Porto 2-2 Benfica: Late Nicolas Gaitan goal frustrates hosts
The Europa League holders wasted the chance to move clear at the top as they faltered in the late stages of the game between the two Portuguese giants
By Luis Mira
The hosts started the game with characteristic assurance and Hulk gave the first warning on 10 minutes. The Brazil international received the ball down the right, cut inside and moved past Javi Garcia and Axel Witsel before firing a left-footed drive, which Artur tipped wide.
From then until the end of the half, Porto laid siege to Benfica’s goal. The home side came close to scoring in the 26th minute, as Hulk again cut infield with the ball and picked out a pass to the left for Alvaro Pereira, who sent in a low cross. An unmarked Jorge Fucile had just to apply a finishing touch, but Artur was at full stretch to deny the goal.
It was only a matter time before Porto found the back of the net. Freddy Guarin whipped in a free-kick from the left and Kleber rose high inside the area to head home.
The break energised Benfica and they equalised just two minutes into the second session. Hulk was dispossessed in Porto’s own half and Pablo Aimar passed it to Nolito, who found space inside the box to send a venomous through ball for Oscar Cardozo to strike home.
However, Porto’s response was immediate, as Varela squared the ball across the face of the goal after a corner played short, and Nicolas Otamendi was there to tap-in.
Guarin came close to giving Porto their third of the night as he tried to chip the ball over Artur, but the keeper tipped it over the bar. Just one minute later, Benfica almost equalized on the counter, but Helton denied Cardozo’s strike with his right foot.
With Guarin's exit, Porto lost control of the midfield, allowing Benfica to find more spaces after Javier Saviola and Bruno Cesar had come on. The visitors drew level once again in the 82nd minute, as Gaitan smashed the ball home after being played through by Saviola.
The draw means everything stay the same at the top of the league, as Porto and Benfica lead the table with 14 points. However, Braga will have the chance to reach them on Saturday, when they welcome CD Nacional.
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