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European Football Weekend Round-Up & Power Rankings By Zach Lowy

Zach Lowy rounds up the weekend’s action in European football, from underperforming managers to youngsters you must take note of.

Zach Lowy European Football

Porto clinched their third Primeira Liga championship in five years under Sérgio Conceição’s reign and 30th overall, and they can win their second domestic double in three years when they take on Tondela in the Taça de Portugal Final on May 22 in Jamor. Tondela are currently in the relegation play-off spot with 27 points, above Moreirense (26) and Belenenses-SAD, who will take on Famalicão on Monday – a side that picked up their first victory since February last week with a 3-1 win against 10-man Estoril and sealed their status in next season’s top-flight. They were followed by Vizela, who avoided the fate of the last and only time in the club’s 84-year history that they played in the Primeira in 1984 when they finished bottom of the league with 15 points from 30 matches. Alvaro Pacheco’s side opened the scoring after halftime thanks to a goal from Kiko Bondoso but quickly conceded to Rafik Guitane and were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at home against Marítimo.

The final matchday of the 2021/22 Primeira Liga season kicks off at, 11 am New York time, 3 pm GMT and 9 pm Johannesburg time Saturday and will feature nine simultaneous, mouth-watering fixtures for what promises to be a spectacular finale. 

Sarabia’s Winner

Vasco Seabra’s Marítimo will host Paulo Sérgio’s Portimonense, who conceded early on to Bruno Tabata before taking the lead within the half-hour mark via goals from Carlinhos and Wélinton Júnior. The news of an hour ago that Porto would be crowned champions had clearly taken an emotional toll on them, but Rúben Amorim wasn’t about to go down without a fight. After swapping Matheus Reis for Ricardo Esgaio, one versatile fullback for another, at the break, Amorim subbed off Pedro Gonçalves for Pablo Sarabia and Manuel Ugarte for João Palhinha in the 56th minute, before bringing on Daniel Bragança for Matheus Nunes five minutes later.

Sarabia picked out his compatriot Pedro Porro with a delightful switch of play, with Porro playing a cross to Marcus Edwards whose cross/shot found its way towards Sarabia who smashed the equalizer past Samuel Portugal. With a quarter-hour left, Nuno Santos expertly tracked an opponent’s pass and deflected it into the path of Ugarte who played it back to him, with Santos dishing it off towards Tabata, who had shrewdly manoeuvred himself to the shoulder of the last man and who accelerated towards the edge of the box before firing a cross towards Sarabia who converted the winning goal.

Santa Clara Edge Past Paços de Ferreira

Sporting will end the season with two trophies after beating Braga in the SuperTaça in Aveiro and beating Benfica in the Taça da Liga Final in Leiria, and they’ll be looking to pick up their fourth consecutive win in the season finale against Santa Clara. Paços de Ferreira fell to 10 men within five minutes as Slovenian goalkeeper Igor Vekič, who was filling in for the regular starter André Ferreira, was sent off after handling the ball outside his box. Santa Clara promptly scored via Lincoln who deftly snuck in a free-kick past the wall and into the bottom left corner and beat third-choice goalkeeper Jeimes from close range. The 21-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper would proceed to make a number of impressive saves throughout his second appearance of the season, but after making two saves in close succession in the 67th minute, he was unable to stop Ricardinho from slotting in from close range and securing a 2-1 victory for the Azorean side.

All Square at the Estádio de Bessa

Boavista began the weekend’s action by welcoming Vitória de Guimarães to the Estádio de Bessa. Petit’s side were without their Croatian attacking talisman Petar Musa – who is set to replace the Uruguayan sensation Darwin Núñez at Benfica this summer – as well as Colombian and Montenegrin midfielders Sebastian Pérez and Ilija Vukotić, the latter of whom is being used as a makeweight in the deal to send Musa to the Estádio de Luz. Whilst Spanish midfielder Javi García filled in alongside Congolese Gaius Makouta in the double pivot, and 41-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Bracali paired American Reggie Cannon, Ecuadorian Jackson Porozo and Uruguayan Rodrigo Abascal in Boavista’s typical back four, Petit fielded four fullbacks on either flank alongside the red-hot winger and Curação international Kenji Gorré, who operated in a central role in Musa’s absence. Vitória took the lead within 26 minutes as Óscar Estupiñán manoeuvred his way in between Portuguese fullback Filipe Ferreira and Porozo and headed home his 14th goal of the season. The Colombian is level with Evanilson, Luis Díaz and Sarabia in the league’s scoring charts and only behind Fran Navarro (16), Ricardo Horta (18), Mehdi Taremi (20) and Darwin Núñez (26), and with his contract set to expire this summer, the 25-year-old could be set for a big move this summer.

