FC Porto’s 2-0 victory over Sporting tonight at the Estádio do Dragão sealed the club’s 29th Portuguese championship title.
Even most fans of the Blue and Whites would agree this is not a vintage Porto side, but the team have won the most games, lost the least, scored the most goals and conceded the fewest out of all 18 Liga NOS clubs in 2019/20, and with two matches to go they are eight points clear at the top of the table. There can be no doubt Sérgio Conceição’s men are worthy champions.
This season will go down in history, not only because of the unprecedented interruption because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Never before had a team who had been seven points clear at the top of the table at the halfway stage failed to go on to win the title. It happened this season, with Porto taking full advantage of Benfica’s implosion.
Little surprise, therefore, that despite the lack of fans in the stadium to rejoice with the team, the post-match reaction was no less euphoric for it.
Sérgio Conceição, Porto coach:
“The key was the togetherness of the squad. The way we believed in ourselves at a difficult time – after the game against Braga we were a considerable distance behind – but it was essential we kept the belief in what we were doing.
“We had a lot of difficulties. If there are people who do not like losing it’s me and the president. We are very competitive. It was a very long season. The players deserve the credit for winning this title, but we’re going to continue working hard because we have a Portuguese Cup to win.
“We won one of the most important titles in Porto’s history. I’d like to dedicate this title to my family, who suffer a lot, my wife and my children and my parents.”
Pinto da Costa, Porto president:
“I think that nobody can deny the justice of this title. I think only a team like FC Porto, a club like FC Porto, could manage to come out of a situation we were in in January, at the halfway stage of the season, seven points behind the leader. Only this club, this coach, these fans, these players, could turn around a deficit of seven points, and turn it into an eight-point lead. It was proof of what FC Porto is made of.”
Alex Telles, Porto left-back:
This season was the most intense in all senses, for everyone. We were seven points behind, lots would have thrown in the towel, but we knew we could turn it round. We believed in ourselves and now it’s time for everyone to celebrate.
“What drove us to the title? Our leader, who did not let anyone drop their head. He told us to keep working the same way. It would have been a sin for us not to win this championship, with the team we have and the way we work. The strongest dressing room would end up winning and we never stopped believing.”
Dreams come true!! pic.twitter.com/1PYOeYBb5c— Fábio Silva (@Silva49Fabio) July 16, 2020
Pepe, Porto centre-back:
“The team is to be congratulated for what we did, and not only in this game. Sporting were in very good form but we knew how to cancel out their strong points. This is down to the hard work and sacrifice our squad put in, we never stopped, not even during the confinement.
“What made us champions? Above all, the togetherness we had. We know we represent a very important region of the country and we all identify with this region. When things get tough we use this strength to overcome adversities. If I’m not mistaken, in the first game of the season against Gil Vicente [a defeat] I said we lose together and we win together, and today is proof of that. Not only us the players, but the entire club and all the fans.
“We didn’t have holidays, we were always working, striving for perfection. It’s difficult, but we were always striving for it. The spirit we had, the belief in our coach, he always believed. Today, here, we see the result.
“Celebrating without the fans? It’s sad, but our society has to go through this. It’s a new situation for everyone, it tough for us, it’s not easy doing tests all the time to be able to play, but what’s important is being able to celebrate at the end with this group, which is fantastic, respecting the health guidelines. I want to send kisses to my daughters, who are my pillars and who are the reason I’m able to be here still playing.”
Agustín Marchesín, Porto goalkeeper:
“I’m really happy, I think the team has a great togetherness and strength. I’m pleased we’re all together celebrating. The fans, in the street, on the hotel roof, were always with us, even when we played far away, albeit respecting the safety rules.
“I’m happy, but now we have to keep working hard because we have an important game to win against Benfica [Portuguese Cup final]; we always want more. FC Porto always want more and we’ve got an important game coming up. For now though, it’s obviously time to celebrate.”
by Tom Kundert