Portimonense reached the official half-way mark of the 2016/17 season with a 1-0 home success over Santa Clara last weekend.
Despite live television coverage, around 2,000 fans were present at the municipal stadium as manager Vitor Oliveira’s men established a new all-time second division points record prior to the start of return fixtures, amassing 52 points to better Belenenses’ previous 2012/13 best by one counter.
The latest win did not come easy as the visitors from the Azores hit the ground running, creating several chances during the opening 10 minutes without unduly troubling home keeper Ricardo Ferreira. At the other end, Pires and Amilton did their level best to establish an early example, letting fly on half a dozen occasions, albeit unsuccessfully.
The Algarveans returned even more determined after the interval and Santa Clara keeper Serginho did well to keep out a Jadson header before Pires finally broke the deadlock with his 14th strike of the season on the hour mark following some good work from Manafa and Paulinho.
The otherwise excellent referee Manuel Mota - only two cautions - then turned down credible penalty claims at either end while there was still time for Serginho to shine on more than one occasion in denying Portimonense a second goal before the final whistle was blown.
“A good game with a balanced opening half,” Vitor Oliveira said afterwards, “but only one of the teams tried to win after the break.”
Closest pursuers Aves remain four points behind in second place following a 2-1 win at lowly Fafe, but, more significantly, Portimonense’s victory over still third in the table Santa Clara gives the Algarveans a very comfortable-looking 17-point cushion over a non-promotion spot with 21 fixtures remaining - the first of which is another 11.15am televised home game against Sporting Lisbon B this Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, midfielder Fabrício is back in the Algarve following a highly successful six-month loan spell at Kashima Antlers - J-League champions and Emperor Cup winners as well as FIFA World Club Championships runners-up - but the Brazilian is not certain to rejoin his former team mates as Portimonense is prepared to listen to lucrative offers for its high-profile asset during the current transfer window.
In contrast, latest defensive acquisition Brendon will make his debut as soon as he has received international clearance.
By SKIP BANDELE
Photo: Portimonense striker Pires
Photo by: JOÃO BATISTA