Vitor Pereira on his way to Olympiakos

Vitor Pereira - PortoTwo-time Portuguese league champion and former free agent Vitor Pereira has reached an agreement with the Greek powerhouse. Formerly at the helm of Saudi club Al-Ahli, and more famously FC Porto, the much coveted tactician is set to sign the dotted line this Wednesday for Greek Champions Olympiakos Piraeus after reports linking him with the Crystal Palace job. Continue reading

Vitor Pereira on his Way to Crystal Palace?

Photo: Paulo Santos/ASF

Photo: Paulo Santos/ASF

Vitor Pereira, the former manager of FC Porto and, more recently Saudi club Al-Ahli, is the latest name to be added to the short-list of the vacant Crystal Palace job. At 46, the two-time Portuguese Champion is not unfamiliar to the English media rumour mill, having been considered a strong contender to succeed David Moyes at Everton before the appointment of current manager Roberto Martinez.

Now, nearly two years on from that aforementioned speculation, Pereira is a free agent set for discussions with Glaziers boss Steve Parish after the sacking of Neil Warnock following a 3-1 defeat to Southampton as Selhurst Park. Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Armenia

Tiago Gomes could start against Armenia. Photo

Tiago Gomes could start against Armenia. Photo

Fernando Santos will look to build on a sound start to his tenure in the Portuguese dugout ahead of a clash against Group I dark horses Armenia in the Algarve. Having come away with the three points in Copenhagen after a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo effort, A Seleção da Quinas will be confident of building on a professional display in their last hit-out in front of a packed Faro crowd. Continue reading

Player to Watch: João Mário

Joao Mario - SportingWhen João Mario Naval da Costa Eduardo graced the pitch of the Stade de France on October the 13th 2014 as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, every Portuguese adepto, young and old, took attention. Another stalwart graduate of the famed Sporting Lisbon academy, the young starlet had taken another leap in his career as one of Santos’ newest recruits

When João Mario graced the pitch of the Stade de France on October the 13th 2014 as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, every Portuguese adepto, young and old, took attention. Another stalwart graduate of the famed Sporting Lisbon academy, the young starlet had taken another leap in his career as one of Santos’ newest recruits Continue reading

Match Report: Portugal Slump to Disappointing Defeat

Eder - Portugal vs Albania - 9/7/14Portugal 0 – 1 Albania

Aveiro calls for Bento’s head as Portugal fall… again

Bento is continuing to make history at the helm of A Seleção das Quinas as Portugal lost their first home game in European qualification since 1998. A sole Balaj effort in the 52nd minute capped off an inspired display from the Albanians, turned qualification contenders from ‘whipping boys’ as Portugal stuttered and spluttered their lines. The critics will be licking their chops as an average ‘Ronaldo-less’ side failed to argue their case without the Real Madrid starlet as the Aveiro crowd whistled and jeered, with a fair few waving handkerchiefs towards the dugout, as Bento and co. got their comeuppance.

Portugal: Rui Patricio; Coentrão, Ricardo Costa (Veloso 74), Pepe, João Pereira; William Carvalho (Horta 56), André Gomes, Moutinho; Nani, Vieirinha (Cavaleiro 45) and Éder

Albania: Berisha; Agolli, Mavraj, Cana, Hisaj; Kukeli (Kace 66), Roshi, Abrashi, Xhaka, Lenjani (Lila 75); Balaj (Cikalleshi 86)

Bento’s Portuguese starting eleven was a largely expected one, with a couple of long-awaited changes, which kept the same 4-3-3 system. Costa came in for the injured Alves, with Gomes and Carvalho welcomed into the starting eleven’s midfield three for Veloso and Meireles, with William acting as the midfield anchor and Gomes taking up an advanced role next to Moutinho. Éder set up shop up top as the lone striker, flanked by Nani and Vieirinha for the injured Ronaldo.

Giovanni De Biasi and his charges were looking to emulate previous successes against A Seleção das Quinas having mustered draws in the 2008 and 2012 European qualification, with their most recent clash only decided by a last-minuted effort from Bruno Alves. These results were largely defined by resolute ten-man defending, with the Italian playing a 4-5-1 formation with Kukeli as the holding defensive midfielder and Balaj the lone-striker.

A lot of huff and puff with little to show for it

Portugal’s start to the encounter had appointed captain for the day Nani at the focal point of every attack. The Manchester United loanee, now gracing the Sporting kit, set up Portugal’s first effort on goal from the dead ball as it was deflected into the onrushing Costa off the Albanian shot stopper Berisha, only to go out for a goal kick. Nani’s exploits were followed up by a shot dragged wide after a neat a one-two with Moutinho on the edge of the box and a cross into Eder whose header sailed wide.

