June 23, 2020 / 8:37 PM / 17 days ago

Porto leapfrog Benfica in Portuguese title race

LISBON (Reuters) - Porto made a big step towards wrestling the Portuguese league title from Benfica after a 4-0 win over Boavista sent them top of the table three points clear of the champions, who suffered a shock 4-3 home defeat by Santa Clara on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Primeira Liga - Benfica v Santa Clara - Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal - June 23, 2020. Benfica's Rafa in action with Santa Clara's Carlos Junior, following the resumption of play behind closed doors after the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Manuel De Almeida/Pool via REUTERS

With six rounds of games remaining, Porto have 67 points while Benfica, who have won five of the last six league titles and started the day ahead on goal difference, have 64.

Buoyed by news that Benfica slipped up in the early evening fixture, Porto laid siege to Boavista and missed three chances in the first half before they ground down their city rivals.

Moussa Marega fired 2018 champions Porto ahead in the 53rd minute when he drilled a crisp shot into the far corner from 10 metres after a flowing move.

Alex Telles and Sergio Oliveira then converted two penalties in quick succession, one after Marega was fouled and the other after a visiting defender handled the striker’s cross from the right flank.

The towering Marega completed the rout in the 84th minute with a clinical finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Benfica appeared to have done enough to stay in the driving seat after they came from behind twice to lead 3-2 but sloppy defending late in the game cost them dearly.

They fell behind against the run of play in the 44th minute when Anderson Carvalho fired Santa Clara ahead with a neat side-footed finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Rafa Silva equalised in the 50th with an opportunist close-range shot before the visitors struck again in the 57th, as Zaidu Sanusi rose above his marker to power an Osama Rashid corner into the roof of the net.

Halftime substitute Carlos Vinicius equalised in similar fashion in the 63rd minute, heading in a Pizzi corner, and then got on the end of an Andre Almeida cross two minutes later to steer a superb header past visiting keeper Marco Pereira.

Yet the visitors had the last laugh as second-half substitute Cryzan blasted in an 82nd-minute penalty and Ze Manuel forced the final twist with a deflected shot from 15 metres deep into stoppage time.

Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar

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