Benfica retain Portuguese title

Lisbon (AFP) –


Benfica held off the challenge of bitter rivals Sporting to win a third straight Portuguese title by beating Nacional 4-1 on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Captain Nico Gaitan scored twice with top scorer Jonas, with his 32nd league goal of the season, and Pizzi also on target for Rui Vitoria's side before Salvador Agra got one back at the death.

By then the celebrations were already well under way at a packed Estadio da Luz as Benfica clinched the 35th Portuguese title of their illustrious history.

It is the first time they have won three in a row since the 1970s and this championship will taste sweeter than most for Benfica fans as they did it at the expense of a Sporting side coached by Jorge Jesus.

Jesus left Benfica for Sporting last summer but was unable to lead the green and white side of the Portuguese capital to what would have been a first title since 2002 and a 19th in their history.

Sporting finished the season with a ninth straight win, triumphing 4-0 away to fourth-place Braga.

Teo Gutierrez gave Sporting the lead before Algerian Islam Slimani made it two with his 27th of the campaign.

Braga played three-quarters of the game with 10 men after Arghus was sent off in the first half and Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz added two more goals for Sporting in the second half.

But the handsome victory was not enough, as Sporting finished second, two points off the pace.

Benfica, for whom Bayern Munich-bound starlet Renato Sanches played no part and watched from the stands, could add further silverware as they face Maritimo in the League Cup final next weekend.

Benfica also reached the Champions League quarter-finals in Rui Vitoria's first season as coach and both they and Sporting qualify automatically for next season's group stage.

FC Porto, who came third and face Braga in the Portuguese Cup final next weekend, go into the Champions League play-offs.