Some early attacking pressure in their defensive half aside, Albania continued to sit back and absorb what little Portugal threw at them as the home team lacked cohesion in their build-play, not unusual for a side lacking match sharpness but worrying considering the opposition. Still, the visitors caused little trouble at the other end, with their first real chance of the game coming from a corner resulting in an easy Patricio save.

Portugal’s best opportunities continued to come from the deal ball as Moutinho found Vieirinha, only for the 29-year-old to head his effort straight to the attentive Berisha who made another clutch save.

At the half hour mark Portugal had little to show for their attacking intent, with four half chances, including three headers, inflicting no damage to the scoreboard, no thanks to Albania’s tireless work ethic, with Roshi man-marking Moutinho at every occasion, hassling and harrying the midfield lynchpin.

No goals but fouls aplenty

The game continued to lack goalmouth action in a stop-start affair littered by fouls from both sides as the Aveiro crowd remained dissatisfied as Portugal’s impatience grew in finding that killer pass against a continually resolute Albanian ten-man defence.

At every opportunity the officals were barraged by whistles as the Albanian’s fouled the Lusos at any opportunity in a match earmarked by challenges galore as Roshi, Costa and Moutinho were all at the receiving end.

Portugal continued to venture forward in a fruitless effort to take the lead at the 41st minute as Nani found some space, setting himself for a curled effort outside the box only for his shot to be blocked by Mavraj for the corner.

The ensuing corner was headed well by Costa but blocked and cleared near the line, followed by an Éder appeal for a penalty that was dutifully waved away as Portugal produced their most concerted period in attack.

The best chances for the half for either side came at its climax, with an effort from the ever-present Roshi keeping the largely uninvolved Patricio on his toes with crucial save. Portugal’s came once again from the set piece and again from a header, as Nani whipped in a beautiful ball for Pepe to muster into a looping header that should have tested Berisha but arched over the bar.

Paulo Bento was left with a concerning statistic at half-time. Eight shots and only one on target.

Cavaleiro and Horta deemed the answer as Bento makes his move

Plenty of huff and puff had little to show for in blowing down an unyielding brick house that was the Albania defence. Paulo Bento looked to shake things up, brining on youngster Ivan Cavaleiro for Wolfsburg winger Vieirinha in the hope of breaking the deadlock.

Portuguese consistent but fruitless exploits down the flanks continued but to no avail as Albania continued to muster dangerous opportunities, with a counter led by Balaj ending with Roshi unleashing a cross into the box missed by everyone, only to be touched behind for the corner.

In the end, it was Albania who would take the deserved lead at the 52nd minute with a peach of a goal from Bekim Balaj. His partner in crime Roshi timed a perfect cross to the Slavia Prague striker who was obliged to have an effort, scoring his first international goal in the process after unleashing a lethal shot past Patricio on the turn.

One-nil and Portugal needed a change with Paulo Bento heeding call, bringing on another forward in the form of Horta in the foray who started his debut with a glaring effort from outside the box.

Eder continued to show little for his involvement, with his inability to hold-up the ball and contribute to the attack to any real effect adding to Portuguese frustrations. Portugal was left playing a formation similar to that of a 4-2-4, with Moutinho and Gomes left to fend for themselves in the middle of the pitch.

A Nani effort that was always rising and a Coentrão chance that trickled wide towards the far post followed but Portugal were facing their 3rd consecutive European qualifying campaign without a win, with only one shot on target to show for a largely disappointing display.

Luckless Portugal didn’t deserve it

Portugal’s chance of the tie came from a poor Nani free kick. His effort bounced off the Albanian wall, with Horta recovering the ball and unleashing a lovely curled effort that hit the corner of the goal frame, only to be followed up by a Pepe effort that sailed over the bar. Coentrão continued to persist as he ran riot down the left, setting up Nani whose header went disappointingly wide when it would’ve been easier to score.

In the dying embers of the tie, Coentrão and Gomes’ efforts from the left were both met by Berisha saves as the travelling contingent of Albanian support rejoiced at the final whistle. The Portuguese faithful waved white handkerchiefs in response, dismayed by their side’s performance as Bento’s collar grew ever tighter around his neck.

Call for change

Paulo Bento continued to echo familiar sentiments for an “unjust result” post-match but Portugal should not feel hard done by. Bento’s foregoing of a friendly fixture the week prior will be questioned as Portugal continued to run out of ideas, failing to recover the deficit with uninspiring football lacking cohesion, polish and understanding against a side that many considered to be the group’s whipping boys.

With Denmark, Serbia and Armenia to follow, Bento will find it hard to sleep in the coming nights as the Portuguese media continue to smell blood in even murkier waters. Although still early days, and with an injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Portuguese side riddled with inconsistencies correlating to the start of a new season, a squad full of undoubted quality and potential against a side ranked 70th in the world has no excuses.

