Veteran defender Ricardo Pessoa returned from long-term injury to captain Portimonense to victory over Paços de Ferreira in his last match for the club before hanging up his boots at the age of 36.
This was also the closing fixture of the current Liga NOS campaign for the Algarveans who ended a five-game winless streak, the victory condemning the visitors from Portugal’s ‘furniture capital’ to relegation and second division football following a 13-year stay in the top flight.
Portimonense showed intent from the word go, Pires forcing a good reflex save from aptly-named Paços keeper Defendi as early as the second minute. It was then the turn of his opposite number, Leo, to show why he will be contesting the No1 jersey with regular Ricardo Ferreira next season when doing equally well to thwart Xavier at the other end.
With less than half-an-hour on the clock, that man Pires was in the right place at the right time again to turn onto a Shoya Nakajima through ball for the opening goal of the contest. Paços reacted well and could have equalised before the interval but for further heroics from Leo who showed particular bravery when saving at the feet of Mabil.
The visitors should have been level not long after the restart, but Pedrinho’s close-range miss, coupled with another top-class Leo stop from André Leão, kept Portimonense in front.
Paços’ increasingly desperate search for a goal left plenty of space to exploit by the hosts and Defendi could do no more than parry a fierce Nakajima drive into the path of Pires who had little difficulty in making it 2-0.
Paços’ efforts were finally rewarded when Ruben Micael pulled one back approaching the final whistle, but any hopes of gaining something from the match were snuffed out when Wellington made up for a preceding miss with a powerful finish from yet another pin-point Nakajima pass at the death.
“The first half was balanced and Paços had chances,” manager Vítor Oliveira said afterwards, “but going into the break one up proved decisive – they had to take risks allowing us to double our advantage with some quick brakes.”
While now-retired captain Pessoa has pledged his future to the club off the pitch, it has been reported that Oliveira will now not continue having failed to reach agreement with majority shareholder Theodoro Fonseca who is currently in Japan.
No doubt there will also be some changes among the playing staff with Benfica among a host of clubs which already have expressed strong interest in Nakajima, whilst Tabata and Ewerton are wanted by German Bundesliga club Stuttgart and champions Porto respectively – watch this space!
By SKIP BANDELE