By SKIP BANDELE
The Portuguese League Cup return leg against Aves at the Stadium of the Algarve appeared to fade into the background as Portimão were preparing for their visit to Porto.
Nonetheless, manager Litos fielded an almost full strength side for a dour game which saw Renatinho bury a Nilson cross after 17 minutes to restore parity to the tie.
Balanced at 3-3 on aggregate, Aves then scored a goal of their own early in the second half to produce the final 1-1 scoreline spelling out Portimao’s premature exit from the knock-out competiton.
A completely different attitude was on show during Sunday night’s televised league match at the Stadium of the Dragon.
Boasting no less than four on loan Porto players, the Algarveans threw caution to the wind and delivered a more than credible performance against the best team in the country.
In driving rain the supposed underdogs kept their opponents under constant pressure and were unlucky not to score from a 53rd minute Ivanildo free kick which rebounded off Helton’s crossbar.
A few minutes earlier Calvin Kadi almost had the ball in the net- either opportunity would have served to cancel out Walter’s glorious strike on the half hour which caught Portimao keeper Ventura off his line.
With Litos sitting out his touchline ban in the stands, assistant coach Joao Martins threw Elias and Pelembe into the fray for the last 15 minutes allowing Kadi to play a more attacking role.
The strategy almost paid dividends when the South African was only narrowly foiled by the Porto keeper but ultimately all the visitors’ efforts proved to be in vain.
Already deep into injury time, a Di Fabio challenge on Rodriguez was adjudged to have been illegal by the referee.
Hulk, otherwise rarely sighted during the game, stepped up and put away the resulting penalty to establish the final 2-0 result.
The Portimão performance was widely praised after the match but, at the end of the day, the club once more returned home empty handed.
With fellow relegation candidates Rio Ave and Maritimo winning and drawing, Portimao’s position has become even more precarious.
Now occupying 15th place on eight points, only Naval are below them. On November 28, a home victory over Leiria is a must before Sporting come to visit on December 5.