuguese title.

Bruno Lage decided to make one change to Week 19's winning squad with the reintroduction of Chiquinho into the starting eleven at the secondary striker position. The inclusion came at the expense of Franco Cervi, as Rafa would drop from playing alongside Carlos Vinicius into the Argentinian midfielders left spot. This poor decision by Lage would come back to haunt the club with all of Porto's goals created down the left side of the field with Jesus Corona and Marega pushing play.

The lack of defensive help from Cervi down the left side of the field for Grimaldo was exactly what was missing in their first half encounter and Lage seems to not have learned from this error which would not be the only tactic he would get wrong in this encounter. Benfica would come out flat to start the first half and FC Porto almost opened the scoring when a Luis Diaz cross would be sent just wide of the left post from a Pepe header just seven minutes into the game.

Porto would not need to wait much longer to open the scoring as Otavio's cross would find Sergio Oliveira in the box and his shot would go off the far right side of the post and in to give the hosts the lead just ten minutes into the game. The goal seemed to awaken Benfica from their slumber and an awkward looping header sent on net by Chiquinho would see Porto keeper Marchesin palm the ball right into the path of Carlos Vinicius and the game would be level just 18 minutes in.

Sergio Oliveira would then come close to handing the lead back to Porto but his 32nd minute low shot would be sent just wide of the left post. Porto though would be given the chance to regain their lead when they were awarded a questionable hand ball call as Tiquinho's header would bounce off the arm of Ferro who had his back turned to the player and could not have clearly intentionally committed the penalty but VAR confirmed what everyone could see and that it went off the defenders arm it was up to referee Artur Soares Dias who chose to award the penalty to Porto.

Alex Telles would step up to the spot and convert the penalty to give Porto the 2-1 lead with seven minutes left in the first half. Porto would add one more just before the half time when Marega's cross into the box would bounce off a sliding Ruben Dias past Benfica keeper Vlachdomis to give the hosts the 3-1 lead into the half off of an own goal. FC Porto had now scored five of the eleven league goals that Benfica have allowed during the season play.

The second half would see no changes made by either squad and Benfica would get one back early just five minutes into the second half as Rafa Silva would find Carlos Vinicius who's low shot would find the far right side of the net to cut the lead to one as Porto lead 3-2 with 40+ minutes left in the game. The next big scoring chance of the game would not come until the 72nd minute mark as Luis Diaz low shot would be stopped by Vlachodimos to keep the game within one.

Chiquinho would get the best chance for Benfica to equalize the game but his 74th minute shot would go just wide of the net. Bruno Lage would then make his next tactical miscue at the 84th minute mark when his last substitution would see Dyego Sousa make his Benfica debate, joining Carlos Vinicius and Seferovic to give the club three central strikers but no one in the middle of the field to service their attack, Lage would have been better off keeping two central strikers on the field and adding Cervi or Jota for some creativity as the club looked to equalize.

Porto almost regained their two goal lead in additional time as a Ferro miscue would send in Tiquinho and Diaz away on a two on one break against Ruben Dias but Ferro would get back in time to block Diaz's attempted shot on net. Benfica would get one more chance to bring the game level before the final whistle but their corner would go way over the middle of the field and easily cleared by the Porto defenders.

FC Porto would earn a hard fought 3-2 victory to close the gap on league leaders and rivals Benfica in a game of what ifs, as Sergio Conceicao once again outwits Bruno Lage with his tactical play. Benfica will now take on Famalicao in the second leg of the Taca de Portugal as the club looks to make the Final. Here is hoping that Bruno Lage has finally learned not to go into second leg games when leading with a super conservative game plan as this has cost the club advancement on every occasion.

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