Porto 5-0 Benfica: all five goals from Porto right

November 7, 2010

PORTO: 1 Helton; 21 Sapunaru, 4 Maicon, 14 Rolando, 5 A Pereira; 6 Guarin, 8 Moutinho, 7 Belluschi; 12 Hulk, 17 Varela, 9 Falcao. BENFICA: 12 Roberto; 14 M Pereira, 4 Luisao, 27 Sidnei, 23 Luiz; 8 Salvio, 17 Martins, 6 Garcia, 18 Coentrao; 10 Aimar; 21 Kardec. Usual diagrams back ASAP.

A huge victory for Porto in the biggest game of the Portuguese season so far.

Porto used their 4-3-3 / 4-1-2-3 system that has proved so successful so far this season. There was only change from the XI that has started the majority of fixtures – Fernando, the deepest midfielder, was out injured, and therefore Freddy Guarin started in his place.

Benfica’s shape was more 4-4-1-1 than their diamond system. Both Javier Saviola and Oscar Cardozo were out, so Pablo Aimar played just off Alan Kardec. Salvio started on the right, Fabio Coentrao was pushed forward on the left wing despite his successful display at left-back in the week, David Luiz moved out to left-back and Sidnei came into the centre of the defence.

That sounds like a lot of reshuffling on the left side of defence, and that area proved to be vulnerable as Porto ripped into Benfica with three goals in an incredible first half hour. David Luiz was caught out by Hulk’s movement, whilst the continued tactic of Hulk moving deeper (or out wide) and Belluschi sprinting forward into the space created frequently carved Benfica apart.

Clear match-ups

Despite different systems, fairly clear battles took place on the pitch. Guarin and Aimar were up against each other, Benfica’s two central midfielders were broadly picking up Porto’s more attack-minded two, whilst the wingers and full-backs were having standard scraps, and both sides had a spare man at the back.

Belluschi was the key player in the game, because whilst he was (in theory) meant to be tracked by Javi Garcia, he played a wider, energetic role whilst Garcia was concerned with keeping his position infront of his back four. Belluschi stormed forward to make Porto’s front three a front four, and good interplay on Porto’s right created all three goals in the first half.

Benfica problems

Luiz was not comfortable at left-back. A centre-back by trade, he is capable of playing out on the left, but was outdone by the pace and trickery of Hulk in wide positions. The first goal came when Hulk outskilled Luiz and cut the ball back into the area – and, as Porto are so good at doing (see the game against Braga, for example) the wide forward on the opposite side had come forward into a goalscoring position, and Silvestre Varela had a tap-in.

Benfica had roughly half of possession in the first half, and there was a good shape to them both when defending and when attacking. In the defensive phase they were 4-4-1-1, but when in possession the wide players would get forward and make more of a 4-2-1-3, with Aimar dropping deep and looking to provide intelligent passes to the front three, with Carlos Martins in support. It was Martins that was probably the biggest danger – fresh from his four assists in midweek, a couple of set-piece deliveries caused Porto problems.

From a Benfica goal-kick, they are 4-2-3-1, how they looked in the transition stage between 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-1-3. Porto's 4-1-2-3 is skewed because the left-winger Varela (on the near side) dropped back level with the midfield, whilst Hulk stayed high up against the Benfica left-back.

Belluschi’s move forward into a right-wing position created the second, however, as his cross was expertly backheeled in by Falcao. Minutes later the same combination produced number three – Belluschi cut a ball back for Falcao, and his well-placed shot fizzed past Roberto into the net.

Second half

Unsurprisingly, Jorge Jesus changed the left side of his defence at half-time, switching back to the side that was expected to start – Sidnei made way (though he was probably less at fault than Luiz for the goals) with Luiz moving into centre-back, Coentrao going back to left-back and Nicolas Gaitan coming in on the left side of midfield.

This was probably less ‘turn the game around’ as it was ‘damage limitation’, and the second half was much less frantic than the first. It was still down the right that Porto threatened to cause the most problems, with Hulk demanding the ball and dribbling at Coentrao.

Porto placed much more emphasis on keeping possession of the ball in the second half, slowing the tempo of the game. Guarin dropped between the two centre-backs to provide a passing option for Helton at goal-kicks, which transformedPorto’s shape into 3-4-3 as the full-backs pushed on.

Guarin was also involved in the sending-off that finished the game as a contest in the 65th minute. Luisao threw an elbow, Guarin went down, the referee showed the red card, and Benfica were finished. The away side went 4-4-1 with Javi Garcia dropping in as the right-sided centre-back.

It was 4-0 ten minutes from time – Coentrao made two errors at left-back against Hulk for the fourth, missing a header, then committing a clumsy foul on the Brazilian, who converted the resulting penalty. Hulk got the fifth, turning inside Coentrao and smashing the ball past Roberto.


Utter dominance in one area of the pitch resulted in Porto’s win – all five goals came from their right-wing, with the Belluschi-Hulk combination overpowering Benfica.

The brilliance of those two should be the main focus, but one cannot ignore Jesus’ decision to play Luiz out of position on the left, where he looked hopeless for the opening 45 minutes. Ironically, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the decision to play him there, with Coentrao offering protection from further forward, was actually a ploy to stop Porto on that side of the pitch. It quite spectacularly didn’t work.

Porto go ten points clear of Benfica.

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