LISBON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Benfica scored three second-half goals to seal a thrilling 3-1 comeback win over struggling Sporting on Monday and stay top of the Portuguese Premier League, inflicting further pain on their Lisbon rivals who are enduring their worst league start in nearly 80 years.
Benfica's Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo pressed Sporting defender Marcos Rojo into scoring an own goal after 60 minutes and struck twice himself to cancel out Sporting's first-half opener.
The battle for the Portuguese Premier League remained a two-horse race with Benfica and Porto both locked on 29 points after 11 matches. Porto fought out a hardfought 1-0 home win over Moreirense on Saturday.
For Sporting, knocked out of the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League, the defeat left them in ninth place, 18 points behind the leaders. They have only three wins in 19 matches in all competitions which represents their worst start to a campaign since the league was formed in 1933.
Sporting played a good first half but crumbled in the second. They deservedly went ahead through Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel who applied a classy finish to Diego Capel's cross after half an hour.
But in a Lisbon derby featuring plenty of chances for both sides the second half was commanded by the 'Eagles'.
The equaliser came after 59 minutes when Liberian-born winger Ola John sent in a dangerous cross from the left that Cardozo misheaded but Sporting defender Rojo deflected in.
Cardozo continued his man-of-the-match performance, converting from the spot with 10 minutes to go after Dutch centre back Khalid Boulahrouz handled a goal-bound shot from Eduardo Salvio and was sent off.
With many frustrated Sporting fans having left the Jose Alvalade stadium, Cardozo compounded their misery with a neat header after 86 minutes to give Benfica some consolation following the goalless draw against Barcelona on Wednesday that ended their Champions League campaign. (Editing by Ed Osmond)