Bettencourt falls on his Sporting sword as front two maintain momentum
ROUND 16 RESULTS Fri 14 Jan Portimonense 0-3 Braga Sat 15 Jan Sporting 2-3 PaÃÂ§os Ferreira, VitÃÂ³ria GuimarÃÂ£es 1-0 Olhanense Sun 16 Jan AcadÃÂ©mica 0-1 Benfica, FC Porto 3-1 Naval, UniÃÂ£o Leiria 0-3 Beira-Mar, VitÃÂ³ria SetÃÂºbal 2-4 MarÃÂtimo, Nacional 1-0 Rio Ave
My friends, is there a better way to start the second half of the season than with an Earth-shattering event? OK, hyperbole perhaps, but hereÃ¢ÂÂs the highlight of the weekend: shortly after his team lost at home against PaÃÂ§os de Ferreira, Sporting supremo JosÃÂ© Eduardo Bettencourt announced he was stepping down from his post.
Ironically, that comes after manager Paulo SÃÂ©rgio declared he wanted to win 46 points out of a possible 45. If that was a measure of his ambition and optimism, the good news is that according to that logic, it's still possible to get 46 points out of 42Ã¢ÂÂ¦
Clearly, at this stage, supporters will be glad to see the back of Bettencourt but there's less pleasure about the timing of the decision. Was it a carefully deliberated move or simply a knee-jerk reaction that will do more damage to the club?
It's up for grabs now: supremo-free Sporting
Meanwhile, front-runners Porto and Benfica did their job by winning against Naval and AcadÃÂ©mica, respectively, though the Eagles can count themselves lucky: the only goal of the game was both offside and handball. (Do double negatives cancel each other out?).
Moreover, they played against 10 men for 55 minutes, but failed to kill off the match and almost allowed AcadÃÂ©mica to score. Still, they retained their winning streak and kept their faint title hopes alive.
On the up
Naturally, we have to mention PaÃÂ§os de Ferreira because of the way they played against the Lions. It wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the Ã¢ÂÂhit them on the counterÃ¢ÂÂ textbook win against one of the Big Three; PaÃÂ§os played well, created opportunities and even with the blatant dive that shouldnÃ¢ÂÂt have gifted them a penalty, they were deserving winners.
Of course, one has to wonder: if PaÃÂ§os had played like that every weekend, wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt they be higher up the table? Bear in mind that they've won six of their 19 points (31.5%) against Sporting!
Then there's Leonardo Jardim's outfit Beira-Mar, again impressive and looking a genuine top-half side. In a match between the two surprise packages of the competition, Beira-Mar went to Leiria and got the three points in style with a resounding 3-0 win.
MarÃÂtimo also grabbed a morale-boosting 4-2 win at SetÃÂºbal that will certainly restore some of their confidence. Having been treading water around the relegation zone for most of the first half of the season, they might be setting sail towards their usual mid-table position. They now have 19 points from 16 games and will next host Sporting in what will be a very interesting match.
Maritimo: Getting ship-shape
If the Portugeezer liked a good bet, he'd put all his money on Portimonense getting relegated. They hosted Braga on Friday and showed that they're quite frankly not top-flight material.
Sometimes, a bad position in the league can be attributed to poor team chemistry, bad management and off-the field distractions. Other times, itÃ¢ÂÂs just a lack of quality, and their squad is not good enough. Even Naval, who have been basement boys for a while now, stand a better chance of staying up. The two teams will face each other next weekend: which one will get a lifeline?
Sporting, Sporting, Sporting... They say that Ã¢ÂÂif you canÃ¢ÂÂt stand the heat, get out of the kitchenÃ¢ÂÂ and for JosÃÂ© Eduardo Bettencourt the insurmountable pressure from the supporters surpassed his threshold after the shocking 2-3 home loss.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs difficult to rate BettencourtÃ¢ÂÂs job at Sporting as passable. Questionable decisions like selling Paulo SÃÂ©rgio and selling JoÃÂ£o Moutinho weakened his position and the low standards of football played by the team ensured his departure would be more when than if.
But whether or not heÃ¢ÂÂs the main responsible of what is happening at Sporting, there is one thing even the most ardent JEB backer will have trouble answering: why the heck did he bring JosÃÂ© Couceiro to the club if his position was even more insecure than we thought? Costinha, Paulo SÃÂ©rgio and Couceiro Ã¢ÂÂ all of them hand-picked by Bettencourt Ã¢ÂÂ are now scratching their heads over what to do next as the club tries to recover from this blow.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a pity, because Sporting donÃ¢ÂÂt deserve this. They should focus on the Academy formula once again, as two of the few bright spots this season have been two youngsters AndrÃÂ© Santos and Diogo SalomÃÂ£o. Hopefully, for the good of the club and the league, the future will be slightly greenerÃ¢ÂÂ¦.