Jornada 10 of the Liga Bwin was memorable because it opened with a typically tense ‘Clássico,’ with Benfica edging Porto to extend their advantage at the top of the division.
Vitória Guimares kept their winning streak going by defeating Boavista to climb into the top six. Narrow victories for Famalico, Santa Clara, and Rio Ave alleviated their respective woes at the bottom of the table.
Chaves was another lower half mover, sneaking into the top half of Liga Bwin with a comeback win over Gil Vicente.
Joo Mendes, an unsung midfielder who inspired his team with two second-half goals was the game changer.
Joo Mendes came through the development systems of Leixes and then Gondomar, working his way up the leagues before a loan move to then-Primeira Liga side Tondela was made permanent in 2019.
Mendes was signed by a second-tier Chaves in the summer of 2021 and was a semi-regular in the XI as the team won promotion to the Primeira Liga the previous season.
Mendes lacked top-tier experience, with his previous stint with Tondela serving as his only exposure, and it was brief.
Furthermore, his absence from Chaves’ promotion playoff match against Moreirense, which ultimately sealed their promotion, hinted that the midfielder might be surplus to requirements for the subsequent step up.
Mendes, on the other hand, has become an essential element of boss Vtor Campelos’ system, starting all but one Liga Bwin match this season and generally operating as the most advanced of the midfield trio of Joo Teixeira and Guima.
Mendes is most effective as an offensive midfielder in central areas, although he is also capable of playing further back in a trio, or further forward and playing closer to a solitary striker.
Chaves’ return to the Portuguese top flight has been a mixed bag, as evidenced by the fact that they had three victories, three draws, and three defeats from their nine league matches before to Sunday’s home game against Gil Vicente.
Campelos has been tinkering with his eleven in recent games, but his aforementioned midfield three remained in place for the game, as Chaves tried to make it two Liga Bwin victories in a row after their spectacular victory against Braga in the previous round of matches.
Chaves got off to a shaky start, falling behind midway through the first half, thanks to a poor turnover that led to Gil Vicente punishing the home team on the counter attack.
Mendes, on the other hand, spurred a rousing comeback in the second half, aided by their opponents’ late first-period red card. Just seconds after the half, the 28-year-old Portuguese equalised by tapping into an empty net.
Soon after, Chaves pressed their advantage and regained the lead through Spaniard Jonathan Arriba, before Mendes stepped in once again to put the game beyond Gil Vicente.
Mendes was unmarked on the edge of the box and picked out by Teixeira’s cut-back delivery, meeting the set piece with a precise finish into the bottom corner, leaving opposition goalie Stanslav Kritsyuk little chance.
A superb finish to crown an amazing performance from the midfielder, whose first goals of the season should give him the confidence to add more as the season progresses, and improve on an aspect of his game that has previously been lacking.