The lead of Liga NOS changed hands again, after the constant back and forth in the last weeks. FC Porto is back in the lead after achieving, with Tondela, the sixth consecutive victory in the championship (4-0), now the best streak of the season. And the top of the table continues to be a pressure spot that has been switching sides since the beginning of February, and is now on Benfica, second, who will try to reduce the disadvantage of two points on Sunday, at the home of Sporting de Braga.
Matchday 22 of the League opened on Friday night at Estádio do Dragão, home to a team that hasn’t lost for 18 matches, for almost half a year, and that leads the list of teams unbeaten among the top ten leagues in the UEFA ranking. And also a team that is becoming more and more versatile on the pitch, as Nuno Espírito Santo stated at the preview of the match. The coach again changed three players in the starting team and chose to send in Rúben Neves, Corona and Otávio, which meant the return to a classic 4-4-2 formation.
Just as they had done in the classic match against Sporting and Vitória de Guimarães, FC Porto started the match showing power and applying pressure, trying to get closer to the finishing areas through fast transitions and take advantage of moments of disorganization from the opponent. Four minutes in, the goal seemed a certainty – but the header from Soares was not successful, as Cláudio Ramos, with a good save, stopped it. Shortly after that, again the goal seemed near: first with André Silva aiming for goal and Soares failing to pick up the spare; and then in a shot from Otávio that forced the opposing goalkeeper to a great defense into a corner.
FC Porto had 15 intense minutes that made life difficult for Tondela, but the visitors quickly recovered, presenting a compact block that tried to condition the dangerous blue and white plays, and still leaving two speedsters at the front, who tried to aim for goal. In their most dangerous attempt, Casillas, who played match 70 with the blue and white jersey, did not allow Heliardo to celebrate (41m). Two minutes later, André Silva scored from a penalty given for a tackle on Soares, which meant the 13th goal in the championship for the Portuguese international star, the 18th of the season.
The final moments of the first-half were, in fact, fatal for Tondela, who was reduced to ten men as Osório was shown a second yellow card and the consequent red. The first few minutes of the second-half were just as deadly. FC Porto resumed the match in full power, looking for a bigger result, and could have reached it had Soares and then André Silva been more accurate when shooting for goal or if Cláudio Ramos had not been inspired, denying the goal to the Brazilian striker over and over.
The second goal seemed imminent and was confirmed on the next play, with a monumental missile from captain Rúben Neves, that made the more than 35,000 fans at Estádio do Dragão jump in celebration – the midfielder has a special talent for beautiful goals, such as the last one he scored, in Coimbra, in front of Académica, last season. Tondela had issues in remaining organized down to ten men and allowed for spaces that the Dragons took advantage of to extend the lead. The scorer was the inevitable Soares, receiving the pass from Otávio, and shooting for goal, not giving Claudio Ramos any chance at saving it – it was the fourth goal for "Tiquinho" in three matches he played for FC Porto.
At the hour mark, the three points seemed guaranteed and Nuno began to refresh the team, as Wednesday brings a match against Juventus at home, to start the fight for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. The coach started by sending in Óliver Torres and Diogo Jota, and shortly after Layún, but the changes didn’t mean a loss of control over the match, as the Dragons continued to speed up and pausing at the right moments, always with a good reaction when losing the ball, not allowing for any possibility at a comeback. The blue and white defense remains as one of the defenses with the best goal average conceded among the main European leagues. Upfront, spaces continued to appear in the opposing defense, and the fourth goal was close, but was only scored in the last minute of stoppage time: Diogo Jota set the final result with a volley, impossible for Cláudio Ramos to save.