By CHRIS WRIGHT
A winning goal two minutes from time by new boy Salvador Agra gave Olhanense victory over English Championship team Brighton & Hove Albion at the José Arcanjo Stadium last Saturday.
Brighton have recently moved into their new €120 million stadium at Falmer, have signed two players for €3.7 million and with season ticket sales of over 15,000 and 2,600 corporate packages sold, their future looks very bright.
On the other hand, the vagaries of Portuguese football mean that while the likes of Porto, Benfica and Sporting get richer with 100% television coverage, the teams lower down the pecking order such as Olhanense will continue to struggle.
The previous evening the General Assembly meeting of Sporting Clube Olhanense had agreed a budget of €4.1 million with a mere €1.5 million, the lowest in the League, allocated to the professional football section.
The party then moved on to the stadium where more Brighton fans joined the rush to buy the souvenir programmes and commemorative scarves before settling down to enjoy the hospitality of their Algarve hosts.
Steve Gibbon, Commercial Executive of Brighton & Hove Albion in the Community, said, “We’ve had a wonderful day. Armona Island is like a tropical paradise and here at the stadium we have met so many great people. Olhanense is fortunate to have such a passionate and involved expat supporters group. They deserve every success.”
So the stage was set for ‘Moss the Stork’ to take on the Seagulls in front of a vociferous but good natured crowd. The first-half was fairly even with the visitors having the slight edge. Kazenga LuaLua, on loan from Newcastle United, impressed for the visitors while Wilson Eduardo, on loan from Sporting, was the pick of the home players.
On 22 minutes a brilliant pass from skipper Rui Duarte, deep inside his own half, sent Wilson Eduardo clean through on Albion’s goal, but brilliant covering from Marcos Painter and alert goalkeeping from Casper Ankergren snuffed out the chance.
At half-time Olhanense President Isidoro Sousa introduced new signings full-back Luís Filipe (ex-Benfica) and midfielder Mateus (ex-Vila Nova, Brazil) to the crowd.
The second-half was only five minutes old when the deadlock was broken.
A cross-field pass by Lewis Dunk picked out LuaLua on the left. The Albion winger accelerated past Figueroa and cut the ball back to Matt Sparrow who burst through to side foot home from close range. A bad foul by Olhanense centre-back Mauricio, who was lucky not to get his marching orders, on LuaLua saw tempers rise but common sense prevailed and the game continued without the injured front runner.
An own goal by Vincelot allowed the hosts back into the game. A mix up between the Albion right-back and Ankergren, when attempting to deal with a deep cross from Gerson, resulted in the Frenchman inadvertently chesting the ball past his own keeper.
With time running out, the visitors were hit by a classic counter-attack. Olhanense cleared off the line at one end and Vitor Vinha and Salvador Agra made a speedy break with the former picking out the latter clean through on goal to make it 2-1.
Further partying after the game brought to a close a fantastic day that will long be remembered by all present. As one Brighton fan said: “We’ll be back!”