LIGA NOS: PORTIMONENSE 1-1 RIO AVE
Portimonense deserved more than a point from a match during which 16 shots on goal and five corners clearly underlined long periods of superiority with only experienced Polish opposition keeper Pawel Kieszek preventing a much-needed victory.
The 35-year-old was first called into action when producing a flying one-handed save to keep out a powerful 18th-minute Jackson Martinez shot. Two corners in quick succession increased the pressure on the visitors who then responded with a quick counterattack of their own which saw a Nuno Santos pass set up a Diego Lopes opener much against the run of play.
Undeterred, manager António Folha’s men came back with a brace of dangerous free kicks into the Rio Ave area, which Kieszek again did well to deal with, punching clear on the second occasion. Further attempts from Lucas Fernandes and Jackson wide of the target then brought the half to a close.
A rasping Carlos Mané drive gave Portimonense “number one” Ricardo Ferreira the only opportunity to shine 10 minutes after the re-start before the Algarveans established total control of the match. Tabata and Dener repeatedly harried the Rio Ave defence ahead of a goal-bound Jackson lob which was scrambled off the line.
A second yellow card and subsequent sending off for Henrique with 25 minutes remaining only served for Portimonense’s 10 men to redouble their efforts, Kieszek finally giving way as Jadson finished off an initial move, which saw a Marlos header from a Dener cross rebound off the post. Not happy with the draw, the hosts went in search of the winner, but it was that man Kieszek with another two big saves from Jackson and Lucas during the closing minutes who kept the score level.
Unfortunately, the single point, combined with an unexpected Paços de Ferreira (11 points) win over Braga, has tightened up the standings at the bottom of the Liga NOS table with only Aves (6 points) a beaten-off last at this stage of the season.
Hostilities will be resumed away at Boavista on January 4, with Portimonense (12 points) hoping to put some distance between themselves and the two relegation places.
Before then, however, Folha’s eleven face one more pre-Christmas run-out with Sporting Lisbon providing the opposition for this Saturday evening’s decisive League Cup group tie. The Algarveans are currently level on points and goals with latest league opponents Rio Ave, and will need to achieve a better result than the last mentioned, who take on Gil Vicente at the same time, in order to progress to the semi-finals.
By SKIP BANDELE