Portimonense: a game of two halves

LIGA NOS: PORTIMONENSE 2-2 BENFICA | SANTA CLARA 1-1 PORTIMONENSE

Last Wednesday evening (June 10), Portimonense’s motley collection of wannabes, has-beens and journeymen took on reigning champions Benfica, boasting no less than nine full internationals from five countries, and almost came away with an, at first, very unlikely victory.

During the opening 45 minutes, manager Paulo Sérgio’s over-cautious 4-2-3-1 formation, shorn of forwards Jackson and Mimi who were not even on the bench, was hopelessly outclassed, mustering its first and only wayward shot in the direction of the opposition’s goal towards the end of that half.

The visitors from Lisbon enjoyed absolute domination, Pizzi and André Almeida finding the back of the net almost as a matter of course in the 18th and 31st minutes, with only some good work from keeper Gonda preventing worse before the interval.

Now left with nothing to lose, Sérgio rang the changes, bringing on the more attack-minded Aylton Boa Morte and promising debutant Fali Candé for Pedro Sá and Henrique Custódio – with spectacular effect.

Assisted by an overconfident Benfica eleven which appeared to believe they had already won the encounter, it was now Portimonense pressing forward, Greek international keeper Odysseas suddenly finding himself in the thick of the action before proving powerless to stop a 66th-minute Dener bullet header.

Thus encouraged, Sérgio’s men went in search of the equaliser which duly arrived only 10 minutes later when Júnior Tavares unleashed an explosive shot from the edge of the area after Odysseas had punched away a Possignolo header in the lead-up to the goal. Tabata could have sealed the most unexpected of comebacks in time added on but the Brazilian skewed his effort just wide.

This Tuesday’s ‘away’ trip to Santa Clara at the neutral Oeiras ‘Cidade do Futebol’ venue provided for a more balanced match. Gonda was the busier keeper during the first half, but it was Portimonense who took the lead on the hour mark when Willyan rose highest to bury his header in the back of the net following a Possignolo corner.

A red card for Santa Clara’s Lincoln 15 minutes later should have made three points safe until referee Gustavo Correia awarded the Azores team a controversial penalty which Rashid duly converted – the advancing Gonda had cleared the ball with his legs but was still penalized for subsequent contact with an opposition forward.

“Against Benfica we earned a penalty and it was not given – today the penalty against us was a disgraceful decision,” Sérgio said afterwards. “There was some contact after the ball was cleared, unacceptable.”

The two draws took Portimonense within four points of third-from-bottom Paços de Ferreira who took on Belenenses on Wednesday evening (after the Resident went to press).

The Algarveans are next in action on Monday night when Marítimo are the visitors.

By SKIP BANDELE