The final stages of the Taça da Liga saw the Primeira Liga schedule spill over all the way until Wednesday night as Braga followed up their success in the aforementioned tournament by concluding Round 18 in the league with victory over Moreirense.
The big three all somewhat laboured to wins to re-establish the hierarchy in Liga NOS, Sporting reclaiming 3rd place from Famalicão who were shocked by Santa Clara.
This week’s PortuGOAL Figure of the Week though comes in the form of veteran winger Silvestre Varela, who Belenenses largely had to thank for ending their recent poor form with a much-needed win over Portimonense.
34 year old Varela was picked up as a free agent by Belenenses back in October 2019 having cut ties with Turkish side Kayserispor last summer, and has aided the team with the wealth of experience picked up in a successful career, representing the Portuguese national team on 27 occasions including at the 2014 World Cup, as well as tasting domestic success in a number years with Porto most notably.
Belenenses have had a troubled season to say the least and indeed were on an awful run of form prior to Sunday’s win. Experienced manager Petit was brought in to try and turn the tide and he guided the team to their first win in his tenureship and it was Varela that was the central figure.
From the early stages the winger was heavily involved even if his finishing radar was a little off initially, skewing a tight angle volley wide in the 10th minute and skying a presentable opportunity in the 36th, having almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion in between.
However it was Varela that would break the deadlock with 3 minutes of the half remaining. His control to bring down André Santos’ raking through ball was superb, and he kept his cool to slot past Ricardo Ferreira in the Portimonense goal.
Early in the second half Varela would prove instrumental once more as he turned provider for what turned out to be the winning goal, which also happened to carry some extra unique significance. Silvestre’s run and deep cross was guided into the back of the net by his nephew Nilton Varela, who had made a marauding run forward from left back.
A special family moment which ultimately guided Belenenses to triumph, the team holding off a late Portimonense fightback who did score a consolation goal through Dener.
A vital 3 points for Belenenses against what has been a fellow struggler in Liga NOS this season in Portimonense, moving them 4 clear of their opponents in the league table.
The embattled Lisbon side remain far from safe and indeed face a daunting trip to defending champions Benfica tomorrow night but if old heads like Varela can continue to roll back the years with displays like this one then they should steer closer to Primeira Liga permanence.
By Jamie Farr