In a recurring theme in Portuguese football in recent years, FC Porto finished clear at the top of the table in their third league title success in as many seasons. Under the steady hand of coach Jesualdo Ferreira, Os Dragões (The Dragons) scored an average of two goals a game to just 0.4 conceded, the division's best on both counts.
Vital cogs in the Porto machine were wing wizard Ricardo
"Harry Potter" Quaresma and Argentinian duo Lucho
Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez, the latter pair topping the top
flight's assists' chart and scorers' tables
respectively with 10 assists and 24 goals. All of which contributed
to Ferreira's men sealing the title with five games to spare
after a stunning 6-0 demolition of Estrela Amadora, match number
100 at home fortress the Estadio do Dragao.
"We proved that we're the most consistent team, the one that played the best football and scored the most goals. This squad is packed with character, from the players right through to the coaching staff," said defender Bruno Alves, another man to have done his burgeoning reputation no harm at all. Also catching the eye were Paulo Assuncao, Tarik Sektioui and Jose Bosingwa, the latter set for a big-money move to Chelsea.
Sporting Lisbon, meanwhile, were able to snatch second place and
direct qualification for the UEFA Champions League late on after an
inconsistent campaign, while Vitoria Guimaraes will take part in
the competition's preliminary phase after finishing third.
Fourth-placed Benfica must make do with a place in the UEFA Cup,
where they will be joined by Vitoria Setubal and Maritimo.
Guimaraes upset the odds
The 2007/08 season turned out to be a truly historic one for northern side Vitoria Guimaraes. Masterminded by coach Manuel Cajuda, the newly promoted outfit capped a remarkable return to top-tier football by sealing third place and a shot at a lucrative berth in the Champions League proper.
"They said that Vitoria wouldn't be able to keep it up,
that they wouldn't be able to handle the pressure. But the team
held firm right to the end, because they learned as they went
along," said coach Cajuda of the crowning glory of his 25-year
career. "It's all down to hard work and it's a real
privilege to be able to celebrate this success with such a
fantastic group of players."
And while the whole of Guimaraes revelled in their team's highest-ever league finish, the fans packing Benfica's Estadio da Luz were experiencing the full gambit of footballing emotions. Racked with disappointment at missing out on a shot at Europe's elite competition, the Águias (Eagles) supporters were still able to give a rousing send-off to retiring midfield magician Rui Costa.
"Thank you for everything you have given me, and for the affection you always showed me," said the 36-year-old Portugal legend as he addressed the fans. "I'm really moved, but also extremely proud. I'm finishing my career tired, exhausted even, but very happy. I'm bowing out in my home stadium and surrounded by my people."
Relegation issues still to be settled
After an impressive 2006/07 campaign, Pacos da Ferreira came down to earth with a bang. Having exited the UEFA Cup at the first hurdle at the hands of AZ Alkmaar, Pacos plunged into a downward spiral on the domestic front too, finding themselves just one place off the bottom going into the final game of the season. Needing to beat already-relegated Uniao Leiria to overhaul Leixoes, losers against Maritimo, Eder Gaucho equalised for Leiria in injury time to leave Pacos sweating on the outcome of the Apito Dorado (Golden Whistle) match-fixing case. Should Boavista fail to win their appeal against relegation, Pacos may yet survive to battle the big guns another day.
Trofense and Rio Ave, first and second respectively in this year's Liga Vitalis (second division), will both be competing in Portugal's top tier come the 2008/09 campaign.
Consequences of the
Apito Dourado case
On Friday, the Portuguese Professional Football League's Disciplinary Committee announced its eagerly awaited verdict on the corruption case widely known as the "Golden Whistle". Boavista were the team hit hardest, condemned as they were to a place in the second division, while runaway leaders FC Porto were deducted six points.
Sure to have more of an impact on the Dragons' fortunes was
the two-year suspension imposed on their influential President
Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa. Also suspended were former Boavista
President Joao Loureiro (four years) and Joao Bartolomeu (one year)
of relegated Uniao Leiria, who were also docked three points. All
of these sentences were accompanied by financial sanctions, while a
number of match officials have also been removed from service.
Appeals against each of these punishments may now be lodged with the Portuguese Football Association's Disciplinary Tribunal.