LIGA DE HONRA – The Ides of March

IN THE Liga de Honra, the hopes of Olhão and Portimão of providing the region with first class football for the first time since Farense were relegated from Portugal’s top tier, melted like ice cream in the spring sunshine.

Olhanense started their negative sequence with a clear-cut 2-0 away defeat at bottom club Barreirense. Worse was to follow. Still holding on to third spot in the league, immediate promotion rival Aves came to visit the following weekend and inflicted only the second home defeat of the season upon Paulo Sérgio’s men by virtue of a solitary and hotly disputed goal against the run of play. There followed a brief respite thanks to a 1-0 win against neighbours Portimão, themselves in free-fall, that kept Olhão ahead of chasing Leixões. A goalless draw at home with Chaves did not inspire confidence, and the former promotion favourites were dealt the coup de grace last Sunday at relegation candidates Moreirense. Down to 10 men for the best part of the game, Olhanense were beaten 2-0, leaving them on 47 points, four adrift of Aves and Leixões as well as one of the two promotion places. In the space of four weeks, the cushion of six points and the dream of hosting the likes of Sporting and Benfica had disappeared.  Foreign investors, close to injecting funds, have distanced themselves, as the creation of a limited company has met delays, and another season at this level now looks the more realistic prospect for the Algarve side.

Portimonense’s first class aspirations had already all but disappeared by the end of February. Come April, the long banished relegation fears have surfaced again. As of last Sunday’s 0-0 draw with lowly Ovarense, the safety margin avoiding the drop has been reduced to three points. Since a high-flying second place in the table had been achieved mid-way through the season, Portimonense have suffered an acute case of vertigo. Ten games without a win, including three defeats and two draws, have seen Diamantino Miranda’s men plummet to 11th place. With only six matches remaining, a corner needs to be turned to avoid disaster.