SL Benfica will go into Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final on the back of only their second Portuguese Liga defeat of the season after rounding off their top-flight campaign with a 2-1 loss at FC Porto.
With the title wrapped up with two games to spare and more than an eye on Turin, Jorge Jesus rested several key players for the season finale and his side soon fell behind. Enzo Pérez levelled from the spot midway through the first half, Benfica's 100th goal of the campaign in all competitions, but Jackson Martínez made it 2-1 with a penalty of his own before the interval and that is how it ended.
"We're not used to losing, but the only bad thing in this game was the result," said Jesus, whose side hit the crossbar in the second period through Filip Djuričić. "We gave a few fringe players an opportunity, enabling some of them to pick up championship winners' medals. We came here aiming for the win, with six, seven players from the B team, and that needs to be pointed out. Unfortunately, victory wasn't possible, but there is no problem with that.
"The two defeats we suffered are of little concern considering the goal set for this season, winning the title, which was accomplished." Indeed, a season bookended by reverses – Benfica lost to CS Marítimo in their opening fixture back in August – was a resounding success from (almost) the beginning to (almost) the end. The Eagles trailed Porto by five points after eight games but after 14 rounds they were in a three-way tie also including Sporting Clube de Portugal.
They did not look back after hitting the front for the first time in their opening game of 2014, beating Porto 2-0. It ended an emotional week for the club after Eusébio, the most iconic player in the history of Benfica, passed away. A fitting tribute, and a run of 11 consecutive victories that culminated in title-clinching victory at SC Olhanense was redolent of the Eagles' great side of the early 1960s that also numbered Mário Coluna, who died in February.
Jesus's side added Portuguese League Cup success last week and by the end of this coming week they could have two more pieces of silverware: the UEFA Europa League and Portuguese Cup. Last season's nightmare ending, when Benfica relinquished their Liga lead and lost the Portuguese Cup and UEFA Europa League finals feels far removed. And they are not done yet.
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