At the end of January we were sitting 2nd in the league and in a title battle with Benfica and Porto, os novos Três Grandes. A poor run had seen a resurgent Sporting fall away while AVB’s Braga are still plugging away and are never too far behind. We slipped up in the final weeks of the season last time out, could we go one better than our 2nd place finish and win the league?
Struggling Aves withstood the barrage and left Guimarães with a point but days later we managed to overcome Moreirense at home. The extra attacking movement pre-match training must have paid off. Geelmuyden was at the double to take his tally to 11 for the season, what a season the 20-year-old Norwegian is having as Joveljic’ understudy.
We were 2-0 up and cruising against Portimonense with Joveljic scoring after just 20 seconds. We hit the woodwork three times so really should have made it more comfortably before it came back to bite us in the 90th minute. Edgar Branco turned a nothing cross into our own net at the back post for their equaliser. Four points dropped this month already and up next? Porto.
They come into this one on the back of a 1-1 draw in O Clássico against Benfica. It’s still tight at the top with us two points behind the top two. We lost the first league meeting against them this season but that’s our only defeat in our last six.
I thought we’d sneaked that. Majer scored a beautiful free kick but Porto went straight up the pitch from kick off, won a corner and scored from it. Two annoying late goals conceded in two matches now but our 16 match unbeaten run rolls on.
Maritimo gave us a scare as we conceded late on again, thankfully we held on to the win this time. Another Majer double making it four goals in two matches for him and taking his tally to 13 for the season. His form over the month saw him take home the Player of the Month award while his beauty of a free kick won Goal of the Month.
Those six goals we conceded in three matches are a bit of worry and certainly something to keep an eye on.
It’s Taca de Portugal semi final first leg time as Porto visit the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques. VAR assisted the opener for them but the returning Jhon Murillo pounced on a loose ball before half time before this season’s current top scorer, Joveljic, added to his tally to secure the first leg victory. That’s 18 for the season now for him.
Feirense followed up a last gasp win against Benfica by grabbing a last gasp draw against us, another slip up in the league for us. Franck Idumbo-Muzambo scoring the decisive goal in both matches for the mid-table side. The Gent loanee is flying right now.
Our season four youth intake was probably the most disappointing in my time at the club so far. Luckily the youth we have are already very talented. Case in point 19-year-old Edgar Branco taking home the Portuguese u21 Young Player of the Year award, following the likes of Gedson Fernandes, João Félix and Renato Sanches in doing so. He’s a talent.
The month started on such a high but went downhill, culminating in a really disappointing stalemate against mid-table Tondela. Majer strained his hamstring and will be out for a month, that’s a blow with Braga breathing down our necks. They’d be even closer to us if Mário Ferreira hadn’t found that late equaliser against them in the Minhoto derby. There’s three points in it going into the final few months of the season. Now we’re looking over our shoulder as opposed to the top of the table.
We just can’t win a match at the moment. We had 32 shots against Estoril, 8 of them were blocked, as they threw themselves in front of everything, and 2 of them hit the woodwork. After I’d ripped into the side at half time Estoril came out and scored seconds into the restart. Luckily Joveljic managed to score his 19th of the season to at least earn us a point. We’re eight points off Porto on top now and five away from Benfica. Braga have closed the gap behind us to a single point.
Add another 30 shots to our tally for this month after Chaves did their best to play for a draw. We’re finally back to winning ways though thanks to a free kick from Grønli, who’s only just returned to full fitness after the injury he got in January. When you can’t create anything meaningful against a stubborn defence from open play, it helps to have a set piece specialist.
Idumbo-Muzambo strikes again to give Feirense a home win over Porto on the same matchday as we emerge victorious from the Clássico Vitoriano against Setúbal thanks to a Mário Ferreira double. Braga dropped points the previous week and with four league matches left this is how the top of the table looks.
There’s a little bit of breathing space again. Europa League qualification is secured but a reminder that the top two is automatic Champions League group stage qualification, while 3rd goes into the tricky best placed playoffs.
Just before we get into squeaky bum time proper in the league, it’s time for the second leg of the Taca de Portugal semi final. Leading 2-1 from the home leg, we just needed a repeat performance to make our second consecutive final. We summoned our drawing capabilities again to go through 3-2 on aggregate. Joveljic put us ahead with a fine finish before wonderkid Fabio Silva equalised. We saw the game out and will face Sporting in the final at the end of the season. Can we retain the trophy?
Pressure is on in the league. We showed signs of it last month, but 3-0 wins over Boavista and relegation-threatened Nacional saw us end the month in 2nd. Feirense and Idumbo-Muzambo struck again, downing Sporting to knock them out of the title race. Braga fall out of the race too with a home loss against Maritimo. An 86th minute winner for Tondela sees Porto suffer a dent in their title hopes. There’s two league matches left and we’re three points off the top. We finish the season with a trip to Lisbon to face leaders, Benfica. There’s twists and turns to happen yet.
Grønli wins the April Player of the Month award while I take home the Manager of the Month award. We’re hitting some form.
May started with a blow. Edgar Branco and Toni Borevkovic were ruled out for three weeks each. Both would miss the remaining league matches and were in a race against time to regain fitness for the Taca de Portugal final. They’ve been vital to our performances this season.
The May blows continued. There would be no grand finale. Rio Ave handed us our first defeat in 31 competitive matches, a disappointing performance in front of the Twitch cameras which left the door open for Benfica to defeat Sporting and seal the title. They did, 1-0, and then proceeded to beat us 1-0 on the final day of the season too, efficiently regaining the league trophy.
Looking at the table, they deserved it. They conceded the least goals and they only lost once all season against everyone’s favourite upset causers, Feirense. We did outscore them, as did Porto, but defences win titles don’t they.
It was the draws that killed us. Stalemates against Tondela, Aves and surprise package, Cova de Piedade, weren’t good enough while we conceded late against Feirense, Porto and Portimonense to throw away three points. We’re three points worse off this season compared to last, we scored less but also conceded less. The 3rd place finish sees us qualifying for the Champions League best placed 3rd qualifying round. We’re bound to get a tricky tie.
League disappointment to one side, we’ve won the domestic cup treble! I was a bag of nerves in front of literally ones of people on Twitch but Lovro Majer’s early goal got us off to a good start, his 14th of a very successful debut season. Sporting hit back after 12 minutes but they suffered a blow just before half time with Wendel being shown a red card.
They withstood our pressure from then on, we hit the woodwork three times with Mattia Perin making 10 saves overall. He couldn’t keep out Thaciano’s shot in extra time though after Grønli had driven through the midfield and laid it off to his Mezzala midfield partner to fire in. We’re always up for the cup.
Our first foray into the Champions League, three domestic trophies and our fourth top three finish in four seasons, it was a successful season all in. We’ve got so many young players on the cusp of the first team, I’m excited about what’s to come in the future.
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