Liga De Honra

DESPITE THE unseasonable sunshine, November proved to be a bleak month for Portimonense. Starting off away against promotion candidates Maia, Portimão were never in with a chance, the 1-2 scoreline flattering the Algarveans. Back on home ground the following week, mid-table Varzim should have been beaten handsomely but post, crossbar and an excellent performance by Litos in the visitor’s goal conspired to keep the game goal-less. Another home game followed, this time against league leaders Estrela da Amadora. Portimonense more than held their own, taking a deserved lead early in the second half through a Serjao penalty and that was how the game should have stayed. However, five minutes before the end, Amadora’s

Henrique bundled Portimão’s Duka to the ground and scored while the entire defence waited for the referee to indicate a foul. Inexplicably, Antonio Costa did not whistle, the goal stood and the game ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw. The disastrous run of bad luck finally took its toll during last Sunday’s away game against high-flying Naval. Starting well, Portimão were unfortunate to concede a goal on the stroke of half-time. The players emerged from the tunnel for the second half but their hearts were no longer in it. Naval scored four more times, almost at will, to send Portimão home 5-0, their biggest defeat of the season. Portimonense now languish in 13th place with only a superior goal difference separating them from the relegation zone. December will hopefully see a change of luck with matches against Feirense,

P. Ferreira, Santa Clara and Aves in the offing.

Olhanense, representing the eastern Algarve, enjoyed far better fortunes than their neighbours in the west. A very successful month sees the Olhão club proudly sitting in seventh place, only two points off the promotion places. In their first season back at this level for many years, coach Paulo Sergio’s men already have six wins and four draws with only four defeats to account and have yet to be beaten at home. A 1-1 draw against Gondomar, also newly promoted, should have been a win at the beginning of last month. 1-0 up at home, with the visitors reduced to nine men, normally means three points in the bag after ninety minutes. Somehow, however, Gondomar contrived to score deep into stoppage time to rob Olhão of certain victory. The mistake was not repeated against Varzim, a 36th minute Ricardo Silva strike proving sufficient to earn Olhanense their first away victory. Another away game followed, this time against Sporting Espinho. Olhão were pushing for an equaliser having conceded a goal in the first half, when the referee robbed them of all impetus by sending off first Afonseca and then Toy. The decisions were harsh and the defeat hard to swallow as neither player had been booked prior to being red-carded.

Restored to full strength against Alverca last Sunday, Olhão blossomed. Had their finishing been more clinical, the game would have ended as a contest at half-time. But the ball refused to find the net and the second half kicked off with the score still an unlikely 0-0. The 37-year-old veteran, Edinho, finally opened the floodgates with a powerful header in the 50th minute. The hero of Varzim, Ricardo Silva, then added a further two to make it 3-0, a score more appropriate to reflect the Algarve club’s superiority.

In December, Olhão take on Chaves and Leixoes, last and ninth respectively, at home and travel to Felgueiras (15th) and Marco who are currently eighth. If their away form improves, Olhanense may well start the new year occupying one of the three promotion places.

II Division B

In what, in effect, is a regionalised third division, the Algarve is represented by Louletano who slipped down the table to tenth last month, nine points behind leaders Uniao Madeira. The side that can proudly call the new Stadium of the Algarve its home continues to be dogged by injuries, perhaps accounting for a less than satisfying run of results. Two wins against Portosantense and Amora were unfortunately joined by three defeats against Atletico, Lusitania and, most recently, Casa Pia. The last named, second in the table, were losing 1-0 until ten minutes from the end. Home fans then vented their frustration as Louletano crumbled allowing the visitors to score three times in ten minutes.

Division III

The Algarve’s most successful team currently resides at this level. Silves, with ten victories and only two defeats from twelve games, are hot promotion favourites. The turning point came with a 4-0 win over then leaders Evora at home, cemented by a 2-0 away win against Lusitano and a 6-2 thumping of Montijo. By far the most consistent in the league, Silves should join Loulé in the II Division B next season.

Lagoa and Almancilense, both on 21 points, are in the hunt for the other promotion spot, but have their work cut out to close the current seven-point gap to Juventude.

Farense have managed to climb off the bottom of the table and are now in 14th, one point above the relegation zone.

District Leagues – Algarve United

On the pitch, the newly-created club is not enjoying the rapid success it envisaged. Only one victory from four games means seventh place from nine participating teams in the Sotavento League, eight points behind leaders Sambrasense.

One reason for the poor showing may be the continuing dispute over the eligibility of ‘foreign’ players such as Danny and Ben Robinson, born in the Algarve but unable to take part in competitive fixtures until the case has been heard by the Portuguese Football Association (FPF).

Club owner, Currado Corregi, faces further problems over the alleged fielding of a suspended player during a cup and league game. Should the player, Joao Beldade, red-carded for his old club Santaluziense, have played while suspended, Algarve United will be docked a point and eliminated from the Algarve Cup.