Portimonense completed the most successful calendar year in the club’s history when beating Olhanense 1-0 away in the pre-Christmas Algarve derby to make it 29 victories from 49 matches in 2016.
The very physical encounter was decided by a somewhat fortuitous Paulinho goal on the hour mark when a miscued Pires effort struck the Brazilian forward on the knee and ended up in the back of the net.
In general, struggling Olhanense had good grounds to feel aggrieved with the latest reversal, hitting the woodwork as well as having what looked to have been a perfectly legitimate Doudou Mangni strike harshly adjudged offside by linesman João Jacob.
But, at the end of the night, all three points travelled west and Portimonense, still four points ahead of second-placed Aves and, more importantly, 14 clear of Santa Clara in third, must have promotion within their grasp despite 20 matches still remaining of the current season.
With the January transfer window now open, manager Vítor Oliveira has already made moves to strengthen the squad, both with immediate effect and looking ahead to next season.
Twenty-one-year-old Brazilian central defender Brendon has signed until 2020 from Grêmio Esportivo Anápolis while emerging Varzim youngsters Keaton Parks (19) and Rui Costa (20) will arrive in summer.
There are also three Japanese top division players currently having trials in the Algarve, one of whom, Nagashima, scored the winner during last week’s 3-2 training game success over Farense.
The action resumes in earnest this Sunday morning when Santa Clara visit the municipal stadium for a televised 11.15am kick-off followed by another home game against Sporting Lisbon B scheduled at the same time the following Sunday.
Meanwhile, onloan Portimonense winger Fabrício scored the extra time winner in J-League champions Kashima Antlers’ 2-1 Emperor Cup final success over Kawasaki Frontale in Japan.
By SKIP BANDELE
Photo: Brazilian central defender Brendon has signed until 2020
Photo by: www.portimonense.pt