Last time I left you we were sitting comfortably at the top of the table with just over half of the domestic season to go. While repeating last years feat would be a tough one, that was still the main objective in my mind. The signing of Renato Sanches gives us a whole new option going forwards which can only prove to strengthen us as a unit. However, as the months progressed it seems that many of the other teams in the league had began to figure us out, or maybe we began to get complacent.
The second half of the season initially picked up where the first half left off. A superb victory over Porto was followed by a run of 8 consecutive victories before we finally fell to our first defeat in 60 league matches at the hands of Uniao de Madeira. A small stutter in form after this was rounded off with a run of 5 straight victories including a 5-0 victory over Porto to round off the 2017/18 season. Another key victory during this time was the 8-0 home win against mid-table Tondela, the biggest win during my reign as Benfica Manager.
Primeira League; 2017-18
No surprise finish in the end as our impressive strings of results saw us win the Portuguese title by 13 points ahead of fierce rivals Sporting CP. The surprise package for the season were Uniao de Madeira, the team sponsored by CR7 himself; as they almost managed to pull off a top 4 finish, only to fall at the final hurdle. The most impressive achievement for this season was the fact that we manged to find the back of the net 101 times, that’s over 3 goals a game on average! We also strengthened defensively and conceded the least goals in the league, with Sporting and Porto having much worse seasons from a defensive point of view. My 2nd title as a Manager was secured.
Both the Taca de Portugal and the Taca da Liga, held by us, proved to be an extremely infuriating side of our season. To put things briefly, we failed to retain any of the Cups we won last season. While these Cups are not regarded as being important by the Benfica board, I myself am a winning man and will never accept defeat, even if the trophy itself means nothing to the fans, or the club.
A woeful set of results saw us finished 2nd in our Taca da Liga group meaning we didn’t progress past the 3rd round. We only managed 4 goals across the 3 games and a defeat away at Braga sealed our fate in a game we had to win. An incredibly disappointing and embarrassing run in a competition we should be winning.
As for the Taca de Portugal, we managed a better run in this competition but ultimately fell at the final hurdle to fierce rivals FC Porto. The Final was a seemingly disappointing game but a late goal from Danilo Pereira put the trophy in Porto’s cabinet. Our first taste of defeat in a Cup Final, and not something I want to taste again.
The run itself was impressive from our youth side in which they racked up 7-0 and 13-0 victories and consistent clean sheets. Plenty of goals, not many conceded but ultimately not enough to lift the Cup, not this year anyway…
UEFA Champions League
Last season we managed to surprise the continent by reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League only to fall at the hands of London side Arsenal Football Club. This year was not going to be the year we reached the Final, again with English competition proving to be our downfall.
I’ll be the first to admit that the run in Europe itself was very poor. 3 defeats and 1 draw from 8 matches isn’t good enough for a team as good as ours and much work is ahead of us if we’re to ever break the elusive curse. We were unlucky against Liverpool, we dominated the game but were unable to find the breakthrough goal.
Player of the Season
My player of the season is once again Argentinian wide-man Eduardo Salvio, the former Atlético player scooped the top goalscorer award with a tally of 20, as well as providing 11 assists in the from the right side. He’s an outstanding athlete and a very consistent performer, a lot of the clubs success is thanks to this one player in particular.
The most impressive thing for me is that Eduardo has improved every season, and despite not being called up to the Argentina squad for the 2018 World Cup, I’m sure Salvio will continue to impress as one of the best wingers in the World, but maybe that view is biased.
Our Season Summed Up…
This own goal from Zeca and Tosetto for me sums up the entirety of the 2017-18 campaign. Sloppy. We took our eye off the ball one too many times and ultimately it cost us in the big games, plenty of work and planning ahead as we prepare for Season Four of The Benfica Dynasty. We’re by no means a small team anymore and we can’t afford to be inconsistent, that’s what I’ll be looking to fix during the next campaign.
A little snapshot at the end to highlight the number of trophies won alongside my career statistics since joining SL Benfica on July 1, 2015. Next season will see me take control of my 200th game as a Manager and I’ll be hoping to keep up the impressive start I’ve had in Portugal, fingers crossed with a few more trophies on the CV.