Sporting and Porto played out an entertaining but goalless encounter at the Alvalade to hand Benfica the advantage in the title race.
The biggest surprise in the two starting line-ups came from Domingos Paciência who gave Renato Neto his first ever start and his first appearance for the club since May 2010.
It was an even contest although it was the away side who had the first chance of the match. After just 13 minutes a João Moutinho corner found the head of Maicon whose glancing header forced a solid save from Rui Patrício.
The goalkeeper had to be alert later in the game when again from a João Moutinho ball this time found the head of Nicolás Otamendi but the defenders header went wide.
Ânderson Polga was the man who had Sporting’s first chance of the game. His header from a corner forced Porto goalkeeper Helton into a fine save to keep the sides level.
The two sides went into half-time level in what had been an even and competitive contest so far.
After the restart there were no chances from either manager but it was Porto who were on the attack immediately after the whistle. Ânderson Polga was booked for a foul on Hulk but the resulting freekick from João Moutinho was an easy save for Rui Patrício.
Hulk had the next chance for Porto too, again being fed in by a long ball from Moutinho. The Brazilian striker was in a great position but once against it was that man Rui Patrício who denied Porto.
Next it was Sporting’s turn for a chance when Ricky van Wolfswinkel found himself through on goal with Rolando challenging as well. The striker’s shot was saved by Helton but the defender Rolando did the most work to stop the Dutchman from scoring.
In the 83rd minute came the best chance of match and it fell to Sporting. Some clever work by substitute Matías Fernández in the area saw him pull back a ball that landed to fellow substitute Marat Izmailov. The Russian though was off-balance and failed to hit the ball hard enough from close range resulting in Álvaro Pereira being able to block on the line.
In stoppage time Porto had an excellent chance to grab the win. James Rodríguez’s shot looked destined to be goal-bound but in fact it was Otamendi of all people who blocked the shot and ensured that the game reaming goalless.
The result will be disappointing for Sporting as they will know they could have won the match. Marat Izmailov’s chance was clear-cut and there will also be concern as the midfielder, who had only just returned from injury, was seen limping in the closing stages of the match.
It means Sporting remain 6 points behind Porto in third place but Benfica now had a chance to leap-from them and go 8 points clear of Sporting should they beat União de Leiria tomorrow.
SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; João Pereira, Ânderson Polga (YC), Oguchi Onyewu, Emiliano Insúa; Renato Neto (Matías Fernández 53′), Stijn Schaars (YC), Elias (YC); Diego Capel (Evaldo Fabiano 68′), André Carrillo (YC, Marat Izmailov 62′), Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Subs Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, Santiago Arias, André Martins, Valeri Bojinov