THERE WERE no April showers in Portimão, it just ‘poured’. Going into last Saturday’s televised showdown with already promoted Liga de Honra leaders, Paços de Ferreira, Portimonense had gone 11 games without winning, a streak that has seen the club plummet into the relegation zone over the past weeks.
Last month started with a deserved 2-0 defeat at Varzim, but what was to follow can almost be termed a conspiracy between bad luck and inept refereeing. Against promotion – chasing Estrela da Amadora, the Algarve side were much the better team and if their Argentinean forward, Piojo, had converted only half of his chances into goals, the result would have been, beyond doubt, long before the 90 minutes were up. Instead, miss followed miss until the referee awarded Amadora a contested penalty in the 70th minute. Quim Berto did not miss and yet another game was lost.
Worse was to come. The following Sunday morning, Portimonense received second-placed Naval in front of rolling Sport TV cameras. The game started well with Serjão finishing a great run with a powerful shot to put the home side one up. Piojo then doubled the score, only for referee Artur Soares Dias to disallow the goal for a non-existent foul on the Naval goalkeeper. Fajardo then rubbed salt into Portimão’s wound by equalising shortly afterwards. Undeterred, António Pacheco’s men continued to press forward, something with which the referee obviously did not agree.
On the stroke of half-time, he showed the home side’s Duka a red card for a harmless-looking tackle in the area, the player not having been booked previously. Fajardo converted the resulting penalty to put the visitors into the lead. Sr. Dias killed the game off completely 10 minutes into the second half by showing Portimão’s Rodrigo a harsh second yellow card, reducing the home side to nine players. Tatu then made it 3-1 eight minutes later before taking an Oscar-worthy dive which the referee rewarded with yet another spot-kick. Glauber converted and two further Tatu goals later, the score stood at 6-1, Portimonense’s highest league defeat ever.
The game had other consequences. Coach António Pacheco threw in the towel the following week, leaving the club on amicable terms. Diamantino Miranda, with 12 years’ experience in management in clubs such as Vitória de Setúbal, Campomaiorense and Felgueiras, replaced him. His appointment continues the tradition of former players taking on the coaching job at the club – Diamantino, Pacheco and his predecessor Dito all having been active for Portimonense in addition to having played together in the same Benfica side during the 1987-‘88 season.
The new face should have brought a change in fortune at Feirense, fourth in the Division, the following weekend. Portimonense dominated throughout the game attacking with three strikers against a top side away from home. The ball, however, refused to find the net and when it finally did in extra time, Feirense had already converted their only two chances of the game. Another defeat then, to prepare for the arrival of Paços de Ferreira. To add to Portimonense’s problems, both Serjão and Mateus, who have scored 21 goals between them, were not on the pitch against the league leaders, sitting out suspensions. That left Piojo to shoulder the burden of shooting Portimonense out of trouble and how he relished the task!
Paços de Ferreira had no answer to Diamantino Miranda’s strategy of packing the defence, five players snuffing out everything the visitors could throw at them. At the other end of the pitch, Portimão’s lone predator did the business, scoring from a corner in the first half and doubling the advantage after the break. The two nil victory was probably Portimonense’s best performance of the season and gave the club a priceless lifeline in their relegation dog-fight.
Portimão now need to take at least another three points from their remaining three games of the season to avoid the drop. Trips to Santa Clara and Ovarense sandwich a home game against Aves. Portimão are down but not yet out.