Benfica lucky to escape with a draw.jpg

Benfica lucky to escape with a draw

By Chris Wright [email protected]

Fans started arriving at the José Arcanjo Stadium in Olhão four hours before kick-off for what was billed as the ‘Algarve’s Match of the Season’ and it certainly lived up to its billing!

It was 1974 that Olhanense last entertained Benfica in a Premier League game and on that occasion a young Jorge Jesus, now manager of Benfica, made his debut for Olhanense on loan from Sporting.

Thirty-five years later, the Benfica team travelled south knowing that three points were there for the taking against an Olhanense team that had won only once all season and fresh from a 5-2 defeat against Marítimo in Madeira the previous weekend.

In a lively start, it was the home side who showed the initiative and on nine minutes, they deservedly went ahead. Captain Rui Duarte whipped in a free-kick from the left which glanced off the head of defender Maxi Pereira, and Carlos Fernandes was on the far post to head firmly past Quim.

The Olhanense fans were jubilant while a section of the Benfica fans started to rip up the plastic seats and hurl them at the home supporters. The police were slow to react and the violence could well have escalated. At one stage, a flare was thrown into the crowd by the Benfica hooligans.

One would hope that the Portuguese Football Association act with the same alacrity as referee Artur Soares Dias did when flourishing his red and yellow cards! Ten players were cautioned and three dismissed.

Midway through the half, Olhanense centre-forward Djalmir was rightly dismissed for pulling at the hair of Fabio Coentrão, yet in the ensuing fracas, Cardozo was shown only a yellow card when he slapped Djalmir around the face.

Benfica surged forward and in minutes were level when Ventura failed to gather a cross from Di Maria and Saviola was on hand to slot the ball home. Ten men Olhanense hit back minutes later when another Rui Duarte free-kick picked out Toy to give the Algarveans a 2-1 lead. It almost became 3-1 as a thunderbolt from Castro whistled just inches over the bar. The first-half drama was by no means over as Benfica’s Argentinean international Di Maria became the second player to see red following an off-the-ball incident.

The second-half was mainly one way traffic as the home side protected their lead against a Benfica attack that was lacking in ideas and certainly missed its midfield general Aimar. Ventura made amends for his earlier mistake when he saved brilliantly from Saviola when clear through. In the 90th minute, Miguel Garcia became the second Olhanense player to be dismissed when he tangled with David Luiz who appeared to be equally guilty – another strange decision by the referee that was to prove costly for the home side. In the third minute of stoppage time, Benfica snatched an undeserved equaliser when Nuno Gomes slipped the ball past Ventura from close in. There was still time for Olhanense to mount one last attack as Zequinha played the ball to Tengarrinha, who was clear through on goal, only to stumble as he prepared to shoot and the ball went well wide.