World Football - Porto win eighth title in 10 years
Mon, 30 Apr 00:01:00 2012
Porto clinched their 26th Portuguese Premier League title after fierce rivals Benfica slipped to a 2-2 draw at Rio Ave on Sunday, extending their decade-long domination of Portuguese football.
The northern club won 2-0 at Maritimo on Saturday thanks to two penalties by Brazil winger Hulk.
Second-placed Benfica's draw left Porto with a six-point advantage and with only two matches remaining the "Dragons" have a better head-to-head record.
The title win means Porto, European champions in 1987 and 2004, have won eight league trophies in the last 10 seasons.
Thousands of Porto fans cheered and chanted in downtown Porto as the squad celebrated on a balcony in the Dragao stadium.
"This championship was very complicated but what counts is that we won it in the end," Hulk told Portuguese television.
"I was watching Benfica's match in a Brazilian restaurant and would prefer to have won the title on the pitch but this also counts."
The feat is a major achievement for Porto coach Vitor Pereira, who took over from Andre Villas-Boas in June last year, although it will be Porto's only trophy this season.
"It is not easy to substitute a coach that won so much as Andre did. This year was one of learning and I am sure that there are still many titles to be won and I feel it is my destiny to give this club many more titles," a smiling Pereira said moments after having been washed over with beer by celebrating fans.
"Today's joy comes from deep inside".
Pereira struggled at times to live up to his predecessor's glorious 2010-11 season but will take satisfaction from the domestic league trophy despite falling short of last year's treble of league, Cup and Europa League.
Porto were humbled in the Champions League, stunned twice by underrated APOEL. They drew 1-1 at home and lost 2-1 in Nicosia, exiting at the group phase. They went into the Europa League but were knocked out by Manchester City in the round of 32.
They also suffered an early exit from the Portuguese Cup but Pereira expertly managed to recover in the league after Benfica led by five points in February. One of the season's key moments was Porto's 3-2 victory over Benfica in a "Clasico" in March.
"Thank you to all those who kept believing in us. The group stayed tight even in the toughest moments and we managed to overcome adversity," said a grinning Joao Moutinho.
Porto kept the backbone of last year's successful squad, with only striker Radamel Falcao and midfielder Ruben Micael as noteworthy departures.
Hulk and promising young Colombian James Rodriguez stood out as the two top scorers while hard-working midfielder Moutinho and winter signing Lucho Gonzalez played important parts.
Pereira, 43, previously Villas-Boas's assistant at Porto, had previously managed clubs in the lower divisions and spent two seasons in charge of Porto youth teams.
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