As if coming from behind to beat Lisbon rivals Sporting Clube de Portugal 2-1 to reach the Portuguese League Cup final on Wednesday was not special enough for SL Benfica, the result was their 18th straight competitive victory, a national record.
After Hélder Postiga put Sporting ahead after 21 minutes, the hosts' hopes of a third straight League Cup looked in some peril when Sporting's Rui Patrício saved an Óscar Cardozo penalty not long past the half-hour. Yet from the resulting corner Cardozo produced a fine headed equaliser and, with penalties looming, Javi García claimed a dramatic winner two minutes into added time. Benfica will now meet either CD Nacional or FC Paços de Ferreira in the Coimbra final on 23 April.
It was Benfica's second last-gasp triumph in a row following Fábio Coentrão's 94th-minute strike to seal a 2-1 home success against CS Marítimo on Sunday. That not only kept the Eagles' winning run going – their last match without victory was a 2-1 loss to FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League on 7 December – but it is now 39 competitive games since Benfica last drew, with only nine of those matches being defeats.
"We had a storming second half," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, still unbeaten by Sporting after six derbies at the helm and now already three games past the previous club record winning streak set by both Jimmy Hagan in 1972/73 and Sven-Göran Eriksson a decade later. "It's our first final this year and we hope to reach more," Jesus added.
Indeed, Benfica remain in the hunt for both the UEFA Europa League – they play Paris Saint-Germain FC in the round of 16 over the next two Thursdays – and the Portuguese Cup, where they welcome FC Porto in the second leg of their semi-final on 20 April holding a 2-0 advantage. Porto lead reigning champions Benfica by eight points in the Liga, although García has not given up on the title.
"We can win everything as we are alive in all four competitions," the 24-year-old Spain midfielder said. "
Last season we won two trophies and this year we want more. We want two more and we can catch Porto in the Liga. We are feeling very strong."
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