The O Classico Changes (Benfica vs Porto)

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For the first time since winning their previous championship title, Benfica have managed to beat Porto, claiming their first O Classico in more than four years with a 2-0 win that seemed to be a lot more meaningful and powerful than the scoreline.

Because it’s not just Benfica beating Porto for the first time since December 2009. It’s not just Benfica taking the lead in the Primeira Liga with two points more than the surprising Sporting and three over the disappointing Porto. It was the manner in which Porto reacted to the defeat, which isn’t the first time this season we see the team and their fans finding it difficult to handle the situation in which they’re not winning with ease.

Porto had the majority of possession, but hardly did anything with it, as Jackson Martinez didn’t get a single good through ball and pass through the match, which resulted in a lot of frustration and a yellow card that could have easily been a red with a stricter referee. Martinez wasn’t alone in Porto losing their head – Danilo was sent off and four more Porto players were booked in a second half that was mostly about Benfica missing great chances on counter attacks, and the whole final 37 minutes being mostly about relishing their win, which has become quite a rare event in this rivalry.

Time to celebrate? Probably not. Benfica had a four point lead with three matches to go last season and dropped the title after drawing with Estoril and losing in the 91st minute to Porto. They also lost the Europa League title in the 90th minute and lost in the Cup final in a tragic ending to the season, which usually stays with players and fans for a very long time, until all the demons have been exorcised.

Benfica players were all wearing jerseys with Eusebio’s name on the back. Maybe it was about living up to his name and his achievements, when Benfica weren’t just the only great club in Portugal but also one of the best in Europe. Maybe it was about smelling blood, and knowing Porto were vulnerable for the first time in years. Lazar Markovic was brilliant, showing that Benfica have a lot to expect from him in the coming years (if they can hang on to him), while Nemanja Matic, rumored to be on his way to Chelsea, was perfect in the middle of the park.

It’s a three-headed race still, but there’s no doubt that Benfica’s win was about more than 3 points. If only they can avoid collapsing in the final three weeks this season, it might finally be their chance to win a first league title since 2010.

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