Without doubt one the most eye-catching results in Europe this week was Lille’s 5-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in France.José Fonte scored for the second match running as Lille recorded a memorable win while also taking a firm grip on second place in Ligue 1.
Elsewhere, Gonçalo Guedes continues to excite with Valencia in Spain with a goal and an assist as they beat Levante 3-1. In Germany, Eintracht Frankfurt were beaten 3-1 by Augsburg ahead of their clash with Benfica, but Gonçalo Paciência was on target. On the coaching front, Paulo Sousa tasted defeat for the first time with Bordeaux, while there was a big win for Jose Gomes and Reading in England.
PSG win “no surprise” – Fonte
The big match in Ligue 1 saw the top two face off at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy. PSG came into the match with a 20-point advantage over their opponents, meaning the game was more about Lille attempting to secure a result in their fight for runners-up spot. Christophe Gautier’s side have been a surprise story in France this season, having escaped relegation by one point last term.
Gautier was without suspended Rafael Leão for the match, but included Xeca and captain José Fonte in his line-up. It would be veteran defender Fonte to finish the scoring with a powerful header, making it goals in consecutive matches following his strike in last weekend’s draw with Reims. José’s brother, Rui Fonte, played the final twenty minutes for the victors.
“For us, it's not a surprise,” José Fonte said after the match. “We play every game to win, especially at home in front of our supporters. We had a great game; I think we deserved this victory.
“We are second in the league and we have a lot of qualities. We did our job to continue our journey. Champions League qualification (Lille have an eight-point advantage over Lyon in the race for direct entry) is not over, there are six games left and we have to keep winning. We still need two or three wins needed I believe, so it’s not over.”
Paulo Sousa’s Bordeaux conceded three times in the second half to go down 3-0 at Saint Etienne on Sunday, inflicting the first defeat in French football for the Portuguese coach. A controversial handball award gave Les Verts a penalty converted by Whabi Khazri ten minutes into the second period, and Mathieu Debuchy added a brace (74’ and 90’) late on.
“We had to make many changes and in particular there was an absence of experienced players,” Sousa explained post-match. “The age difference between our team and that of Saint-Etienne was important. In the first half, the game was balanced, but in the second it was not. The opponent pressed us, that's how the first goal came. There was a big physical difference too. But the experience of Saint Etienne made the difference after half time.”
Elsewhere in France, the goals have dried up for Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco, who were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Reims on Saturday. The result means Monaco are seven points clear of relegation with six games remaining, but a goalscoring record of three goals in their last five Ligue 1 matches is a concern for the Portuguese boss.
Gonçalo Guedes scored one and created another as the Portuguese underlined his emerging star status at Valencia with another glowing performance in their 3-1 win over Levante in La Liga. Guedes has put a season blighted by injury behind him with six goals in his last eight appearances as Valencia look to achieve their ambitions in league and the Europa League.
The local derby match at the Mestalla got off to the perfect start when Guedes crossed for Santi Mina to head home after just two minutes. Levante levelled through a Carlos Soler own goal ten minutes into the second half, but Guedes restored Valencia’s lead almost immediately with a fantastic strike. The former Benfica man played a neat one-two with Soler before firing past Levante goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez from a tight angle.
Mina added a third for Valencia, who remain in 6th place but closed the gap to Getafe to just two points. Guedes has become the major talking point around the club, with Spanish paper AS dissecting his performance against Levante, during which he created three clear opportunities and recorded an impressive pass-rate of 78% in a forward role.
Eintracht Frankfurt suffered a surprise 3-1 home defeat to Augsburg in the Bundesliga, ahead of their Europe League return clash with Benfica on Thursday. Gonçalo Paciência put Frankfurt ahead (14’) with his third league goal of the season – all of which have been headers – but Augsburg were 2-1 up by half time.
Once again Frankfurt had to play a large chunk of the game with ten men after seeing Gelson Fernandes sent off for a second bookable offence two minutes after the restart, with Paciência withdrawn not long after as the hosts tried to get back into the game. Frankfurt were unable to find an equaliser, however, and Augsburg clinched the three points when Michael Gregoritsch got the third with six minutes left to play to condemn the hosts to their first league defeat since the turn of the year.
José Gomes’ Reading took a significant step towards survival in the English Championship this weekend with a vital 2-1 victory over Brentford. The win means Reading move up to 19th place in the English second tier but more importantly now have a four-point cushion between them and the relegation zone with just four matches remaining.
Gomes has overseen a 7-point swing from 23rd and three points adrift of safety in December to the current four-point advantage, with the impact of the Portuguese boss making him a popular figure with Royals fans since his arrival from Rio Ave. However Gomes, who had Nélson Oliveira in attack against Brentford, insisted after the match that his team will not take survival for granted.
"It was a very important three points towards our target,” he said. “But we have only a few hours before we start working again for the next game.
