The Eagles chalked up their third win in as many matches and are now hoping that Manchester United do not defeat AC Milan on Saturday by four or more clear goals.
Taarabt scored the only goal in the victory over the Milan side on a very hot afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After triumphs over Chivas, Mexico (3-0) and Fiorentina, Italy (2-1) Benfica can only beaten by Manchester United, who have notched up victories over Inter (1-0) and Tottenham (2-1).
Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid, Juventus and Real Madrid are other teams competing in the competition.
A major talking point was how Benfica exploited the new goal-kick rule against AC Milan. A number of rule changes have been introduced to football for the 2019-20 season including amendments to drop balls, handballs, free-kicks, quick free-kicks and substitutions, all in an attempt to improve the game. There has also been a change to goal-kicks with goalkeepers now allowed to pass the ball to a team-mate inside the penalty area. The law now says the ball is considered in play once the kick is taken. Until now a goal-kick had to be retaken if it did not leave the penalty area. Opponents must still remain outside the penalty area until the kick is taken. Benfica made the most of it in their match against AC Milan, although it did cause some controversy.
Keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos chipped the ball up to his defender, standing just a few metres away, and the defender headed the ball back to Vlachodimos. The Greek keeper caught it and tried to launch a quick counter-attack. Law 12 states: “There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including if a player uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free-kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law.
The referee did not punish Benfica at the time and one can understand his problem; who committed the trick? Did the goalkeeper illegally do something by scooping the ball to his player? No. Did the other player do something illegal by heading a ball back to his keeper? No. The only clear-cut answer would be to caution both players and restart with an indirect free-kick in the penalty area. But what would happen if both players were already on a yellow card? Send them both off? Obviously the International Board need to clarify the situation before the season starts.
On Sunday Benfica and Sporting will compete for the SuperCup at a ‘sold-out’ Algarve Stadium in Faro while cafes and bars the length-and-breadth of the country will be packed with passionate fans.