The top-of-the-table clash between leaders Olhanense and fourth place Louletano had everything; an early goal, missed penalty, bizarre own goal, three red cards and four goals with three of them scored by one player!
Louletano arrived at the José Arcanjo Stadium having won their previous five games and being the only team to defeat the hosts this season, way back in September. Olhanense were without their captain and midfield general Leleco, suspended for two games, so the stage was set for an intriguing confrontation.
The home side got off to a flying start as stand-in skipper Tiago Jogo saw his shot deflected past Louletano keeper Guilherme after just 90 seconds. The visitors were in disarray and midway through the half conceded a penalty, but Guilherme threw himself to his right to save João Vasco’s spot-kick; the second consecutive home game that Olhanense has failed to convert a penalty.
Four minutes later, Olhanense made it 2-0 when Tiago Jogo picked the pocket of a hesitant Louletano defence and laid the ball into the path of Sapara to blast home. Four minutes before half-time, the fans’ festive afternoon was brought to a halt when Sapara, some 40 metres from his own goal out on the left-wing, sent a back pass towards keeper Rodrigo Moura. The 6ft 6in giant, knowing that he would be penalised if he caught the ball, attempted to head the ball away only to see it sail over his head and into the top corner of the net. So, what should have been a 3-0 advantage to the home side turned into a nervous 2-1 lead at the break.
Louletano’s defenders were content to launch long balls up to their forwards and with Pedro Silva’s Exocet-style throw-ins, Olhanense deployed tall centre-forward Hassan to nullify the threat at the heart of their defence.
Seventeen minutes into the second period and the home side once again pressurised the Louletano midfield into a mistake, with Sapara making up for his earlier aberration by slotting home goal number three.
Louletano were now rattled as Olhanense totally controlled the game. Three minutes after the goal, Vladimir Forbs saw red for a waist-high tackle on João Vasco and Louletano were down to 10 men.
A few minutes later, 10 became nine when second-half substitute Oliveira joined his team-mate for an early bath after a similar incident. Edu Pinheiro and Ítalo Cortés, making his debut on-loan from Leixões, replaced João Vasco and Hassan with 10 minutes to go and Olhanense played out the remaining time without further incident.
In addition to the two players sent-off, Louletano picked up seven yellow cards in the match. Olhanense maintain their one-point lead over Real SC at the top of Campeonato de Portugal Division D whilst Louletano remain in fourth place, five points off the top spot.
Louletano officials were also in trouble with referee Ricardo Baixinho, as assistant coach Pedro Santos picked up a yellow card early in the second-half and Paulo Tomazeti received a red card for his protestations after the final whistle.
On Sunday, Olhanense travel down the coast to play Lagos Esperança at the Lagos Municipal Stadium. Kick off at 7pm with game being shown live on Canal 11 TV.
Special day for young Ethan
Chris Birkett, on holiday from Gloucestershire, decided to take his seven-year-old son Ethan to his first live football match.
Wearing their Forest Green Rovers (Nailsworth) shirts and sporting an Olhanense scarf, father and son had a wonderful afternoon and were delighted when they had their photo taken with Olhanense wing-back Leonardo Lelo after the game.
Lelo made his debut for the Portugal U20 team against England last November and is tipped for higher honours. Young Ethan even managed an ‘obrigado’ during the excitement of a memorable occasion.
Forest Green Rovers, who play in the English Football League Division 2, are financed by eco-tycoon Dale Vince, and his company Ecotricity. The club’s New Lawn Stadium has a playing surface recognised as the world’s first organic football pitch. The pitch also collects rainwater to be recycled around the stadium and all waste cooking oil at the club is recycled into biofuel.
By CHRIS WRIGHT