"We cannot relax. We are in the final stages of a big war. We have four battles more and we must keep our focus for those battles. In this moment, we must collect all our energy and strength and use it in the next game. We have nothing more than the next game. Our players will think like that.
"So today was a fantastic three points which will be important for the four battles we have in front of us."
There was less good news for the Portuguese bosses in the top flight. Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers followed their FA Cup semi-final heartbreak last week with a 3-1 loss at Southampton, with Rui Patrício, João Moutinho, Rúben Neves, Diogo Jota and Hélder Costa all involved. Meanwhile, Everton’s recent upturn in results came to an end as Marco Silva’s side lost 2-0 at Fulham, with André Gomes perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card for his late challenge on Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Bernardo Silva gave Manchester City a boost by making a quick return to action after missing their midweek defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League. The Portugal midfielder was a second-half substitute as City won 3-1 at Crystal Palace to remain on course to defend their Premier League title. Diogo Dalot has now started four of Manchester United’s last five games after playing at right-back in their 2-1 win over West Ham United.
Another Portuguese on the books at Old Trafford is Joel Pereira, who left the club to join Belgian side Kortrijk on loan for the remainder of the season back in January. The goalkeeper, who played the first half of the campaign on loan in Portugal with Vitória Guimarães, has had to be patient in waiting for his debut in Belgium but kept a clean sheet for Kortrijk in their 2-0 win over Union St. Gilloise.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested for Juventus’ trip to SPAL in Serie A ahead of their Champions League tie with Ajax. Once again without their talisman Juventus slipped to a surprise defeat, losing 2-1 despite taking a 10th minute lead when João Cancelo’s driving run infield saw his shot deflect off young Juve striker Moise Kean and end up in the net. In Russia, Manuel Fernandes also provided an incisive burst from midfield to lay on the third goal as Lokomotiv Moscow won 3-1 at Akhmat Grozny.
Lechia Gdansk’s grip on the leadership of the Polish Ekstraklasa has slipped after a 4-2 defeat at Cracovia Krakow saw Legia Warsaw draw level at the top of the table. Flávio Paixão scored the opener for Lechia – his 15th league goal of the season – but the leaders dropped points for the second time in three games to open the door to Legia.
Legia Warsaw, who dispensed with Portuguese boss Sá Pinto last month, took advantage of the result to move joint-top with a 3-1 win over Pogon Szczecin. Iuri Medeiros got the second goal for Legia, who also had André Martins, Luís Rocha and Cafú involved in the action.
In MLS, Nani scored for the second match running, but his late free-kick was a mere consolation for Orlando City in their 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. Elsewhere on the goals front, Nuno Morais scored from the penalty spot – his 12th league goal of the season – for APOEL in Cyprus as they beat Nea Salamis 4-0. In Bulgaria, ex Moreirense midfielder Patrick Andrade scored two late goals for Cherno More in their 2-0 victory at Botev Plovdiv, while former Guimarães midfielder David Caiado scored as Gaz Metan were 2-1 winners over Voluntari in Romania and Matias Lage found the net as Clermont were beaten 2-1 by Orleans in France’s Ligue 2.
The race for playoff places in Ligue 2 looks set to go right to the wire, but Rui Almeida’s Troyes have hit form at the right time with three consecutive wins. A 1-0 win over Gazalec Ajaccio means the Lisbon-born coach took his side into 3rd place and a four-point cushion in the playoff positions, which ultimately determine who will play the 18th placed team from the top flight for a place in next season’s Ligue 1.
Results were generally positive for the remaining Portuguese bosses across the globe, with José Morais and Vítor Pereira winners with Jeonbuk Motors (1-0 at Jeju United) and Shanghai SIPG (2-1 vs Wuhan Zall) in South Korea and China respectively. Paulo Fonseca’s Shakhtar Donetsk breezed past Zorya 3-0 in Ukraine, while Pedro Caixinha’s Cruz Azul earned a goalless draw at Club America in Mexico’s Liga MX.
In the Middle East, Rui Vitória’s Al Nassr lost top spot in the Saudi Pro League with just three matches remaining as their 3-2 home defeat to Al Ittihad allowed Al Hilal to reclaim leadership. Paulo Sergio enjoyed a rare win with Sanat Naft in Iran as they beat Pars Jam Bushehr 1-0 in the Persian Gulf League and there were wins for Jesualdo Ferreira’s Al Sadd and Rui Faria’s Al Duhal in Qatar.
Pedro Martins and Olympiakos continue to rack up the victories in Greece to no avail. Martins’ side beat Xanthi 4-0 to make it 14 wins from their last 15 matches, but leaders PAOK need just one point from their final two games to clinch the title. PAOK, with Vieirinha and Sérgio Oliveira in the side, were held to a 1-1 draw at Larissa but remain undefeated in the Greek Super League.
By Sean Gillen