Thousands of football fans packed the bars and cafés of the Algarve to watch their heroes go for cup glory and they were certainly not disappointed.
Benfica added the Taça da Liga (League Cup) trophy to their Primeira Liga title with a 2-1 victory over Madeira side Marítimo. Top scorer Jonas gave the Eagles the lead before João Diogo levelled for the islanders. Substitute Ola John slotted home the winner with 10 minutes to go as fans at the numerous Benfica Cafés (Casas do Benfica) and sports houses started to celebrate.
There are 26 Benfica “houses” stretching from Sines on the west coast of the Alentejo to Vila Real de Santo António in the east. Recently Benfica entered the Guinness Book of Records as having the largest paying membership of any sports club in the world with some 235,000 members in nineteen countries.
Forty-eight hours after Benfica lifted their trophy it was the turn of Sporting Lisbon to do battle with SC Braga for the Portugal Cup, similar to the FA Cup in England.
Sporting were down to 10 men after just 15 minutes and two goals down in 25 minutes through Éder (penalty) and Rafa Silva. With six minutes to go, and just as Braga fans were beginning to celebrate, Islam Slimani took advantage of a defensive lapse to reduce the arrears.
Deep into stoppage time Fredy Montero scrambled the equaliser to take the final into extra-time. With no further goals it was Sporting who held their nerve in the penalty shootout (3-1) to secure their first trophy since 2008. Sporting Lisbon also has a network of Leo Clubs throughout the Algarve and last December announced they had passed their membership target of 120,000.
By CHRIS WRIGHT