Portimonense completed their remaining League Cup third round group phase programme with two highly respectable away draws against Benfica and Braga over the festive period.
In Lisbon, manager Vítor Oliveira’s men spoilt Benfica’s pre-Christmas celebrations by coming back from a 2-0 half-time deficit to claim a point and effectively put the Eagles out of the competition.
Early strikes from Jonas and Lisandro Lopez had appeared to put the home side in control, but a Pires header immediately after the interval and a late Jadson equaliser meant that honours were shared leaving Vitória de Setúbal to claim top spot in Group A.
The result turned last Friday’s concluding tie in Braga into a ‘dead rubber’ but there were still plenty of positives to take home from another resilient Portimonense performance.
Early goals from Wilson Eduardo and Bruno Viana, somewhat against the run of play, saw the Algarveans trailing once again by the half-hour mark, but this time a Dener header reduced the arrears before the break. And there was plenty of fight left as the visitors dominated the second half, Braga keeper Tiago Sá making important saves from Nakajima and Fabrício before Dener grabbed a second to level the match at two a piece.
The games should have proved beneficial in terms of preparation for Thursday’s (January 4) resumption of league hostilities with Belenenses, one point above Portimonense in the table, visiting the municipal stadium for an 8.15pm kick-off.
In other news, predators have begun to surface, eager to secure the services of Portimonense’s stand-out player Shoya Nakajima.
A reported €8 million offer from German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg has been turned down last week and more recently Benfica have stepped in with a €3.5 million proposal for 50% of the rights to the 23-year-old Japanese forward.
Until this moment, the Algarveans have completed only 20% of the player’s transfer from previous club FC Tokyo, but hold first option for the remaining 80%.
The January transfer window could also see Stanley and Pires leave for Varzim and Leixões, respectively, while Brazil U-17 international Iago Oliveira is on his way from Corinthians and could be joined by defensive midfielder and Portuguese U-21 international Stephen Eustáquio in the Algarve.
By SKIP BANDELE
Caption: Portimonense’s stand-out player Shoya Nakajima