"In the end the best team won," explained a jubilant Rui Vitória after leading Benfica to their third consecutive Portuguese Liga title with a 4-1 victory against Nacional.
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Benfica held their nerve on the final day of the Portuguese Liga campaign to dispatch Nacional 4-1 and clinch their third consecutive title – the 35th in their illustrious history.
The Lisbon giants went into their last fixture two points clear of second-placed Sporting CP and needing a win to be sure of keeping their city rivals at bay, and they duly delivered. It was Sporting, though, who scored first as Teófilo Gutiérrez fired them ahead on 20 minutes against Braga, but Benfica responded just three minutes later in their own game through Nicolás Gaitán.
Ultimately both teams secured comfortable wins, the Lions prevailing 4-0 and Benfica adding three more goals to their account before a late Nacional consolation. Jonas got the second, taking his personal tally to 32 strikes from 34 league outings, and Gaitán hit another ahead of a Pizzi effort with six minutes remaining.
The result meant a first run of three titles in a row for Benfica since 1976/77, and Rui Vitória's charges also set a new points record since the switch to 18 teams, racking up 88 en route to retaining their crown and booking a place in next season's UEFA Champions League group stage. "I want to share this immense joy with the players, the president and the rest of the club's staff," commented the coach afterwards. "I want to hug them all."
Vitória took charge of the Eagles last summer after former coach Jorge Jesus left to manage Sporting, and he was thrilled to reflect on a successful maiden campaign. "Others may say they were the best, that they played the most attractive football, but in the end the best team won. And that was us, full stop. We were involved in several competitions and we always knew what to do in every game in order to honour this club. We fully deserved to win the league."