By CHRIS WRIGHT
Last year, when Olhanense played Sporting in Lisbon, they were denied a point when the referee awarded the home side a penalty ‘that never was’.
Surely another refereeing error couldn’t happen two years running. But it did. Some 1,500 fans made the trip from the Algarve to the José Alvalade Stadium to watch Daúto Faquirá’s exciting new team take on the mighty Sporting fresh from their UEFA Europa League triumph over Brondby (Denmark).
The omens were not good for Olhanense who, in sixteen visits, had only ever picked up one point and that was back in March 1964.
Sporting started with Liedson and Yannick up front and they showed their intentions from early on with both players taking snap shots only to see their efforts go high and wide.
Half way through the first period Leidson nearly broke the deadlock when he hit the crossbar with a close range volley.
With 38 minutes on the clock, and on one of their rare forays into the Sporting half, Paulo Sérgio delivered a millimetre-perfect cross from the right. Jardel had surged forward and he rose above the static Sporting defence to head home.
The ecstatic Olhanense fans were on their feet but the excitement was short lived as referee André Gralha inexplicably disallowed the goal.
Gralha later stated he ruled out the goal for a push by Yontcha on André Santos. A very harsh decision that TV replays failed to substantiate.
At the start of the second-half Olhanense substituted the injured Delson with the exciting young Brazilian talent Lulinha. He was soon in action down the right flank but a cynical foul by Maniche stopped his advance on goal.
Olhanense’s former Benfica keeper Moretto, who was rightly adjudged ’Man-of-the Match’, was the victim of another bizarre officiating decision. About to take a goal kick, he drew the referee’s attention to an object that was thrown onto the pitch only to be booked for time wasting.
In total eight yellow cards were shown by the referee.
Olhanense were finding it difficult to retain possession and wave-after-wave of Sporting attacks were snuffed out by a defence in which Mauricio was outstanding.
The home fans were becoming frustrated with their team’s wayward shooting in front of goal and on the rare occasion that the shot was on target, Moretto was there to save the day. New centre-forward Adilson made his debut when he replaced Yontcha in the 77th minute as Olhanense were still looking to snatch all three points.
With five minutes to go, centre-back Mexer came on to bolster the visitors’ defence and sixty seconds later Vukcevic nearly snatched a winning goal for Sporting.
Once again Moretto blocked the shot and Maniche’s follow-up effort sailed way over the bar. As the final whistle blew the Olhanense fans rose as one to hail a marvellous result for the Algarveans who are now one of only four teams in the Premier Liga who remain undefeated after four games.
FIRST PREMIER LIGA ALGARVE DERBY FOR OVER 20 YEARS
Tonight (Friday) Olhanense entertain Portimonense (Portimão) at the José Arcanjo Stadium, Olhão (behind McDonalds on the EN125) kick-off 8.15pm. Fans are advised to arrive early as a large crowd is expected.
Tickets can be purchased on the day of the game. This is the first all Algarve derby match in the top flight since 1988 when Farense (Faro) and Portimonense did battle.
Portimonense’s first win of the season, 3-1 against Rio Ave on Sunday, ensures that this match will generate much interest throughout the south coast.
Portimonense fans will receive a warm welcome and a special souvenir programme, in English, will be on sale at Tiago and Ines Café opposite the ground.