Saudaçãos desde Lisboa! I’m currently here on my Easter break and if you’ve been following me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know I’ve been very busy taking in the sights of the city. And also that I went to a match on Sunday night…
Game 47: Benfica 4-2 Vitória Setúbal (Estadio da Luz, Lisbon – 14.4.2019)
Welcome to the João Félix show. At least that’s what it felt like on Sunday night.
It’s been quite a week for Benfica’s new wonderkid. First he scored a brilliant hat-trick in their Europa League win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday and then, with me in attendance, he followed it up with a Man of the Match performance here – a goal and two assists.
The first of these came with only two minutes on the clock, his pass unlocking the Vitória Setúbal defence to allow Rafa to open the scoring with a delightful flick which went in off the post – Zlatan-esque – and it gets better with every watch.
Benfica threatened to run riot early on and Félix them warned them a penalty when a defender blocked his shot with a raised hand. Despite it looking like a fairly obvious penalty, the referee checked with VAR before deciding to award it and after all the build up, Pizzi was denied by Setúbal goalkeeper Makaridze.
We actually had to wait until the 36th minute for the second goal and it came from the same combination that brought the first. Joāo Félix capitalising on some extremely hesitant defending from Vasco Fernandes, robbing him of the ball and feeding Rafa to make it 2-0.
The visitors had hardly been in the game thus far, but on 39 minutes they briefly silenced the Estadio da Luz with a well-worked goal of their own. Nuno Valente (sadly not the ex-Porto and Everton one as he’s well over 40 now) controlling well before finding the bottom corner of the net.
Seeing their lead halved made a lot of the home fans slightly edgy. Currently locked in an extremely tight title battle with FC Porto, they can’t afford any slip-ups. Dropping points in a game like this one could be fatal. Fortunately for them they didn’t have to fret for much longer as João Félix crowned his performance with a richly-deserved goal, lashing in Pizzi’s pass, before running off to celebrate with his brother serving as a ball boy behind the goal.
The result was put beyond any doubt in the 79th minute when Haris Seferovic scored his 19th goal of the season, meaning that Benfica boss Brun Lage could give some of his key men a bit of a rest before their Europa League second leg. João Félix left the pitch to a standing ovation on 80 minutes and we were treated to a cameo from Adel Taarabt, who hit the headlines recently when he made his debut for the club – having signed in 2015.
There was still time for another VAR incident leading to a penalty, this time going Vitória Setúbal’s way, the referee spotting an infringement by Rúben Dias, giving us the rare spectacle of two number 99’s facing off. And unlike the earlier Benfica penalty, this time the penalty was converted, the wonderfully-named Jhonder Cádiz scoring with a cool-as-you-like panenka to give the travelling fans high up above the goal something to cheer before they made the short trip back to Setúbal.