The FPF’s stubbornness and commitment to have kept Bento at the helm after a lacklustre display at the World Cup having signed him on until after Euro 2016 will be tested as he continues to man a sinking ship. A brave display from the Albanians, and potentially the performance of their lives, was dutifully rewarded as Portugal was left to lick their wounds at the final whistle. The big question is, will Bento stay on?

Primeira Liga Roundup: Round 3

Primeira LigaThe 3rd jornada of the Portuguese League was headlined by the first Classico of the season, but a host of other great contests were on show. FC Porto, Vitoria de Guimaraes and Rio Ave continued to impress with emphatic victories, whilst Braga and Maritimo impressed with solid wins. Mitchell Rua brings you all the action from this week’s Portuguese action with his league round-up.

A false start but three points nonetheless for the Dragons (Porto 3-0 Moreirense)

FC Porto sealed yet another three points, extending their perfect start to their campaign against minnows Moreirense.

Lopetegui continued with his favoured 4-3-3, this time with more attacking zest, foregoing Herrera and Neves’ midfield dynamism, but the Spaniard’s reshuffling did have the desired effect as a torrid open 45 minutes ensued.

Os Tripeiros lacked midfield cohesion, with Oliver and Brahimi, usually employed on the flanks, unwilling to put in a great deal of defensive work as their opposite numbers André Simões and Filipe Melo did the nitty gritty well. Casemiro did little to help matters, earmarking a side without a pure holding midfield as the Brazilian sprayed woeful long balls to little effect.

But after the interval, Porto found their voice. Spaniards Adrián López and José Ángel both impressed as the game grew, with Danilo running rampant on the right. The recent call up to the Seleção must have put a spring in his step as he combined well with Quaresma and Jackson, placing himself in good positions to shoot, with his defensive solidarity on show.

But it was the ever-present Oliver that broke the deadlock at 70 minutes. With the game reaching its climax, Os Dragões began to grow desperate. Brilliant play on the right from Brahimi found a chink in Leal’s defensive armour as the Algerian set up Oliver for a simple finish.

From that point on; Porto never looked like backing down.  Jackson’s intention to stay at the Dragão was met with much applause as the Colombian craque netted a brace. The first came from an error by the reliable Marafona, assisted by José Angel after Oliver dislocated his shoulder upon colliding with the Moreirense shot stopper, ruling him out until late September. The second came minutes after a saved Quintero penalty, with the young Colombian making amends, combining with Adrian and following it up with the assist for Cha Cha Cha.

Lopetegui’s men are yet to concede a goal in competitive competition, breaking the record previously held by the much heralded Andre Villas Boas, with five clean sheets. They now look towards a mouth-watering encounter against one of the form teams of the championship in Guimaraes at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques next week.

Rio Ave go top as Petit licks his wounds (Rio Ave 4-0 Boavista)

A dark horse for the title race emerged in the Vila do Conde as Rio Ave closed out the round with an empathic victory over As Panteras.

Having guided their passage to the Europa League only four days prior, Pedro Martin’s charges must have still had their minds on the previous nights’ festivities as The Chequered Ones took control of the first 20 minutes. A wake-up call was needed and that came with a shot from Pouga, drawing out the save of the night from Cássio.

From that point, the complexion of the tie changed, swinging in the favour of the home side almost immediately. A lovely curled effort from the deal ball by man-of-the-match Renan Bressan put the Rio Ave freight train into gear at 26 minutes.

Boavista continued to fall as Diego Lopes’ goal followed two minutes later; the visitors going into the break on the cusp of another loss and still yet to score a goal in league play.

The Panthers did not help matters in the second half after centre back Luca Rocha was sent off as the Vila do Condenses were happy to pile on the goals. Perfect combinations and running in the final third, complimented by cohesive ball circulation with the ball painting the turf, underlined a professional performance in evading Petit’s pressing game.

Esmael and Emmanuel Boateng put the icing on the cake in the 80th and 90th minutes respectively. The former, having come off the bench, dispatched an effort into the back of the net from an Ukra ball after fine play on the right. The second came from a header as the Ghanaian revelation scored his first goal for the club, rubbing salt in the wounds of the former powerhouse.

Three games, three wins, eleven goals scored and top of the table! The Northern club now play Moreirense away and welcome Dynamo Kiev to the Vila do Conde. Petit, on the other hand, is left reeling and will look to pick up the pieces after international play: “The break in play will be good to integrate our new players… I’m not happy, I’m disappointed.”

The Arsenalistas back to winning ways as Couceiro remains winless (Braga 2-1 Estoril)

Three of the best was allocated to a contest that started drearily, but ended with 16 000 Minhotos on their feet as Sergio Conceição got his second win for the Arsenalistas after their frustrating draw to Moreirense, leaving Estoril still without a win to their name.

