One of the most thrilling and sublime derbies of the Portuguese football was played 24 years ago under the rain and finished with a diluvian result. On May 14th, 1994, Benfica won away at Sporting by 3-6. Author of an epic hat-trick, João Vieira Pinto was the man of the match.
With the top spot secured by only one point, Benfica visited the old Estádio José Alvalade with the objective of defending its position, without repressing the ambition of bagging the points at stake and leaving the rival’s home ground as clear leaders.
The evening began badly for the Eagles, that at the time were coached by Toni. At 8’, Cadete, after a corner taken on the right, put the ball in the back of Neno’s net with a header. Benfica responded through João Vieira Pinto: at 30’, after leaving to defenders behind, the number 8 delivered a hot 20/25 meters away from the goal and scored a stunner (1-1).
Five minutes later, Sporting scored the 2-1, though a header from Figo. It was a back-and-forth derby: at 37’, the class and brilliance of JVP merged in the same play, with the star from Benfica tearing Sporting’s defense apart and beating Lemajic with a diagonal shot (2-2).
Before the break (44’), the third goal from Benfica and from JVP: Ailton took a free kick on the right and, with a short pass, served Vítor Paneira on the right; the number 7 raised his head, saw Isaías at the far post and delivered the ball; the “Prophet won the aerial duel and assisted JVP’s header. Another fantastic moment in a luxurious show (2-3).
The second half practically began with the 2-4. Vítor Paneira made the cross toward the center of the box, where JVP made dummy move and allowed the ball to travel to Isaías, who extended Benfica’s lead (48’).
JVP made a outstanding play through the right and assisted Isaías for another goal, this time with his left foot. 57 minutes played in the derby and Benfica in front by 2-5.
At 74’, Hélder Cristóvão began and finished the play of the 2-6: the center-back made a combination with Vítor Paneira and received a killer pass from the winger, put another ball on the back of Sporting’s net.
The home team pulled one back (Balakov scored the 3-6 through a penalty).
With this result, the eagles gained momentum towards their 30th national title (leaving Sporting behind) with four round left to play.
Benfica used the following players in this victory: Neno; Veloso, Mozer, Hélder and Kenedy; Abel Xavier, Vítor Paneira, Isaías (Rui Costa, 71’) and Schwarz; Ailton and João Vieira Pinto (Rui Águas, 78′).