Those that had the likes of Arouca and Casa Pia above household names such as Santa Clara and Marítimo at the start of the season may have been accused of reading the Primeira Liga table upside down back in August. But as the fixtures tick down, the bold prediction has looked more and more nailed on.
With the latest round of top division football pinning the two sensations up against each other in a direct battle for a top six spot, there was also, rather coincidentally, a crucial meeting between the underachievers down the bottom as Marítimo and Santa Clara faced off in a high-stakes ‘Derby Insular’.
Arouca relied on a late show to overcome ten-man Casa Pia at home, taking them above their opponents by a point before Marítimo, crucially, made it out of the automatic drop-zone with a 3-1 victory against Jorge Simão’s stalling side. Here’s how the quartet fared.
Arouca 2-0 Casa Pia
Matchday 22 at the Estádio Municipal pinned European football hopefuls Arouca up against the high-flying and newly-promoted Casa Pia in a direct battle for 6th place, with just two points separating the two surprise packages.
In an evenly-contested opening 45 minutes, Casa Pia looked the likeliest to go through the gears as Clayton saw himself denied by Arouca shot-stopper Ignacio de Arruanarrena in the 30th minute and the post on two separate occasions before half time.
Casa Pia continued to torment Arouca until the controversial sending off of Beni in the 70th minute, leaving the visitors down to ten men for the final chunk of the encounter. The hosts took advantage of the situation and made a difference soon after the dismissal as Rafa Mújica tapped home from close range to make it 1-0.
The ex-Barcelona B and Leeds United striker dealt Casa Pia one final blow with his brace in the 91st minute, securing a 2-0 victory for Arouca and a passage up to 6th place, just a point off 5th-placed Vitória, in action on Monday versus Sporting de Braga.
Marítimo 3-1 Santa Clara
As the Azores met Madeira, the Estádio dos Barreiros was treated to one of the most genuine of six-pointers in a clash between two of the Primeira Liga’s bottom three, also separated by just a couple of points.
The evening began looking like it could be Santa Clara’s to conquer after an early lead was attained by a Gabriel Silva finish, burying a cut-back inside the box in the 18th minute.
Silva should’ve had Marítimo staring at a two-goal deficit after volleying an effort just wide from a prime position in the 50th minute before later seeing his side pay for the miss via a Kennedy Boateng own goal ten minutes later.
The own goal invited Santa Clara’s demise as a Xavi Quintillá’s handball inside the box offered Marítimo the chance to turn the game on its head via the spot in the 72nd minute. Trusted with the task of taking the spot-kick, Cláudio Winck did not disappoint from 12 yards as the hosts neared a treasured victory.
Percy Liza left the game beyond any doubt after bundling in Brayan Riascos’ low cross in the 80th minute, taking Marítimo out of the automatic drop-zone at Santa Clara’s expense, who are yet to win in seven games under Simão following Saturday’s 3-1 loss.
By Patrick Ribeiro