Porto win away to open up six point lead in league race

PACOS DE FERREIRA: FC Porto’s Portuguese midfielder Danilo Pereira (L) challenges Pacos Ferreira’s Portuguese midfielder Pedrinho (R) during the Portuguese League football match between Pacos Ferreira and Porto at the Capital Do Movel stadium in Pacos de Ferreira. — AFP

LISBON: Chancel Mbemba’s early goal proved enough to hand Porto a 1-0 away win over Pacos Ferreira on Monday and extend their lead at the top of Portugal’s Primeira Liga. Mbemba snapped up a chance after just seven minutes to hand Porto a vital win in the title race that puts them six points clear of defending champions Benfica with five matches remaining. Benfica lost 2-0 earlier on Monday at Maritimo to continue a horror series of recent results and offer Porto a clear path to the title after finishing two points behind their rivals last season.

Mbemba was quickest to react when Pacos Ferreira goalkeeper Ricardo Ribeiro flapped at an in-swinging corner, pushing the ball a few metres forward where the former Newcastle United midfielder was waiting to snap up the opportunity.  But the league leaders were far from convincing and had some stout defending to thank for a full haul of points. Pacos Ferreira midfielder Luiz Carlos had two good chances to equalise – the first headed narrowly wide four minutes into the second half. He then saw his acrobatic bicycle kick saved by Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin in the 67th minute.

Meanwhile, struggling Maritimo scored twice in the space of four second-half minutes to register a shock 2-0 home victory over Benfica on Monday and hand the Portuguese champions another setback in their bid to defend their league title. The pace of home right back Nanu proved the difference as he raced away on the counterattack to square for Jorge Correa to score the first goal in the 74th minute. He then repeated the feat to set up Rodrigo Pinho for a second in the 78th minute.

On both occasions, he outsprinted the Benfica defenders, squared the ball to the back post to allow his team mates to score. It might have been even more emphatic when a long ball in the last minute set Joel Tagueu away on another Maritimo counterattack, but his goal was ruled out by VAR as he was inches offside as he set off on his run.

The result continued Benfica’s horrid post-lockdown form. They remain three points behind league leaders and rivals FC Porto, who can go further ahead later on Monday when they take on Pacos Ferreira. It was a boost to Maritimo’s fight for survival, moving them from 16th to 12th place and seven points clear of the bottom two places in the Premeira Liga.

Monday’s match in Madeira was a fifth for Benfica since the Portuguese league returned after the COVID-19 lockdown. They drew their first two, then came from behind to edge Rio Ave 2-1 at home before last Thursday suffering a shock 4-3 home defeat by Santa Clara. — Reuters

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