Benfica speed away from Sporting

SL Benfica took full advantage of a SuperLiga slip from Sporting Clube de Portugal to move three points clear.

By Rui Matos Pereira

SL Benfica took full advantage of a slip from Sporting Clube de Portugal to move three points clear in the SuperLiga, at least until Monday night, after a dramatic 2-1 victory at nine-man GD Estoril-Praia today.

Sporting held
Sporting were held 0-0 at home by A. Académica de Coimbra on Saturday, the UEFA Cup semi-finalists having Anderson Polga dismissed for a second yellow card in added time five days before the visit of AZ Alkmaar. That allowed Benfica, who led by one point prior to the weekend, to extend that gap on Sunday when they made the short trip to Estoril.

Sousa strike
The home side went ahead on eleven minutes when Paulo Sousa's cross flew straight into the corner of the net, eluding Benfica goalkeeper José Moreira, who had retained his place ahead of Quim. However, 13 minutes later home right-back Rui Duarte was sent off for a second caution, and his team did well to hold out until half-time.

Mantorras winner
But Jorge Baptista's goal was finally breached in the 75th minute when Luisão headed in a Simão Sabrosa free-kick and Estoril were reduced to nine men when substitute João Paulo was dismissed for dissent. Eight minutes from time Benfica struck their winner, Pedro Mantorras turning in Simão's header from a João Pereira corner.

Porto relief
SC Braga can end the weekend second and return to within a point of Benfica if they win at Penafiel in the Monday match, but for now they are level with FC Porto, who triumphed 1-0 at SC Beira-Mar thanks to Ricardo Quaresma's lasp-gasp goal with a swerving shot.

Trio in trouble
However, Boavista are now five points adrift of Porto after being held 1-1 by Moreirense, who are now level with Estoril and Beira-Mar at the bottom - all three seven points adrift of safety with four games left thanks to Académica's draw and Gil Vicente FC's 1-0 win at Rio Ave FC, their first home defeat for 14 months.

Marítimo make hay
Elsewhere, CS Marítimo overcame Portuguese Cup semi-finalists Vitória FC 3-1 and UD Leiria beat CD Nacional 1-0. On Friday, CF Os Belenenses damaged Vitória SC's European ambitions with a 1-0 victory.