This weekend saw the Liga Bwin campaign draw to a close (barring next week’s relegation playoff) with most of the big decisions already taken care of throughout the table.
The aforementioned playoff needed some configuring, and it was Moreirense who at least earned a stay of execution after thrashing Vizela. As a result, Tondela and Belenenses SAD descended to the second tier.
One of the most impressive results from the weekend took place at Famalicão as they came from 2-0 down to stun Braga and unexpectedly leap into a top half finish. Their top goalscorer Simon Banza was once again their hero, his two goals helping to complete their superb comeback: the French striker is our final PortuGOAL Figure of the Week for 2021/22.
France-born Simon Banza grew up in the Lens academy and it is with them that he has remained to this day in his professional career, barring some loan spells away from the club. The latest of which has been to try his luck in Portugal with Famalicão this season, and it is more than fair to say that the 25 year old has been a success in Liga Bwin.
Lead striker was a position Famalicão were very short in last summer after the departure from the club of the likes of Alexandre Guedes and Anderson Silva, and Banza quickly cemented himself as the first choice of manager Rui Pedro Silva to lead the line, making an instant impact by scoring twice on his Primeira Liga debut against Moreirense back in September 2021.
Barring one Covid-attributed absence Banza has found himself a virtual ever-present in the XI since, scoring a steady rate of goals while also being a useful link up player in Famalicão’s attacking setup, his excellent movement off the ball proving a fine foil for creative types such as João Carlos Teixeira and Ivo Rodrigues.
At the end of April of this year Famalicão looked to be heading to a lower midtable finish after a run of seven matches without victory but consecutive wins over Estoril and Belenenses SAD meant that going into Sunday’s season closing encounter at home to Braga suddenly the top half of Liga Bwin was within Banza and his team’s grasp.
The away side looked intent on spoiling that notion however as Ricardo Horta gave Braga the lead inside a minute before Vitinha doubled the lead after just nineteen minutes.
However Famalicão came roaring back and they reduced the deficit just before the half-time whistle as Banza stepped up for the side once more, meeting Bruno Rodrigues’ cross into the box with a powerful header that left Braga’s Lukáš Horníček no chance.
Famalicão managed to take the momentum through towards the latter stages of the match to peg Braga back to 2-2 with ten minutes of the match remaining, Bruno Rodrigues heading in past Horníček.
The home side weren’t done yet though as they stole the three points in the 89th minute as Banza grabbed his second, another fine aerial leap to meet another Bruno Rodrigues delivery, this time a more measured effort to divert the ball in the opposite direction from its arrival to glance off the post and into the net.
Banza ripped his shirt off amid frenzied celebrations from the Famalicão faithful as the team completed a stunning turnaround against one of the division’s top sides. The three points rewarded Famalicão with a quite remarkable 8th place finish in Liga Bwin, just rewards for a terrific end of campaign run of matches.
Banza’s brace means he ends the campaign with extremely respectable numbers, with his fourteen league goals only being bettered by six players in the league. It remains to be seen whether Famalicão will be able to turn his loan deal permanent in the summer as the pairing between player and club looks to be a fruitful one, albeit on this season’s evidence there will be plenty of competition for the Frenchman’s signature.
By Jamie Farr