Benfica produced a scintillating second-half performance to dismantle Rio Ave 5-1 at the Estádio da Luz on Saturday evening.
Goals from Jardel, Pizzi, Jonas, Rúben Dias and Raúl Jiménez ensured that the Eagles briefly climbed to the top of the Liga NOS table, albeit having played a game more than Sporting and two games more than Porto.
There was just the one change from the side that rescued a last-gasp draw against Belenenses on Monday, with Andrija Živković replacing João Carvalho after the Serb came off the bench and impressed in central midfield.
But it was a poor start from Rui Vitória’s men, as they went behind after just nine minutes. Benfica failed to clear a corner, and it came back onto the head of Helder Guedes, who out-jumped Dias and nodded past a badly-positioned Bruno Varela.
Benfica slowly improved from that point onwards though, and the second half saw Benfica regain the initiative, as Jardel headed past Cassio from a Franco Cervi corner to equalise. And they soon took the lead, as Pizzi squirmed his effort past the Rio Ave keeper after receiving a square ball from Jonas to give the Eagles a well-earned lead.
The goals would continue to fly in, Jonas tapping home after another Cervi corner was knocked down by Jardel, before the captain’s defensive partner got in on the act from, once again, a corner.
Dias met Pizzi’s ball with a wonderful bullet header, making it four, before substitute Raúl tapped home from close range to finish a spectacular second-half for Benfica.
Here are the Benfica player ratings:
Bruno Varela (5) - More questions will be asked of his goalkeeping again. Should probably have saved Guedes’ header, which was a pretty tame effort and his positioning let him down for that goal.
André Almeida (6) - Average performance, didn’t really stand out going forward and defended competently.
Rúben Dias (7) - Out-jumped by Guedes for Rio Ave’s goal, but otherwise solid in defence and contributed in attack, scoring his first league goal for the club with a bullet header.
Jardel (8) - Captain’s performance. Kept a cool head in defence and sparked Benfica’s comeback in the second half with a nice header for the equaliser. Went on to set up the third, knocking the ball down for Jonas from the corner.
Álex Grimaldo (6) - Not as effective as he usually is going forward, although he defended competently at the back. Played a lovely through-ball to Jonas in the build-up to Pizzi’s goal.
Ljubomir Fejsa (6) - Troubled at times by the movement of Francisco Geraldes in the first-half, but eventually grew into the game and snuffed out the spark of Rio Ave’s number ten in the second.
Andrija Živković (7) - Solid performance in the Krovinovic role. Often put men through with some solid through balls and was generally a live-wire. The only criticism might be about his defensive work-rate though, could track back more at times.
Pizzi (7) - Quiet for a good part of an hour, before coming up with the goal that put Benfica ahead. Also went on to deliver a quality ball for Rúben Dias’ goal.
Eduardo Salvio (6) - Didn’t really do much before being taken off in the first-half after picking up an injury.
Franco Cervi (8) - Quality again from the pint-sized Argentinian. Two lovely deliveries from corners to set up Benfica’s equaliser and third, as well as generally threatening from open play.
Jonas (7) - Didn’t really have much to work with in the first-half, but when his chance came, he took it with aplomb, tapping home Benfica’s third.
Rafa (7) - Made the most of his opportunity after Salvio’s injury, providing a more direct presence down the right-hand side. Set up Benfica’s fifth after beating his man and putting a perfect square ball in for Raúl.
Raúl Jiménez (7) - Good ten-minute cameo from the Mexican, marked with a simple tap-in to round off the goals.
João Carvalho (N/A) - Brief appearance in the unfamiliar role of left-back.