The hosts nearly equalized immediately after the break as Bruno Varela made a diving save to keep out Yanis Hamache’s header, but they would finally get their answer in the 70th minute following a throw-in as Makouta quickly combined with Cameroonian winger Paul-Georges Ntep who fired in the equalizer.

Gil Vicente v Tondela

Whilst Vitória are now guaranteed to finish sixth no matter what the result of next week’s home match against Gil Vicente, they’ll be counting on a positive result in the Taça de Liga Final: if Porto beat 16th-placed Tondela, Pepa’s side will be playing in the Europa Conference League playoffs in August.

Gil Vicente picked up their first victory in eight weeks to seal fifth place and European football for the first time in the club’s 98-year history. They nearly took the lead within two minutes as Kanya Fujimoto fired in a cross for Fran Navarro to convert, but the Japanese attacking midfielder was ruled offsides. Rather than allowing Pedrinho to sneak into the box, Marcelo Alves pulled the diminutive midfielder to the ground to provoke a sending-off just before the break. Ricardo Soares’ side took the lead in the 56th minute as Samuel Lino played a pass towards Pedrinho at the edge of the box, who, rather than taking a touch forward towards the touchline, controlled it and twisted backwards before firing a pass towards Navarro who allowed it to roll into Fujimoto who chipped it above Pedro Trigueira. Fujimoto and Lino would once again combine for the second goal just six minutes later, with Pedrinho sealing the deal in the 76th minute after picking up a lofted pass at the edge of the box and firing a cross towards Lino, who controlled it gracefully before tucking it into the bottom left corner. The 22-year-old Brazilian winger has registered 12 goals and 5 assists this season and is reportedly set to join Atlético Madrid in the summer.

Paulinho and Zaidu Sanusi both played together at Gil Vicente in the 2016/17 season, and both have scored the past two goals to secure Sporting and Porto in the past two league titles. From Fujimoto to Lino, expect plenty more young stars to go from impressing in Barcelos to leading the way for championship-winning teams.

The Relegation Battle

Apart from Vizela, none of the Primeira’s relegation battlers managed to score this weekend with Moreirense losing 0-1 to Estoril Praia at Cascais. André Franco wriggled his way past two tackles, picked up a loose ball and beat Kewin Oliveira Silva with a delightful chip from outside the box, taking his tally to 11 goals and 4 assists on the season – another player, like Estupiñán, who is out of contract in the summer. Whilst Moreirense got a penalty in extra time, they were unable to convert and will host Vizela in a do-or-die match for the Primeira lives.

Belenenses-SAD can escape the relegation zone for the first time since early November with a win against Famalicão on Monday, but they remain stuck to the bottom of the league table, one point below Moreirense and two points below Tondela as well as five points below Arouca, who are three points behind Famalicão and Vizela. Portimonense sit two points above them and two points behind Boavista, three points behind Paços de Ferreira and Marítimo and four points behind eighth-placed Estoril Praia. Santa Clara are one point above Estoril and five points behind Vitória. For the second straight season, Benfica will finish third and compete in the pre-season Champions League qualifiers, whilst Braga will finish fourth and Sporting and Porto will occupy the top two positions. 

Tondela will close out their league campaign at home against Boavista before taking on their crosstown rivals in the Taça de Portugal Final, whilst Famalicão will host Braga.  Moreirense will play what could be their final Primeira match in quite some time against Vizela and Paços de Ferreira will host Benfica, whilst Porto will celebrate their championship at the Dragão against Estoril Praia.

Horta Makes the Difference Again

After being eliminated from the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals in extra time at Ibrox by Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s Sevilla-bound Rangers, Braga have drawn 0-0 to Estoril and beaten Porto 1-0 at home, giving Sérgio Conceição’s side their first league defeat since October 2020 – one more match would have seen Porto overtake Fabio Capello’s Milan as the longest unbeaten run in the history of Europe’s top six leagues with 59. Braga took the lead after the interval as Al Musrati launched a pass towards Vítor Oliveira, whose cross was converted by Ricardo Horta. Horta would once again be the difference-maker the following week against Belenenses-SAD in a 1-0 win with a 90th-minute winner, and he’d follow that up with an 87th-minute winner at home against Arouca. 

The only match that will pit two relegation-battling teams against each other will see Arouca host Belenenses-SAD. However, if B-SAD fail to beat Famalicão, Arouca will have nothing to worry about going into the finale.

Zach Lowy is the co-creator of Breaking The Lines (@BTLVid) and a freelance soccer journalist for various websites such as BET Central, Soccer Laduma and Hudl Analysis. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and is the host of the Cortalinhas podcast, a weekly podcast that discusses Portuguese football. Zach has accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge in football and has written about various subjects for BET Central ranging from Barcelona's financial difficulties to the 'lost generation' of South Africa's Amajita class of 2009.

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