The right side of the attack belonged, since the start of the season, to Salvio. The injury of the Argentine against Rio Ave made the Benfiquistas fear the worst. Someone who never panicked was Rui Vitória. The coach always said he relied on all players and Rafa has been responding on the pitch with good performances.
A proof of that is the performance against Desportivo das Aves last Saturday. The team led by José Mota had a defensive approach at Estádio da Luz and the non-conformism of Rafa helped find spaces for Adriano’s goal.
Rafa was close to scoring in the first half and at the start of the second half. But without success. The audacity of the number 27 on the right side of the attack has earn him the title of the Benfica player with more successful dribbles in the match (6 in 11 attempts), according to the site sofascore.com.
His capacity to take on the opponent or crossing from the touchline allowed him to have a great participation in the match. So, it is only natural he was involved in the team’ goals. Against Aves, he made the pass for Fejsa’s shot. From here takes place the play that culminates with Jonas’ goal. Adriano makes the save, Cervi assists and the number 10 scores another goal.
The good performance in the last round made him be considered the Man of the Match by the supporter and he was praised by Rui Vitória.
What happened against Desportivo das Aves was just the peak of increasingly improved performances that have been a reality since Portimão. In the last five matches – including CD Aves–, Rafa took part in Benfica’s opening goal in four in four occasions. The exception was the Boavista match.
It all started against Portimonense… His second goal as a starter in the Liga NOS after the match against Rio Ave, in Vila do Conde. The Benfica entered the match in Portimão on the front foot, with a goal at 6’, by Cervi. Before the ball got to the Argentine, Rafa intervened in the play with a dribble attempt in the edge of the box. On red-hot form in the right flank, the number 27 completed three dribbles in four attempts, being only surpassed by André Almeida.
It was followed by Boavista in the return to Luz. Rafa tried but the performance was not as good as the previous ones. Yet, he completed a dribble in four attempts and was important in the defensive work, with two interceptions and one tackle.
The response came against Paços de Ferreira. An eye-catching performance and his first goal in 2017/18. Once again, he was involved in the play of the eagles’ opening goal (that was the equalizer at the time) with a run down the right side. He makes the cross towards Raúl, who misses the shot, the ball goes towards Jonas, who scored the equalizer. Once again, he was the player from the eagles who tried to dibble more times. He completed three in four attempts and scored a goal in the injury time with a bending shot.
Before the encounter against Aves, there was the Marítimo match. A rout at Luz (5-0) and Rafa had a big intervention in the match. He participated in the opening goal scored by Jonas making the pass to André Almeida who assisted the Brazilian.
At a moment in which the season enters in a decisive phase, Rafa has been giving a positive response with good performances, complemented with participation in goals and dribbles.
Return to a place he knows well.
Next match is against Feirense, the club in which the Rafa made his senior debut. Before SC Braga, Rafa stood out at Santa Maria da Feira. After moving up the ranks at Alverca, the current Benfica player arrived at Feirense as a U-19 player. It is in this category that he played in the 2011/12 season, but in the following season, he made his senior debut. He quickly becomes an instrumental player at Marcolino de Castro and he finished the season – he played in the 2nd division – with 47 matches in all competitions and 11 goals.
Text: Marco Rebelo
Pics: Archive / SL Benfica