Portimonense retained their unbeaten league record this season with an impressive mid-week home win over Benfica B followed by hard-fought score draw at Varzim over the weekend.
Last Wednesday afternoon, the still third-placed Lisbon side received a hot reception and found themselves two goals down within 13 minutes as first Paulinho (pictured) and then Manafa found the back of the visitors’ net. Pires could easily have increased the score line before half-time but was thwarted by the off-side flag and Benfica keeper André Ferreira on several occasions.
The match slowed down somewhat after the restart but manager Vitor Oliveira’s inspired 75th-minute double substitution saw Stanley, on for Pires, seal a comfortable 3-0 victory only two minutes later after some good work from Paulinho and Amilton.
Sunday morning’s away trip to Varzim looked to be a harder task given the absence of influential regulars Jadson (five yellow cards), Ewerton, Marcel (both injured) as well as ‘super-sub’ Stanley (on loan and prevented from playing against his parent club) – and so it proved.
A Rui Coentrão free-kick crept into the net after the Portimonense defence failed to make contact with the ball, handing Varzim a fourth-minute lead which home keeper Paulo Vitor maintained until half-time with a string of excellent saves from Ricardo Pessoa and Pires.
But the prolific striker was not to be denied as the Algarveans stepped up the pressure after the break with four corners in quick succession. A sweetly struck shot levelled the match in the 53rd minute but, as Portimonense continued to pour forward in search of the winner, a rare Varzim counter-attack resulted in Rui Costa making it 2-1 with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Eighty-nine minutes on the clock and Pires came to the rescue once more, coming away from his marker to bury a Lumor cross for his second of the game and 12th of the season to date.
The 2-2 draw leaves Portimonense four points clear of Santa Clara, who won in Braga, at the top of the table after 12 matches. Next up is a home match with seventh-placed Vizela on Sunday afternoon as their closest rivals from the Azores receive fourth-placed Aves.
By SKIP BANDELE