Title race: Portimonense celebrates promotion to Liga NOS

Having secured promotion to Portugal’s top tier by default last Sunday, Portimonense can now concentrate on securing the second division championship won by FC Porto B last season.

Manager Vitor Oliveira’s men travelled to Viseu knowing that one point would be enough to rubber stamp Liga NOS football next year – their far superior goal difference had already made it virtually impossible for Varzim to finish in the top two – but in the event even a defeat sufficed.

The match began with an open exchange which saw Tabata go closest with a shot on the half-hour mark which Viseu keeper Rudolfo only just kept out. Sandro Lima should then have scored for the hosts but managed to blast over the bar with only Ricardo Ferreira to beat in the Portimonense goal.

The second half continued in a similar vein until Tiago Borges was put through by Lima to finish with aplomb. As the final whistle was about to be blown, Bura put through his own net following a Portimonense free kick but instead of what would have been a just share of the points, referee Jorge Ferreira decided to disallow the goal for an infringement only he appeared to witness.

The disappointment felt at the 1-0 loss turned into celebrations later that afternoon as news of Varzim’s latest defeat filtered through, making promotion official. At the same time, sole title rivals Aves recorded a 2-0 victory over Famalicão, thus as good as confirming promotion as well.

Portimonense and Aves, now separated by only two points, went head to head at the municipal stadium on Wednesday last week with the Algarveans emerging the 2-1 winners. A by and large uneventful opening half ended with Chidera firmly heading home a Paulinho free kick. Confusion then reigned in the Portimonense defence after the restart, allowing Guedes to equalise after 56 minutes before both keepers made significant contributions to keeping the score level.

The deadlock was finally broken close to the end of the match when Quim, in the Aves goal, could only parry a powerful Manafa shot, allowing Ewerton to bury the winner.

An interesting end-of-season run-in now sees Aves, with what on paper looks a slightly harder task, still to take on 10th-placed União da Madeira away, followed by Penafiel in third, Cova da Piedade and Fafe, the latter two attempting to stave off relegation.

In contrast, Portimonense welcome Leixões (17th) and travel to Freamunde (20th) before enjoying home advantage over already relegated Olhanense during the last Algarve derby of the season on May 14. Their campaign then ends on the Azores a week later when mid-table Santa Clara provide the opposition.

Thousands take to streets to welcome team

To celebrate Portimonense’s promotion, a huge party was held in front of Portimão town hall on Sunday with around 2,000 people waiting to welcome the team when they arrived.

“The people (of Portimão) deserve this promotion for the support they have given us throughout an extremely difficult season,” said head coach Vítor Oliveira, who achieved the 10th promotion of his career and fifth straight – a record in Portugal and an almost unmatched feat anywhere else.

“However, the championship is not over yet. We want to strengthen our position at the top (of the league) and win the title. We have an obligation to do everything that is possible to achieve this,” he said.

Whether Oliveira will remain in Portimão next year is yet to be decided. For many years, Oliveira has opted to continue leading second division teams to a promotion spot instead of signing with first division teams that fight to avoid relegation.

“I will certainly meet with the board, and we will discuss whether there are conditions for me to continue or not. It is perfectly possible for me to do so, I have done it before in my career,” he added.

It will be the first time since Olhanense was relegated in 2013/14 that the Algarve will be represented in Portugal’s top tier football.


Photo: Portimonense coach Vitor Oliveira celebrating with players upon arrival in Portimão on Sunday, April 23.