By Chris Wright
Olhanense’s new young manager, Abel Xavier, recorded his first Primeira Liga victory in remarkable circumstances at the Algarve Stadium. Last season’s third placed side Paços de Ferreira, who had played Zenit St Petersburg in the UEFA Champions League only days earlier, provided stiff opposition and had not lost against the Algarve side in eight previous meetings.
With only three players – former Portugal international keeper Ricardo and full-backs Luis Felipe and Jander – surviving from last season, the home side was a blend of experience and raw young talent.
An early set-back for Olhanense saw Vitor Bastos replace the injured Ricardo Ferreira after just 10 minutes. But the home side took the lead five minutes later when P.Ferreira centre-back Ricardo failed to clear.
Big bustling centre-forward Mehmeti collected the ball just inside the penalty box, skipped past Gregory and drove the ball past Degra.
The fans went wild as the Olhanense players ran to the dugout and mobbed Xavier in obvious delight.
P.Ferreira came back strongly with the lively Vitor a real handful up front. On three occasions, the Olhanense crossbar came to their rescue but more drama was to unfold as half-time approached. The impetuous Pelé was shown a yellow card for kicking the ball away at a free-kick. In the ensuing confrontation he pushed Vitor and a second yellow resulted in an early bath for the young Guinea-Bissau midfielder.
At the break João Ribeiro replaced Bigazzi as Xavier looked to bolster his defence and midfield. P.Ferreira laid siege to the Olhanense goal and how Hurtado managed to head wide in front of goal, only he will know.
Equally Carlão was guilty of prodding the ball wide from only a yard out!
When Olhanense did manage to break out of defence they counter-attacked with fluidity and speed that kept the visitors’ defence on their toes. With extra height in defence – Vitor Bastos and Diakhité were excellent – P.Ferreira resorted to using the flanks where they ran into the solid Luis Felipe and Jander. In a frenetic five minutes of stoppage time it was 34 year-old skipper Rui Duarte who inspired the team to keep the goal intact and record a famous victory.
Olhanense to return ‘home’ at the end of September
Disgruntled fans who threatened to boycott the game against Paços de Ferreira had a meeting with club president Isidoro Sousa 48 hours before the match. The pitch at the José Arcanjo Stadium, Olhão has, for the third time in four seasons, not recovered from remedial work. This was very apparent as a training game on the pitch against Al-Arabi (Kuwait) illustrated. Isidoro Sousa promised that the Primeira Liga fixture against Estoril on the weekend of September 28/29 would see the team return home.