After losing at the Dragão in disheartening fashion and barely squeezing past Famalicão in the cup semis, Benfica hosted high-flying Braga in search of a win that would get them back on track in their title pursuit. What happened was very far from that.
Vlachodimos: 7. There is no such thing as an unfair goal in football. However, he has some right to feel hard done by in the first goal: that corner came after he saved a shot from less than a meter out. Once again, he had several impressive saves from short range and did everything he realistically could to prevent the loss.
Tomás Tavares: 5. Although he started off poorly, getting dribbled past by Galeno in exuberant fashion, he grew into the game.
Rúben Dias: 4. He despicably shoved Raul Silva after Braga’s goal and could have easily been sent off for it. An okay performance overall.
Ferro: 4. Overall, tonight’s performance wasn’t as poor as some that preceded it, but the center back still had a depressing moment: he lost track of Palhinha for Braga’s opener.
Grimaldo: 5. The first half was his best 45 minutes in a while. As Benfica’s game became more and more reliant on crossing, his offensive contribution was gradually limited to crosses into the box, most of which were far from dangerous.
Pizzi: 4. His lack of pace limits his effectiveness in offensive transitions. Had a few good combinations with Tomás Tavares in the first half but created very little in the second (which is mostly due to reasons outside his control that will be highlighted below). He, alongside a few other players, has looked fatigued over the past few games due to Lage’s insufficient rotation.
Weigl: 5. When Benfica attempted to build-up, he was usually marked by Paulinho, rendering him useless in the first stage of Benfica’s creation. All in all, tonight was another match in which Weigl isn’t provided with adequate passing options in order to play anywhere near his best.
Taarabt: 6. He wasn’t at his best but he still had a lot of important contributions. As I’ll highlight below, part of the danger Benfica managed to create in the first half was through him: the few times he barged through Braga’s midfield attracted opposition markers and opened up more space out wide.