Lisbon Estádio da Luz

Sunny Lisbon: see Benfica and Sporting!

When choosing a summer holiday Dan Williamson and his girlfriend wanted to combine the best of both worlds: a relaxed ‘pool’ holiday with a city break. They plumped for Lisbon.  Conveniently, this also coincided with the start of the football season, offering the chance to watch Benfica and Sporting, and this is their story!

‘Sport Lisboa e Benfica were drawn at home to Turkish champions Besiktas on Tuesday night in the opening fixture of the Champions League group stage, whilst Sporting Clube de Portugal were to host Moreirense on the Saturday.

SportingThe two clubs, along with FC Porto, make up Portugal’s Três Grandes and together boast 53 league titles and two European Cups. Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo, both raised in Sporting’s famous academy, are highly decorated Ballon d’Or winners and the legendary Eusébio won the gong whilst playing for Benfica.

For the Sporting game kick-off was set for 6.15pm, and being generally early for everything I set off over two hours earlier without my girlfriend, who decided to stay by the pool at the hotel and relax. The metro trip to the stadium was a breeze, and I just followed the lads in the green and white shirts. Upon emerging from the ugly metro/bus interchange at Campo Grande, the Estádio José Alvalade opens up before you and is unmissable.

Sporting lined up on the day with some familiar faces: Sebastian Coates, the Uruguayan defender who has had spells at Sunderland and Liverpool; Joel Campbell on loan from Arsenal; and European Championship winners Rui Patricio, William Carvalho and club captain Adrien Silva.

Before the game kicked off, the 44,000 fans in attendance belted out a club anthem, an impressive adaptation of Frank Sinatra’s My Way. The heat was stifling, and the sun bore down on us throughout the whole of the first half. The football on show in the opening period wasn’t great although Sporting took the lead after 27 minutes, when Carvalho clipped a ball into the box which was converted by Gelson. The visitors, Moreirense, had clearly come to park the bus and spring the odd counter attack, although their slim chance turned to none once they had a man sent off on the half hour mark for what seemed from the stands to be two soft bookings.

The sun dipped below the stands during the interval and thankfully Sporting came out firing in the second half, looking like a completely different team. Perhaps the manager had reminded the players that they were fighting for their places ahead of the upcoming clash against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid. Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell doubled the lead in the 52nd minute, and prolific Dutch striker Bas Dost made it 3-0 four minutes later.

The job was done and Sporting went back to the top of the league.

For two nights in a 3-star hotel in Lisbon with double room (including breakfast) and your match ticket, the price per person (excluding flight) is from SEK 1 995 / GBP 171.

Book your trip to see Sporting at Nickes.Com

LisbonAfter a few more great days in Lisbon, our last night coincided with the Benfica game. I arrived at the Estádio da Luz to find a ‘Fan Zone’ outside the stadium, with entertainment and food and drink on offer. I settled for what was lovingly described by the vendor as a ‘pig sandwich’, and a beer. The atmosphere inside the fan zone was great, and I got a real family feel for the club, with men, women and children, young and old milling around.

 A 3G pitch next to the stadium was full with the next generation of Benfica players being put through their paces by club coaches.

 I was highly anticipating Benfica’s pre-match ritual with the eagle from the club’s emblem being let loose from high up in the stands before circling the stadium and landing on the pitch. This unique ceremony proved to be a real highlight coming just before the iconic Champions League anthem.

Fan culture within the stadium was strong, with pockets of fans behind each goal challenging their opposite number to sing and chant louder. Alternate shouts of “Benfica…Benfica” from each end gave me goose bumps.

The home team, despite fielding few household names, took the game to their Turkish opponents and moved the ball quickly with a direct style. It only took 12 minutes for Benfica to take the lead through effervescent Argentine forward Franco Cervi, after he pounced on the goalkeeper’s parry.

The home side dominated most of the first half but Besiktas came into the game as the game wore on. Ricardo Quaresma, featuring for the Turks, was booed by the home fans despite being part of Portugal’s triumphant European Championship-winning squad, due to his past history with rivals Sporting and Porto. In the last minute, as the home fans were leaving to beat the rush, the visitors struck through a last gasp free-kick from substitute Talisca, which gave impressive goalkeeper Ederson little chance.

The Besiktas players, and the few hundred fans high up in the stands, went crazy. Boos rang out from the home fans, having seen their team throw away two points. To be fair a draw was probably a fair result. Benfica edged the game but it must be said that they just didn’t do enough to warrant the full three points.

Lisbon is a stunning city and well worth a visit. The main tourist areas are fairly close together, so you can cover most of the city on foot, ride the metro or the famous Tram 28. The weather is great, as is the food, and the locals are super friendly. The football, as always with any trip, was an added bonus!’

For two nights in a 3-star hotel in Lisbon with double room (including breakfast) and your match ticket, the price per person (excluding flight) is from SEK 1 995 / GBP 171.

Book your trip to see Benfica at Nickes.Com

This is an edited version of a feature by Dan Williamson in Football Weekends magazine, a fan’s guide to watching football around Europe. To order a copy visit

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