The eleven that started off against Porto is Benfica’s strongest. After Gabriel’s disasterclass against Famalicão, Weigl regained his starting spot, with Taarabt next to him in the centre of midfield. Cervi was finally dropped, with Rafa starting on the left and Chiquinho starting behind Vinicius, who had been rested midweek.
Odysseas: 6. Can’t be blamed for any of the goals (and was very close to saving Telles’ penalty). On several occasions, he came out of the box to clear the ball, once again showing that he has improved on one of his biggest weak points from last season.
André Almeida: 5. Porto’s constant pursuit of Benfica’s left flank meant he had a quiet night defensively.
Rúben Dias: 5. Had an average night. He isn’t at fault for any of Porto’s goals and had to mend a lot of Ferro’s mistakes.
Ferro: 3. Another catastrophe of a game from him. His clumsy attempt at a header led to Porto’s penalty. Much like in the reverse fixture, Porto played through ball after through ball into the space between Ferro and Grimaldo, and the centreback was beaten time and time again - on one occasion, it led to Porto’s third goal.
Grimaldo: 4. Once again helpful in build-up and once again far from his best on the offensive end. His defensive positioning, which has never been far his strongsuit, was more more noticeable today as Marega chased through balls down Benfica’s left flank time and time again.
Pizzi: 4. Him, Chiquinho and Rafa display the same problem. Porto is perhaps the best team in defensive organization in the Portuguese league. Benfica’s build up is rigid, with a severe lack of frontal support: the three men behind Vinicius don’t move enough and don’t show for the ball, which leads to a lot of passing between the two central midfielders and the centrebacks and, eventually a long ball out to the wing.
Weigl: 5. He saw an early yellow card (30’). Given the team’s inability to play through the middle, he played Gabriel’s part in playing long balls out to the wings: it was all he could do offensively, due to the weak movement in the side.
Taarabt: 5. Every supporter feared for the worst after he fell to the ground and hit his head in the first few minutes of the game. Like Weigl, he was carded very early on (27’) after a bust up with Otávio, which meant both central midfielders were on a yellow after the first half hour. He was understandably subbed off at around the hour mark: after seeing the yellow card, he had two separate fouls for which he could have seen a second card and been sent off.
Rafa: 5. See Pizzi.
Chiquinho: 4. Had a stunner of a header in the lead up to Vincius’ goal. Playing behind the striker, he was hidden behind Porto’s midfield: the fact that he doesn’t drop down as much as he maybe should coupled with Benfica’s overall weak movement in build-up meant he didn’t see much of the ball. Moved into the double pivot after Taarabt was subbed off, and then to right back (!!) after André Almeida was subbed off for Dyego Souza.
Vinicius: 6. He feels inevitable: since gameweek 9, there’s been only two Liga NOS games in which he hasn’t scored or assisted. At the Dragão, he scored both of Benfica’s goals, but limited conditions were provided to do much else.
Seferovic / Dyego Souza: -
A game akin to the worst of the Rui Vitória era. The final eleven was ridiculous, a Frankenstein team: Chiquinho at right back, three strikers and Rafa upfront, Pizzi and Samaris in a midfield two. Once again, when chasing the result, Lage opted for even less ball possession and more long balls, which turned a bad Benfica match into a worse one. It was a near repeat of the reverse fixture, with Porto easily outnumbering Benfica in the middle of the park and forcing Benfica’s defenders into long balls – a tendency that has been bigger and bigger in Lage’s team. The team was very clearly confused on how to position itself once there were three strikers on the side. It’s a very negative sign when the team has no clear plan B for a game that could define the league.
Benfica’s series of wins was camouflaging a lot of poor performances. The timid criticism Lage was getting recently will surely increase this week, but it is key to note that the problems shown tonight weren’t new: the unimaginative build-up, the defensive disarray, Lage’s disastrous substitutions when chasing a result – all of this was seen before. It has been evident against weaker sides, but it becomes far too obvious every time the team faces stronger opposition, be it FC Porto, Eintracht Frankfurt or RB Leipzig.
The problems on display tonight could be seen in most of the team’s games this season. Here’s hoping tonight’s performance won’t be forgotten should we win our next league match against weak opposition. Benfica should aim to be the best side in the league, and not a team that crumbles every time it faces off against a team that’s close to them in quality.
Written by Bernardo Vales Soares. https://twitter.com/grau3x