Match of the day


Back in the top flight for the first time in two decades, Portimão FC emerged with honour from the biggest game of the season so far.

On paper, manager Litos’ collection of international unknowns and on loan reserve players released by the likes of Sporting Lisbon and Porto in order to gain match experience assembled on a shoestring budget should have been in awe of reigning champions Benfica.

But last Sunday night the plucky newcomers did not disgrace themselves in front of the more than 12,000 Stadium of the Algarve visitors representing the biggest crowd ever for an official home league match involving a club from the country’s most southerly region.

In fact, as the likes of South African youngster Calvin Kadi and Mozambique international Jumisse led the opening charge on the visitors’ goal, much feted Benfica coach Jorge Jesus must have experienced a few anxious moments reminiscent of his last encounter with the Algarveans when, as a Setúbal player, he was responsible for the own goal which gifted Portimonense an unlikely 1-0 victory.

Alas such ‘miracles’ did not repeat themselves on this occasion but man of the match Ventura did his best to concoct some of his own as he single-handedly defied the increasingly dominant visitors in the Portimão goal. A string of brilliant reflex saves from Kardec, Pablo Aimar and Saviola brought an entertaining first half to a close, heightening expectations of a possible upset, but a brief lapse in defensive concentration only four minutes after the re-start proved those to be sadly unfounded. A Carlos Martins free kick found Javi Garcia unmarked in the Portimão area and this time the Spanish midfielder’s header gave Ventura no chance of salvaging the game.

The score remained at 1-0, largely because first Kardec and then Jara failed to convert the easiest of chances until excellent referee Hugo Miguel blew the final whistle allowing the beaten but unbowed Portimão players to leave the unaccustomed centre stage which had additionally been accompanied by live SportTV1 television coverage.

After the match, which saw scouts from Fulham, Seville, Bayer Leverkusen and Servette Geneva present amongst others, Litos admitted to having lost to the better team but was equally proud of the efforts displayed by his men.

On this performance, Portimão should at least hold on to their current 13th place in the table and can expect some sort of return from their difficult upcoming confrontations with Guimarães (Monday, 8.15pm, live on SportTV1), Académica and Porto.