Olhanense 1-0 Benfica: Spirited underdogs grab early penalty, then defend superbly for the rest of the game
Benfica suffered defeated for the first time in the Liga Zon Sagres, losing out to this year's underdog side Olhanense.
Siqueira and Cardozo were injured, but the rest of Jorge Jesus's squad was named as expected, a flattish diamond with Andre Almeida starting out as the left shuttler rather than a trequartista where he usually plays.
Okocha named a fairly cautious side, with Coubronne giving way to Sebastian Mladen, who played very narrow, almost as a third centre back, and rarely ever went forward. Alijore was named in the squad, and so was Paulo Regula, who was picked over Rui Duarte, probably due to his willingness to defend and work rate. Balogun, returned from his brief loan spell at Rio Ave, made his Olhanense debut here, playing left winger in place of the ineligible Urreta.
The game started out quick, with Rodrigo getting behind the defense, but a slow touch belayed him and allowed Ricardo Ferreira to block his shot. From then on, Olhanense was content to drop deep.
Olhanense back four
Here, Olhanense played an odd back four system. Mladen was content to sit very narrow, almost as a third centre back, and nullified Rodrigo's runs, forcing him further left where he was unable to assert any influence at all, he regularly got the ball in the left flank but tended to unsuccessfully dribble his way into the box, and when he did cross, his crossing was poor throughout.
Okocha was content to play Cortez 1 vs 1 against Joao Ribeiro. His crossing was poor throughout and while he did get in many shots, all were from long distance. Similarly, the presence of only Ribeiro on the right flank meant that Olhanense almost always attacked down the left, with 64& of their play concentrated on the left flank where Willian and Balogun managed to overload left back Silvio and put in a few dangerous crosses, as indicated by the passing chart below:
This picture below may explain things better, all the play is concentrated on Benfica's right flank and the only players in Benfica's flank are Joao Ribeiro and Cortez, although the pressing from Olhanense's midfield prevented forward passes from being played in midfield.
On the opposite flank, Willian played a usual left-back role, helping Balogun double up Silvio with great success, his influence was limited despite Benfica's attempts to force their way down that particular flank.
Here, Okocha chose the decision to instruct Diego Goncalves to man mark Matic tightly, while his man marking may be lacking, he indeed did much to influence the game as Matic only ever attempted 42 passes and made 38.
Matic being man marked by Diego Goncalves played a part in the build up for the first goal...Luisao ended up out of passing options, and passed it to Artur. Artur then underhit the following long ball, which ended up in Matic heading the ball into a dangerous position. Willian's long throw-in then found the feet of Diego Goncalves, who got fouled almost immediately by Garay for the penalty.
With no player pressing the center backs though, it was understandable how Luisao led Benfica in terms of passing. He regularly made runs forward, but was unable to find good passing options, and instead, most of his passing went to the midfielders.
Luisao played 117 passes, the most of any player on the pitch.
With Matic effectively marked out of the game, the most common passing combination was Luisao to Enzo Perez and Luisao to Ruben Amorim, which was not very good as Enzo Perez and Amorim tended to pick up the pass in tight areas where they did not have the space to attempt through balls. It didn't help either that Matic wasn't 100% fit, and by the 60th minute, had tired heavily, but was only substituted in the 88th minute for Djuricic, while Amorim dropped into defensive midfield. Maxi Pereira could have been the better option here, he might not be better than Matic but is defensively astute, Maxi Pereira wasn't even selected. Furthermore, his long throwing ability may have created an added level of threat to Olhanense, considering how Benfica has been very dangerous in set pieces so far.
Femi Balogun was the first player to be subbed out. With Benfica continuing to press on that flank, Okocha chose to play even cautious by subbing Balogun out for left back Massari, switching to a 4-5-1. Celestino picked up an injury in the 75th minute, and had to be stretchered off. Jander was his replacement, although he wasn't in his top form and didn't make much of an influence in his 15 minutes of play.
On Benfica's side, Jorge Jesus chose to sub off the struggling Enzo Perez with Carlos Martins on the 73rd minute, probably to add in a more direct threat to the ever resilient Olha defense. His second substitution involved subbing Lima off for Rogerio Funes Mori to add in some height into the squad. His influence though, was pretty much lacking though, with two intercepted flick-ons being his only contribution in the 12 minutes he spent on the pitch. Interestingly, Jorge Jesus stuck with the ever tiring Nemanja Matic. After 70 minutes, Matic ran very little and seemed to be depleted of stamina. He was replaced in the last minutes, which was probably too late.
The best substitution though, would go to Okocha's Olhanense. With Nemanja Matic and Silvio tiring, he bravely removed tiring left back Willian and put in striker Mirko Bigazzi, playing in tandem with Diego. This substitution provided one golden chance for them, Diego Goncalves picked up the ball in a deep position and lobbed in a wonderful pass to Mirko Bigazzi for a rare 1 vs 1 chance with Artur. The finish though, was poor as Bigazzi shot it straight into the hands of Artur, and could have made the game 2-0 in favor of Olhanense.
Olhanense got the goal they wanted, then defended superbly for the rest of the game, a typical underdog victory against a much higher side. They managed to nullify Benfica's game, then managed to make most of two consecutive opposition mistake to get the victory.
Jorge Jesus could not have taken blame for this game - his side tried their best, and it came down to costly individual mistakes.