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Porto’s domestic dominance continued, despite the loss of several key payers

By Pedro Pinto
Once again the Portuguese Liga was painted in tones of blue and white as Porto won their fourth straight title. Their supremacy shone through during the second half of the season when they won 13 of their 15 games, including a streak of 10 in a row. The northern side had the best attack, the best defence, and lost only twice in 30 matches.

As usual, Porto’s success was based on their determination to remain faithful to a system that has been in place for years. Even though the club continues to lose quality youngsters every season, they still find a way to get the right pieces to fit the puzzle. At the start of the 2008-09 campaign the departures of Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Quaresma and Paulo Assuncao were expected to weaken the champions, but president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa found the right replacements and manager Jesualdo Ferreira integrated them perfectly.

There was Tomas Costa, who came from Rosario Central in Argentina, Cristian Rodriguez, the Uruguayan winger snatched from Benfica, and the promising Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernando, who lived up to his nickname of “the Squid” by spreading his tentacles all over the pitch.

However, the glue that held all the pieces together was Lucho Gonzalez. The influential midfielder set the tempo and made sure strikers Lisandro Lopez, Hulk and Ernesto Farias got plenty of service throughout the season.

The Dragons also beat Pacos Ferreira 1-0 in the Portuguese Cup Final with a goal from Lisandro to complete their sixth domestic double.

The runners-up spot was taken by Sporting Lisbon for the second year running. The Lions ran the champions close all season long but, in the end, a mixture of inexperience and injuries to key players hindered their title aspirations. Once again, Liedson was their main striker and Joao Moutinho the top performer. Towards the end of the season, rumours concerning the future of manager Paulo Bento intensified, but with presidential elections around the corner and the favourite candidate wanting him to stay, Bento was expected to carry on at least for another season.

Benfica continued their “one year and out” policy with Quique Flores – their 10th coach in nine seasons – who left at the end of the season and was replaced by Jorge Jesus.

The Spaniard lost the fans with his insistence on playing only one up front during the decisive period of the campaign. By the time he had changed to a diamond formation, and placed Oscar Cardozo next to Nuno Gomes, it was too late and three defeats in six games at the business end of things erased any hopes the Eagles had of winning the title or qualifying for the Champions League.

A notable mention goes to Nacional and their top scorer Nene. The side from Madeira clinched fourth place, equalling their highest-ever finish, and they did it thanks in great part to the Brazilian forward.

Looking ahead to next season, the Algarve will be represented in the top flight for the first time in eight years after Olhanense secured promotion from the Liga de Honra.

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