Well… so much for Dublin!
After last night’s dreadful match between Benfica and Braga, the Lisbon Giants say farewell to their last chance of winning top silverware this season! By losing this semi-final they just added a huge exclamation mark to the sentence “We just weren’t good enough this year!” And truth be told, they were a shadow of what fans expected after one of the best seasons in the Eagles recent history.
There’s no doubt they went through some tough opponents to get to the semi-final (in the likes of Stuttgart, PSG or PSV), so kudos for that, but it just seems they missed a golden opportunity considering that they are a much stronger side than Braga. Benfica’s pedigree speaks for itself, but nowadays that doesn’t seem to be taken into much consideration… especially if you think of the way Benfica has performing recently by conceding goals in their last 17 matches and by losing most of their crucial games. So if in one hand I’m baffled by the way the Reds have been under-performing, at the same time I can’t say I’m really that surprised. I’m just utterly disappointed! Maybe that’s the best way to describe how I feel after watching a squad coming up to Braga’s territory with a 2-1 lead, and just play without any heart or soul. Sure Aimar and Salvio were missed, but that can’t justify how a team that invests millions of Euros can’t win an opponent with a third of their budget.
Oh well… I think this is an example as good as any other of how the underdogs can prevail when they show “a larger than life” attitude, opposite to the “it’s in the bag” attitude. Maybe that wasn’t Benfica's attitude at all… maybe they just have a hard time dealing with the pressure of important fixtures! I’m still dwelling on that one…
But what can I say… It’s still a proud day for Portuguese football; as we see Porto and Braga go on to square off in Dublin for the Europa League title!
Porto, who has been simply outstanding this year, is considered to be the favorite as they face the Bracarenses, who have been quite impressive as well in this competition, by taking out clubs such as Arsenal, Celtic, Seville, Liverpool and now Benfica.
To be honest, can’t say that I’m excited about that final… not only because Benfica is out of it, but also because the outcome seems pretty predictable. I doubt that Vilas-Boas pupils will let this chance slip.
But as I was saying... It’s without a doubt a remarkable year of epic proportions for both Portuguese clubs!
Meanwhile, what more can be said about Benfica? What does the future hold to their manager, Jorge Jesus?
Personally, I think that the idea of sacking Jesus is preposterous for a lot of different reasons, but mostly because we were champions due to his arrival to the club.
If there is something the world of football frequently reminds us, it is that people have a very short memory! In Benfica’s case, most supporters tend to forget that Jesus was the one responsible for a season with only two defeats… responsible for the most offensive and attractive football in not only Benfica’s recent years but also the Portuguese League…
He developed players that went on signing for the biggest clubs in Europe for absurd amounts of money.
This year the club struggled with injuries (Ruben Amorim being the most flagrant case), the consequences of the World Cup and the departure of several key players (curiously enough, one for each part of the field – defense, midfield and offense). Sure he made a few bad calls, but so does every manager.
So, do excuse him if he went through one season without delivering the same results as his debut year. Obviously it’s one of those things… Anyone who manages a club like Benfica is bound to be under a lot of pressure and what we can see from past experiences is that the tendency is to sack those managers who go some time without reaching a degree of success, however, I think it’s time to start investing more in “long term projects”. That way we can obtain a more solid consistency and certainly it will become easier for the club to reach their goals.
I definitely would allow him to continue coaching Benfica next season!