This weekend we saw two talented but inconsistent sides who are new to the Liga II in 2023/24 face off. Promoted União de Leiria met relegated Marítimo in a fixture that could prove crucial for both sides come the end of the season, with the hosts edging the islanders 4-3.
Elsewhere, Liga II leaders AVS lost their undefeated record against an Oliveirense team who looked to be one of their closest promotion rivals in the early weeks of the season, but had been on a poor run of form.
UD Leiria 4-3 Marítimo
Marítimo will be in the hunt for promotion this season, but the jury’s still out on Leiria. Botelho da Costa’s men have shown a lot of quality, but they’ve also had a few moments to forget. It really felt like this was the game to determine if Leiria were legitimate contenders in the race for promotion, or if they are earmarked only to finish around the best-of-the-rest positions.
Straight from the off, this game had all the hallmarks of being one to remember. After three minutes, a Leiria corner swung into the six-yard box was accidently headed into the Marítimo net by Marítimo defender Dylan Collard for an opening own goal. The lead was immediately lost, however, when slack passing at the back from Leiria led to a corner for Marítimo. A dangerous delivery from Bruno Xadas followed, which was flicked onto Diogo Mendes at the back post who just about managed to guide the ball over the line before being pulled back by veteran keeper Paweł Kieszek - Platiny would follow it up, but it was clear Mendes had done enough first time around to find the equaliser for Os Verde-Rubros.
Undeterred, Leiria retook the lead in the 32nd minute. A good cross from Pedro Empis was followed by two looping headers, first from Lucho Vega at the back post heading the ball to Leandro Antunes at the front post, who looped it back to the back post beating Samu in the Marítimo net and restoring União’s advantage. Marítimo would match their opponents’ fighting spirit when they replied yet again in a quick fashion, via the exact same goal method as their first. Xadas’ corner delivery would again pose a problem for Leiria, glancing off the bodies in the box and landing to Diogo Mendes at the back post once more, who confidently converted this time, scoring for the second time in the afternoon. It was the first time in Mendes’ career that he has scored twice in a game.
It had already been an action-packed first half filled with four goals, but Leiria were not done and took the lead for the third time just before the break. It was another dangerous ball from the left-hand side, this time Antunes turning provider. The delivery was not dealt with properly by Samu who weakly punched the ball to Bura on the right-hand side of the goal. Bura took one touch to set himself before putting his laces through the ball, scoring a thunderous goal that brought a frantic first half of Liga Portugal 2 action to a close.
It would have been a game for the record books if the second half turned out anything like the first half, but even if the action was less hectic, the game was still not without drama. Marítimo would once again show fighting spirit when Xadas got himself on the scoresheet after converting a penalty low into the middle of the Leiria goal. It was an unfortunate penalty for Leiria to concede after the ball hit a sliding Bura on the arm.
Marítimo had shown tremendous character to come back time and time again, but Leiria just refused to accept anything less than all three points. Step forward, Bryan Róchez, the super sub who’s bagged three goals from the bench in his last two outings for Leiria. Once again, Róchez was introduced late by da Costa - a little surprising after his heroics last week being involved in three goals - but da Costa proved to have made the right decision when Róchez picked up the ball in the box in the 75th minute and got away from his marker René Santos, the Honduran then rifling the ball across goal and into the bottom left corner of the Marítimo net.
Another dangerous corner was put in by Xadas in the game’s final moments, falling into the penalty area and ricocheting around before the Leiria defence managed to get it cleared. It was backs to the wall stuff for the home side, but they managed to see out the game and win what was an incredible battle. Leiria may only find themselves in 7th position, but Sunday’s victory sees them now only three points off second-place Nacional, as they legitimatise their status as a genuine threat for promotion. Marítimo sit 4th, with only three points now separating them and 9th placed Mafra.
AVS 0-1 Oliveirense
Oliveirense had fallen off a cliff after their electric start to the Liga II campaign, winless in their last five outings. It didn’t get much tougher a test for Oliveirense to turn things around than facing the undefeated AVS who have been racing away at the top of the league.
We got underway with a competitive contest, as expected between two good sides with more than a few players that can produce moments of magic. Both teams strived not to make mistakes resulting in a tense half of football. AVS were the most threating and they should have found the opener when John Mercado got on the end of a cross that flew over Nuno Macedo in the Oliveirense goal, but Mercado could not direct it into the net instead hitting the chance wide in what would prove a costly miss for AVS. Oliveirense’s best chance in the opening 45 minutes came with the final kick of the half. AVS couldn’t clear the ball, allowing Ibrahima Guirassy to sneak in and hit the post with an effort on the stretch that almost broke the deadlock.
Like in the first half, the second followed a similar script, with AVS causing Oliveirense a lot of issues with a consistent overload becoming more and more dangerous for the Oliveirense backline. AVS could not translate their enterprising play into goals however, and eventually against the run of play it would be Fábio Pereira’s side who would find some attacking class for the game’s opener.
A long ball forward found André Schutte with AVS keeper Pedro Trigueira charging at him well outside the box in no man’s land. Schutte rounded the keeper and onto the wing before passing across to substitute João Paulo, the AVS defence doing well to force Paulo to pass to Zé Pedro, who again was closed down well by AVS as Trigueria had made it back into position. The chance looked to have gone but Zé Pedro steadied himself and curled in a wonderful effort between two defenders and past both keeper Trigueira and Anthony Correia on the line, a goal of magnificent composure.
It was then the post who became the greatest ally of Oliveirense, as Idrissa Dioh met it with a rocket of a shot from range, before the final moments of the game produced a moment that would have surely gone viral all around the footballing world had it succeeded. Goalkeeper Pedro Trigueira picked up the ball from a corner delivery with his back to goal just inside the box, the goalkeeper of the month for August and September then almost guaranteed himself a Puskás Award when he flicked the ball up twice to set himself and hit an unbelievable overhead kick just outside the box which would clip the Unionistas post once again, not something you see every day in football.
The final whistle went, it would indeed be AVS’s first league defeat of the season as Oliveirense finally ended their winless run with a massive performance that sees them just three points off a promotion place. AVS where always going to remain top, and after a 1-1 draw between Nacional and Santa Clara it means Jorge Costa’s men still have breathing room with a five-point cushion.
Player making waves: Yannick Semedo
The player making waves this week is Länk Vilaverdense’s Yannick Semedo. It wasn’t a game of technical brilliance for Länk against Belenenses, but it was a historic game for the side from Vila Verde, as they picked up their first ever win in the second tier.
Yannick Semedo was pivotal in the win playing the full 90 minutes, providing a moment of brilliance to set up Emmanuel Maviram for the opener with a superb first time pass to split open the Belenenses defence. It was a solid display all game in the middle of the park for Semedo, both as an attacking threat and as a defensive leader. The recent Cape Verde international also made a crucial interception and clearance that lead to Vilaverdense’s João Caiado being brought down on the counter by Miguel Tavares for his second yellow and dismissal, leading to Vilaverdense grabbing the winner minutes later with Simon Adjei’s late goal.
Vilaverdense remain bottom of the table, but there has been a notable improvement under new coach Sérgio Machado, as his men pick up a massive three points that sees them now only four away from safety.
Liga II Jornada 9 results:
Mafra 0-1 Leixões
FC Porto B 2-0 Feirense
Os Belenenses 0-2 Vilaverdense
Nacional 1-1 Santa Clara
Benfica B 1-0 Penafiel
AVS 0-1 Oliveirense
Leiria 4-3 Marítimo
Tondela 1-2 Torreense
Paços Ferreira 1-0 Académico Viseu
by José Almeida