The Algarveans were five moments away from promotion to Portugal’s top tier Liga NOS before two goals in as many minutes in Braga put celebrations on hold.
Manager Vítor Oliveira’s men weathered sustained early pressure last Saturday afternoon as Sporting Braga B’s Martinez, Ogana and Luther Singh all went close before Fabrício was able to respond with two dangerous attempts in succession, the first of which crashed against the crossbar. But it were the hosts who should have gone into the break one to the good as Ogana failed to convert the easiest of chances following a rare mistake by Ricardo Ferreira in the Portimonense goal.
Braga also began the second period the better with Singh again in the thick of it before Pires caught home keeper Tiago Pereira off his line only to see his lob hit the woodwork. Braga then had their protesting coach Abel Ferreira banished to the stands on the hour-mark as Fabrício slotted home from the spot as a consequence of that hotly disputed penalty decision to give Portimonense the lead.
Not long afterwards, Gustavo put Tabata through but his attempt to wrap up the points was saved brilliantly by Tiago. Three home substitutions later, Portimonense came under renewed pressure, Ivo Nicolau and Fabricio averting danger before the recently introduced Jordão and Piqueti turned the score line on its head at the death. Pires almost grabbed a share of the points with seconds remaining on the clock but, once more, Tiago was equal to his firm header condemning the Algarveans to their fourth defeat in a row.
“We conceded two inexplicable goals,” Oliveira said afterwards. “There were many mistakes. We need to change a lot if we want to get promoted.”
In spite of those words, Portimonense are still on the verge of going up as third-placed Varzim were beaten 1-0 by visiting Porto B and find themselves 12 points adrift with only six games remaining.
Much closer is the race for the second division title as fellow promotion favourites Aves closed the gap on the leaders to two points with a 2-1 success over Sporting Covilhã - intriguingly the two contenders are going head-to-head in the Portimão municipal stadium tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon - with the likely return of Ricardo Pessoa, Jadson, Marcel, Buba and Manafa set to boost the squad.
On Sunday a trip to Viseu beckons after which champagne corks may finally fly!
By SKIP BANDELE
Photo: Portimonense goalkeeper Ricardo Ferreira