Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Portugal February 2013

A short visit to northern Portugal for two top level matches.

From Stansted to Porto on a cool, breezy early February day.
The Ryanair flight was full but left on time and arrived, helpfully, 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Then a ride on the modern metro to downtown, followed by a return trip towards Varzim, getting off at Vila do Conde for :-

2nd February  Rio Ave 2 Sporting 1  2,356 (c. 500 away)  Primeira Liga

Not only a football ground but the impressive remains of an eighteenth century viaduct greet you as you disembark from the metro.

I wonder if Ricky van Wolfswinkel will have his historical monument ?
On this evidence it is unlikely.

He spent most of the game isolated up front as the other Sporting players tried to develop attacks down the flanks. Rarely did he get involved, apart from a few slim half chances.
But for a ‘penalty-box striker’ I suppose that can happen, especially away from home.

It had all started so comfortably for Sporting when Diego Capel crossed for Jeffren to score in the sixth minute.
Jeffren had another good opportunity later in the first half but the home goalie saved his effort.

And so Rio Ave would equalise just before half time as Tarantini’s shot was deflected past Rui Patricio and the momentum switched towards the home team.
Culminating in Bebe delivering to Ukra who forced in the winner, again via a deflection.

Sporting thus languish well down the league table and Rio Ave, in fifth, have a shot at the top three.
The visiting fans brought along plenty of banners which mostly seemed to criticise the League management.

As the match went on it had got significantly cooler so I was glad there was a convenient 8pm metro train back to the centre.
There I chose a local ‘6 euro meal’ (lamb and red wine) whilst watching the evening match on TV.

3rd February  Gil Vicente 4 Maritimo 2    2,289  Primeira Liga

Barcelos is about an hour by train from Porto and the newish Gil Vicente stadium is a steady 30 minute walk from the station.

Before that I had arrived early and enjoyed sitting outside a central cafe to watch the world go by in bright sunny conditions. The ‘world’ included a loudspeaker van that, I think, was promoting that afternoon’s game.

Which was not a bad shout as the home side were good value for their win.
The victory began with a Joao Vilela penalty after Hugo Vieira had been brought down in the area.

A second was added on thirty seven minutes and although Maritimo replied with their own penalty the home side stretched their lead with two Vieira goals. The final goal being at the end of a superb passing move (accompanied by Ole’s from the crowd)

Vilela did get a red card for a bad tackle but that didn’t really hamper Gil Vicente.
Maritimo kept going and they got a second consolation in the final minute of added time although I don’t think there were any away fans there to celebrate.

The stadium is impressive for a less heralded club with two tiers behind one goal and cover all around.

One or two themes stick in the mind after these two games (apart from the enigma that is Ricky van Wolfswinkel) - the continuing inability of most local players to take throw-ins correctly and the tactic that ‘if you scream’ during a tackle the opposing player will get booked.

And when you contemplate the history of the Portuguese top flight the continued dominance of the same few teams - since 1935 ,apart from a single title for Belenenses and Boavista, every championship has been won by either Benfica, Porto or Sporting (and that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon)

I travelled back via another very busy flight to Stansted - this time it just made it on time.

more pictures at

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