Europa League watch: February 1
- 01 February 2012 11:36
- Posted by Alex Rowen
Reigning Champions Porto lost vital ground in the Portuguese Primeira Liga title race after slumping to a first defeat in 55 league matches.
Falling just one game short of Benfica's 34-year-old unbeaten league record, City's Round of 32 opponents were condemned to surprising 3-1 reverse at the hands of Gil Vicente.
With their hosts without a win in five, a Porto victory had seemed certain prior to kick off, but any expectations were dashed early on as Carolino Claudio headed his side in front after just quarter of an hour.
The centre-back doubled his side's advantage from the spot after Porto defender Nicolas Otamendi had handled in the box and Andre Cunha sealed victory for Vicente when he completed a fine attacking move.
Silvestre Varela's late goal could act only as consolation as the gap between the Primeira Liga summit and Vitor Pereira's side opened up to five points – a deficit that may prove difficult to overturn as top-of-the-table Benfica continued their own unblemished league form this weekend.
If, like Vicente, City are able to find a way past the Europa League holders, Roberto Mancini's side will face either Legia Warsaw or Sporting Lisbon in the Round of 16.
Polish outfit Legia don't return to domestic action until February 11. Lisbon, meanwhile, were in action this weekend.
Following a six-game winless streak, the Lions claimed their first victory of 2012 thanks to a first half double from former Newcastle defender Oguchi Onyewu.
Despite being booked in the first minute of the game, Onyewu lasted the 90 minutes and proved the difference as his rare double downed Beira Mar 2-0.
Two points adrift of the Champions League qualification places – and undoubtedly concerned that the sides directly above and below them have a game in hand – the exit of former City striker Valeri Bojinov on loan to former club Leece is one that could ultimately prove decisive.