Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting Clube de Braga faced each other in an exciting match at "The Quarry" on Sunday, with the Eagles overcoming their opponents thanks a superb individual goal from Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, with just ten minutes left on the clock. The vital 1-0 victory allowed Benfica to reclaim top spot in the Liga NOS, which had been temporarily stolen by rivals FC Porto.
Returning from his three match domestic ban, and following a prematch rant about some questionable refereeing decisions in recent matches, head coach Rui Vitória was noticeably more relaxed at the final whistle.
"I would like to start by praising both teams: it was a thrilling match with the players acting respectfully towards each other, and the SC Braga lads were worthy opponents. The quality of our performance got better as the game progressed and we were able to clinch a worthy victory in a really tough stadium to play in. The goal was a result of individual decisiveness, but we showed intensity throughout the match, both attacking and defensively."
"There was a time during the match where there were opportunities at both ends, which can be tricky, but sometimes to win a match we have to take some risks."
"We could have done better with our finishing... we had some chances in the box where we penetrated but weren't able to score. In the end it was a good win and a good match."
Vitória conceded that his team's midweek exertions in the Champions League had made Sunday's fixture even tougher.
“It was a physically demanding match against a motivated opponent, and to add to this, we had a really tough European match some days before. We thought about putting some fresh players on and being organised and decisive up front. We were fortunate to score and to win the match. It was a deserved victory after a really tough match."
When asked to comment about the pressure of having rivals FC Porto playing beforehand and provisionally leading the league, Rui Vitória was once again pragmatic:
"We are not led or guided by this. Similarly to last year, sometimes we play before and at others we play after our rivals... we are just focused on our own matches and our own goals. We will give it all we have in every match, trying to play well and to win."
Influential midfielder Pizzi started his 47th consecutive league game against the Arsenalistas, and it was he that won the ball in the build-up to Mitroglou's crucial strike. The 27-year old praised his side's team spirit after another important win.
"We were expecting a tough match. SC Braga are a really good side with excellent players and a good manager, and we knew we would face difficulties from the start."
"We stuck together, were united, and this was a true team victory, a Benfica win, and a display of strength and character."
"It was a really tough match: SC Braga's midfielders are excellent and made our job really hard, but we kept united and believed until the end. It was a deserved victory that gets us back into first place."
So, were Benfica relieved to regain the league leadership after spending 48 hours in second place?
"We don't feel relieved to have taken back the leadership... we always start each match with one thing in mind, the victory. It was a Benfica win against a worthy opponent."
After this result, the Tricampeões sit top of the Liga NOS with 54 points. Their next match will take place at the Catedral this Friday, with the Reds hosting the organised and motivated Grupo Desportivo de Chaves at 21:00.