By CHRIS WRIGHT
Forty Olhanense supporters, Portuguese and British expats, travelled to Madeira at the weekend for their team’s match against high flying Maritimo.
A midnight coach departure from Olhao for Lisbon followed by the flight to Funchal saw the weary but happy fans settling into their hotel.
The magic of Madeira at Christmas is truly stunning with its millions of fairy lights festooning every avenue and building.
As the group toured the island they marvelled at the huge range of plants in full flower and the rich diversity of vegetation and fruit.
After visiting a Madeira wine lodge the fans were in good spirits for an evening of folk dancing and singing.
On the Saturday the Olhanense team, staying at the same hotel, were given a warm welcome as they prepared for the following day´s game.
Sunday´s match saw Toy and Djalmir starting up front due to the absence of Ukra and Castro. Ukra was confined to the hotel with suspected swine flu, the fourth time this season the team has lost players to the condition.
The fans were welcomed to the old stadium by Francisco Nobrega, President of the Maritimo Supporters Association. The home side were 1-0 up in the thirteenth minute when Djalma netted after good work by Bruno and Marcinho. It was difficult to play good football on a pitch that, in places, resembled the cattle pastures the fans had seen up in the hills the day before!
Olhanense continued to deny the Maritimo attack, led cleverly by the lively Baba. With half-time approaching the visitors got the ball out to Miguel Garcia on the right and his cross picked out Djalmir whose firm header levelled the score. This was Olhanense´s first goal for over 12 hours and the small band of traveling supporters was jubilant.
The second period was only three minutes old when Maritimo´s Bruno fired in a free-kick which was ajudged to have crossed the line by the assistant referee, who was at least 15 metres behind play. A few minutes later and the Algarveans were level again when Tengarrinha´s 40-metre volley took a slight deflection, giving Marcelo, in the home goal, no chance.
A quarter-of-an-hour later came the turning point in the game when referee Carlos Xistras awarded the home side an extremely dubious penalty which was converted by Alonso.
The islanders then ran amok with the Olhanense defence all at sea. Further goals from Baba in the 75th & 80th minutes sealed an emphatic 5-2 victory.