By Eric Krakauer
For Benfica, a tumultuous end to last season, gave way to a rocky offseason, which in turn led to a disappointing season opener. And Jorge Jesus was in the center of it all.
The overly confident and sometimes boisterous manager almost enjoyed an historic 2012-2013 season, only minutes away from hoisting trophies on two separate occasions. First, losing the league to FC Porto at the Estadio do Dragao, when Kelvin scored the go-ahead goal in the ninety-third minute, and then conceding a Branislav Ivanovic header, again in stoppage time, to lose the Europa League to an undeserving Chelsea. The losses didn’t sit well with the Benfica faithful, who began calling for Jesus’ head when he later lost the Portuguese Cup Final to Vitoria Guimaraes.
Jesus just managed to keep his job, with club president, Luis Felipe Vieira, ultimately giving his manager that ominous vote of confidence that almost invariably leads to a pink slip. That pink slip may have come last Sunday as Benfica found itself one goal down to Gil Vicente at home, before two late goals sealed the first win of the season for the Eagles – one of them scored by Lazard Markovic, who’s a star in the making.
Benfica were always superior to Gil Vicente (as they had been against Maritimo in their season opening loss), and as such deserved to collect all three points. The way in which they were able to turn the game around also suggests, that contrary to what’s been reported, Jesus’ players are still a unified group.
The win will give Jesus some respite, but with a visit to an in-form Sporting in the Lisbon derby just a few days away, things could take a turn, once again.