Over 1,000 Olhanense and Os Belenenses (Lisbon) fans braved the Olhão weather in the opening round of games for promotion to Liga 3.
These two historic clubs have seen better days. Only 10 years ago, Olhanense finished eighth in the Primeira Liga and reached the quarter-finals of the Portugal Cup.
Belenenses won its only Primeira Liga title in 1945-46 and were relegated from the Primeira Liga for the first time in 1981-82. Four years ago, CF Os Belenenses (Club) and Belenenses SAD (limited liability sports company) went their separate ways, as the “Protocol on the use of Estádio do Restelo” ended and the SAD refused to negotiate a new contract with the club.
So, from the 2018-19 season, Belenenses SAD (the professional team) play their Primeira Liga home games at Estádio Nacional, whereas CF Os Belenenses registered an amateur team in 1ª Divisão Distrital de Lisboa, the equivalent to the Sixth Division (lowest Portuguese division), with the support of the majority of fans and club members.
In the first games of the season, the professional team saw home attendances of only a few hundred, whereas the new, amateur team saw home attendances of approximately 5,000, reversing a long decline in attendance figures.
With Liga 3 beckoning and just two teams from the group of six qualifying for promotion, it was important to get off to a good start and both teams showed their attacking intent from the off. Midway through the first period, Olhanense were awarded a penalty for handball and Xavi calmly stepped up to send keeper Marcelo Valverde the wrong way. The swirling wind nearly helped the home side to a second goal when Leandro’s long-range effort was brilliantly saved by Valverde.
On the stroke of half-time, the visitors drew level when Ruben Araújo’s speculative shot squirmed under the diving body of Ricardo Galli; the keeper will feel he should have done better.
The second half was an anti-climax and when, 15 minutes from time, a cloudburst turned the José Arcanjo pitch into a paddy field, both sides were happy to settle for a point.
Moncarapachense travel in vain
The long trip to the Azores to play GD Fontinhas resulted in a 2-1 defeat for the Moncarapacho team. Adeilton Cruz gave the home side the lead after a quarter-of-an-hour, but the visitors clawed their way back into the game when Paulo Matos slotted home in the 73rd minute.
Five minutes later, the islanders were back in front when Princebell Addico scored from the penalty spot. Any hope Moncarapachense had of salvaging a point disappeared five minutes from time when André Dias picked up a straight red card.
There are no fixtures this weekend due to the international break. On Sunday, April 3, Moncarapachense entertain Sertanense (Sertã, Castelo Branco) at the Estádio Dr. António João Eusébio whilst Olhanense travel to the Sintra region to play Pêro Pinheiro.
By CHRIS WRIGHT