For most of the first-half the match lacked chances and goal mouth action, with Braga showing aggressiveness in playing a high line but had little to show for it as reinstated Alan struggled to make his mark. Instead, it took Pedro Santos to break the ice at the 34th minute with a wonder goal. The diminutive winger nestled the ball in the back of the net with a lovely curled effort with the left boot, bringing the contest to life as Estoril chased the game.

The Lisbon club rarely troubled Kritciuk’s goal until an Emidio Rafael special. The former Porto left-back unleashed a bomb of a free kick, leaving the keeper rooted to his spot only three minutes after the restart.

But no, Braga was going to have the last say on the ‘golaço’ front, as Eder scored the goal of the night only 8 minutes later. Baiano, replacing the injured Goiano, found the Cape-Verdean Seleção striker in the heart of the Estoril penalty box. He took the ball on his chest and majestically dispatched it on the volley, much to the delight of the Braga faithful and Sergio Conceição, securing a deserved win: “We played a game that in the manner that I wanted it to play.”

Set pieces the key as Belenenses force out habits (Belenenses 0-3 Vitoria Guimaraes)

Rui Vitoria’s charges have had the best start imaginable to their league campaign, dispatching their Lisbon adversaries with ease at the Restelo.

Both sides came into the tie level on six points, and a tightly contested tie lived up to its expectations. Earmarked by end-to-end football and chances from the deal ball, both sides wasted opportunities to draw first blood, as Andre Andre rattled the bar early and Rodrigo Dantas wasted a brilliant opportunity one-on-one with Douglas.

Then, things changed. Nii Plange received his marching orders after Fabio Verissimo brandished a red card as Guimaraes argued their case. The same situation had occurred only a week prior to Nacional as Vidigal’s side succumbed to their opponents. Once again this trend persisted, with Os Minhotos reverting to a 4-4-1, leaving Os Lisboetas frustrated and little to show for their numerical advantage.

Miguel Rosa and co. tried their best but old habits persevered as they were decimated from deal ball situations. The set piece was the defining factor in determining the final result, as Matt Jones was only able to evade Defendi’s header, parrying the ball onto the bar only to watch the ball bundled into the back of his net by Andre Andre at 26 minutes.

The Vimaranenses were more than happy to close shop and defend the lead as Belenenses took control of 59% of possession. The Minho club played a conservative game, resting of the laurels and taking their opportunities from set pieces. A corner from Cafú drew another great save from Matt Jones, only for the subsequent corner to seal the win from Tomané’s head.

In the end, Guimaraes was able to expose frailties in Vidigal’s outfit reminiscent of last season, with their inability to take numerical advantages, especially at home, ringing alarm bells. Fredy, Rosa and Deyverson faltered, with keeper Jones ending on a bad note having allowed an Alex free kick past him far too easily in the second half.

On the other hand, Rui Vitoria will be over the moon as Guimaraes won their third consecutive match since the advent of the season, the first time since the 2002/03 where they secured European football.  It may be early to call them title contenders, but the side in black and white look the real deal.

Madeiran delight, Fonseca wins away and a stalemate in Coimbra

After four games without a win, including a two-legged defeat to Dinamo Minsk that ended their European campaign, CD Nacional was able to secure their first win of the season in a solid display against Pedro Emanuel’s Arouca. The Madeirans scored a goal in each half, the first a penalty from Rondon after Nelsinho handled the ball in the area. One-nil up, Nacional grew with the game, evading an Arouca resurgence in the second half as a Marco Matias corner found Suk all alone, finishing strongly and securing the three points after 58 minutes.

Both Paulo Sergio and Domingos Paciência were left rueing missed opportunities after a stalemate at the Estádio EFAPEL.  Académica were very lucky to open the scoring after an own goal from the visiting keeper Lukas Raedar, with a ferocious Marcos Paulo drive bouncing off the German’s back and into his goal. That lead didn’t last long, as responded Venâncio with a header at the second post after a Cristiano corner evaded the keeper. Académica has numerous opportunities thereafter to take all the points but lacked incisiveness in the final third.

Neighbours Penafiel and Paços locked horns, but it was Fonseca’s men that took home their first win of the season, although Ricardo Chéu unlucky not to take at least a point. A solitary Cicero goal ten minutes from time settled the encounter, taking his chance with an instinctive strike from inside the box.

Gil Vicente is still without a win after succumbing to defeat at the hands of Marítimo in Barcelos. Os Galos started the brighter, with Diogo Valente opening the scoring at the 25th minute after a receiving a ball from Avto as his side went into the break with a lead. But the second half was a different story as Marítimo took the game to the Gilistas as Bauer and Maazou scored, leaving Leonel Pontes a happy man.