Portimonense player Norberto Betuncal celebrates after secoring a goal against Benfica during their Portuguese First League soccer match held at Luz Stadium, Lisbon, December 29, 2020. Photo: ANTONIO COTRIM/LUSA

Portimonense: Capital punishment; Liga NOS: Benfica 2-1 Portimonense

On Tuesday evening, Portimonense failed to recover from two early setbacks as Benfica began the last match of the year much the stronger.

Top summer signing Waldschmidt served warning after only two minutes with a shot from distance before the Algarveans lost the ball in midfield, allowing Darwin the simplest of tap-ins after the ball had been squared into his path.

Matters did not improve as the Portimonense defence found itself all at sea once more with 23 minutes on the clock, doing its best to allow a persistent Rafa to find a way through on goal for the second strike.

A Grimaldo free kick before half time almost made it three, but on this occasion keeper Samuel pulled off a good save.

Two goals in arrears, manager Paulo Sérgio introduced the more attack-minded Beto and Anderson for Fabrício and Fali at the start of the second half, a move which almost paid dividends.

Following a Darwin let-off, the Uruguayan’s free-standing 56th-minute effort only hitting the upright, both substitutes subsequently went close to pulling at least one goal back. However, it took until time added on – and another fine save by Samuel from Nuno Tavares – for Beto to finally head home for a late, late consolation.

The defeat leaves Portimonense holding up the table in 18th place on eight points from 11 games, but still only a maximum of three points behind a group of six clubs headed up by Famalicão in 12th. Next Monday’s home derby clash with Farense – a 9.15pm kick-off – thus gains even more importance even without fans present.

Off the pitch, the January transfer window push for reinforcements is gaining momentum, with Japan No2 Kosuke Nakamura replacing the departed Gonda on the goalkeeping rooster, negotiations for playmaker Honda still ongoing and a possible on-loan return of Ewerton from Porto growing increasingly likely with the former player’s wage demands proving the only stumbling block.