By Rui Matos Pereira
SL Benfica took a major step towards lifting their first SuperLiga title for over a decade after a narrow 1-0 win against Sporting Clube de Portugal in the Lisbon derby.
The match looked to be drifting towards an exciting goalless draw with seven minutes remaining when Brazil centre-back Luisão rose highest to head a Petit free-kick past Ricardo and earn his side a hard-fought victory. Until then, it was UEFA Cup finalists Sporting who looked most likely to secure a three-point lead at the Portuguese summit.
João Moutinho, Roudolph Douala, Fábio Rochemback and Hugo Viana were all denied by the outstanding Quim, while Benfica had just two long-range Manuel Fernandes shots and a Simão Sabrosa effort to boast before sneaking what could prove a pivotal win. Sporting's hopes of salvaging something were then ended by Beto's late dismissal.
Porto in contention
Giovanni Trapattoni's side could have secured their first title since 1994 if holders FC Porto had failed to defeat Rio Ave FC, but will have to wait until next week after José Couceiro's side won 2-0. Benni McCarthy and Leandro do Bomfim were both on target with second-half strikes meaning Porto can still claim a third consecutive title if city rivals Boavista FC defeat Benfica next weekend.
SC Braga's slim title hopes were ended, however, after a 1-1 draw against SC Beira-Mar. Tanque Silva gave the visitors third-minute lead and although Cesinha levelled before half-time, Braga must now settle for a UEFA Cup place. Vitória SC will join them in next season's competition after a 2-0 win against Boavista FC in a game that saw three players sent off.
Romeu broke the deadlock on five minutes and any hopes Boavista had of salvaging something were ended by the sendings off of Carlos and João Pinto midway through the second half. Luiz Mário then sealed the win on 90 minutes before he too was dismissed after an over-exuberant goal celebration.
At the other end of the table, Gil Vicente FC assured their survival with a 1-0 victory against CF Belenenses, which condemned FC Moreirense to the drop despite their 4-0 win at Associação Académica de Coimbra. Elsewhere, a last-gasp goal from Amoreirinha earned GD Estoril-Praia a 2-2 draw against Vitória FC, while CS Marítimo won 2-0 against UD Leiria and FC Penafiel defeated CD Nacional 3-1.
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