By CHRIS WRIGHT
A sterling performance by a makeshift Olhanense team ensured that Benfica failed to win in Olhão for the third year running.
Mexer (injured) together with Cauê, André Pinto and Wilson Eduardo (all suspended) were replaced by Vasco Fernandes, Jander and Toy.
Benfica started with Cardozo and Nelson Oliveira, the only Portuguese national in the Benfica starting line-up, in attack while former Olhanense player Jardel partnered skipper Luisão at the heart of their defence.
The first period was intense and hard fought with very few chances. Olhanense slowed the game down at every opportunity and squeezed the midfield to deny their illustrious visitors time to dwell on the ball. Benfica’s full-back Emerson was rounded on by the crowd when he failed to put the ball out of play with an Olhanense player down injured.
In the ensuing remonstrations, Salvador Agra and Emerson were booked. Toy delighted the crowd of almost 5,000 with his silky skills that at times bamboozled the Benfica rearguard. With half-time fast approaching, Gaitán went past Ismaily but Mauricio made a superb interception to deny Benfica’s Argentinean international.
At the interval it was another Argentine international, Aimar, he replaced Nolito, who joined the fray but he was to last only 18 minutes before being sent-off for a waist high challenge on Rui Duarte.
In the melee that followed, Mauricio was booked and having accumulated five yellow cards will miss the trip to FC Porto.
Although Benfica had most of the ball possession, they were making simple errors as their opponents continued to deny them space. Mateus, Victor Meza and Vitor Vinha replaced Luís Filipe, Jander and Dady for Olhanense whilst Benfica threw on Rodrigo and Saviola in an effort to snatch a winner.
Cardozo and Rodrigo have scored 32 league goals between them this season, two more than the entire Olhanense team! With time running out, there were nine minutes of stoppage time, Gaitan’s header was cleared off the line by ‘man-of-match’ Mauricio and the Olhanense faithful roared in delight.
Benfica almost snatched the winner in the final minute but keeper Fabiano Freitas made a brilliant save from Saviola to ensure that the Algarveans earned a very valuable point.
Olhanense remain in seventh place having lost only once in the last 10 games. Olhanense can continue to have a bearing on the outcome of the Championship as they take on FC Porto at the Dragon Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) evening kick-off 7pm live on Sport TV1.