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Porto crowned Portuguese champions after Lisbon derby stalemate

Sunday 6th May 2018

Benfica's hopes of winning a fifth successive Portuguese championship were ended at Sporting Clube de Portugal. The two fierce rivals took to the Estadio Jose Alvalade pitch knowing victory was vital. In a cruel twist of fate, however, they eliminated one other from the title race.

Saturday's 0-0 draw left Benfica and Sporting both four points off the top with just one game remaining. Porto won the title for the first time in five seasons without kicking a ball.   

As opposed to many big European leagues this season, the Primeira Liga title race has been exciting. Only three weeks ago, it looked set to go down to the wire when Porto defeated Benfica. The triumvirate which dominates Portuguese football were all in with a chance. The Dragoes held firm, though, winning their next two games.  

Benfica's defeat at home to Tondela last weekend meant Porto would seal the title with victory over Feirense on Sunday night. Celebrations, however, started a day early. 

Benfica have enjoyed quite a run at the summit. They are, of course, Portugal's most successful club. The Aguias boast 36 championships. Porto hold eight fewer.

Benfica began this campaign aiming for their fifth successive title. They had dominated Portugal's top division after finally breaking Porto's stranglehold. 

Porto had won seven titles in eight years prior to Benfica taking control. The power has now transferred from Lisbon back to Oporto.

Since Vitor Pereira won Porto's last title in 2013, the club struggled to find the magic formula. Paulo Fonseca, Luis Castro, Julen Lopetegui, Rui Barros, Jose Peseiro and Nuno Espirito Santo were each handed the opportunity. All six failed to surpass Benfica, though.

Arter being appointed at Porto last summer, Sergio Conceicao has fared much better than his predecessors. 

As a Porto player, Conceicao won three Primeira Liga titles, a Portuguese Cup and a domestic Super Cup during two separate spells at the club. He also tasted success in Italy and Belgium, representing Parma, Lazio and Standard Liege. His playing career ended in 2009. 

Conceicao chose to enter coaching. As well as France's Nantes he has managed five Portuguese teams, including finishing league runners-up at Sporting Braga three seasons ago.

Porto's squad are at a good age to defend the title. Of the 14 players to have played more than 1000 minutes this campaign, 12 are aged between 24 and 28. They are at their peak. The only two veterans are Ivan Marcano and Iker Casillas. 

Marcano, a 30-year-old defender, still has something to offer Porto for a few more years. Casillas, meanwhile, shares goalkeeping duties with Jose Sa. There's a ready replacement should the 36-year-old hang up his gloves this summer.   

With the title wrapped up a week earlier than expected, many may lose interest in the Primeira Liga. However, there is still much at stake. Benfica and Sporting aim to ensure a Champions League spot. At the table's opposite end, six sides fight for survival.  

For Sergio Conceicao and his players, all that remains is to crack open the champagne and lift the trophy. Porto rule Portugal once again. 

Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.


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