Portimonense’s Shoya Nakajima fighting for the ball with João Ferreira of Vitória de Guimarães, at last Monday’s game at Portimonense Stadium Photo: LUÍS FORRA/LUSA

Portimonense: Cup exit as race for Europe hots up

Taça de Portugal: Portimonense 2-4 Mafra

Liga Portugal Bwin: Portimonense 1-1 Vitória de Guimarães

Despite fielding a full-strength team against mid-table second division side Mafra in a bid to reach the Portuguese FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since the 1980s, manager Paulo Sérgio saw his 11 comprehensively outplayed for most of last Thursday night’s tie.

The visitors only took four minutes to take the lead following a Rodrigo Martins counterattack and went further ahead just after the quarter-hour mark when Gui Ferreira successfully converted a penalty resulting from a Pedrão foul.

In between, Nakajima had the opportunity to briefly level the scores but could only hit the post. The Japanese winger then did have the ball in the back of the net only to be called off-side before finally finishing a Carlinhos free kick with aplomb to pull one back. The moment of respite did not last very long, however, a Pedro Lucas header restoring Mafra’s two-goal advantage shortly before the break.

Chances at either end after the restart offered some hope of a recovery, but a clumsy Willyan foul on Aparício spelt out the end of Portimonense’s latest Cup run as Bura struck home from the spot to put the visitors 4-1 up. There was still time for Aylton Boa Morte to reduce the arrears already in injury time, but there was no way back for the Algarveans.

Sérgio declared himself “sad, disillusioned and frustrated” afterwards and hoped for better things to come for last Monday evening’s league fixture against Guimarães.

Samuel, back in goal for Cup keeper Payam, pulled off the first of a string of vital saves during that encounter when stopping Lameiras twice in quick succession following a 17th-minute Tiago Silva corner.

It was then Nakajima’s turn to set up Moufi, only for Bruno Varela proving equally alert in the opposite goalmouth.

The Algarveans fell behind just after the half-hour mark when an inadvertent Lucas Possignolo back-header handed Nelson da Luz the easiest of finishes. Samuel again saved well, this time from Handel, before the half-time whistle blew, giving Sérgio the opportunity to bring on Anderson and Carlinhos for the flagging Boa Morte and Ewerton.

A further double substitution midway through the second period of play, Lucas Fernandes and Fabrício replacing Willyan and Aponzo, finally bore fruit when an 85th-minute Fabrício cross was firmly met by Anderson Oliveira’s right foot for an unstoppable equaliser.

Ten jittery minutes later, during which Nelson hit the crossbar for the visitors and Samuel produced another great save from Janvier at the death, the Algarvians had held on to the draw and, what could eventually prove to be, a valuable point.

Following the latest set of results, Portimonense now occupy joint sixth place in the table with Estoril who have a game in hand, one and two points ahead of Guimarães and Marítimo respectively, but two behind this Sunday’s away opponents Gil Vicente in fifth.