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Season review: Portugal

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 12.41CET
FC Porto retained the title to lift their 26th crown and a sixth in seven years while A. Académica de Coimbra made it a memorable season by lifting their first Portuguese Cup since 1936.
by José Nuno Pimentel
Season review: Portugal
Hulk's 16 goals were central to Porto's success this season ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012, 12.41CET

Season review: Portugal

FC Porto retained the title to lift their 26th crown and a sixth in seven years while A. Académica de Coimbra made it a memorable season by lifting their first Portuguese Cup since 1936.

FC Porto retained the title to lift their 26th crown and a sixth in seven years, losing just once as they finished six points clear of rivals SL Benfica. It was also a season to remember for A. Académica de Coimbra, who claimed the Portuguese Cup for the second time in their history and the first since 1939.

Champions: FC Porto
After a good start, including a Portuguese Super Cup win, Porto found themselves five points adrift of leaders SL Benfica at the end of January following what proved to be their only defeat of the season at the hands of Gil Vicente FC. The return of experienced midfielder Lucho González proved crucial as Porto impressed in the second half of the campaign.

Pereira's charges dropped just four points in their final 13 games, which included wins at Benfica and SC Braga, as they claimed the title with two games to spare. "Only the most consistent team would take the title and we had the best attack and the best defence," said Pereira, who succeeded André Villas-Boas at the helm in June 2011. "In the decisive matches, the team came through and that showed the character of the players."

Cup final: Sporting Clube de Portugal 0-1 A. Académica de Coimbra
UEFA Europa League semi-finalists Sporting improved under new coach Ricardo Sá Pinto in the second half of the season and the Lisbon club were strong favourites going into the final against an Académica team that narrowly avoided relegation. Portuguese Cup final history has shown that the favourites do not always prevail and the underdogs, who beat champions Porto on their way to the final, stunned their opponents by opening the scoring in the fourth minute through Marinho. Sá Pinto's men failed to find an equaliser and Académica held on to claim their second Portuguese Cup, and a first since 1939.

European places*
FC Porto – UEFA Champions League group stage
SL Benfica – UEFA Champions League group stage
SC Braga – UEFA Champions League play-off
A. Académica de Coimbra – UEFA Europa League group stage
Sporting Clube de Portugal – UEFA Europa League play-off
CS Marítimo – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Hulk (FC Porto)
Named Porto captain in early February during his fourth season at the club, Hulk showed his class once again by producing stellar performances when his side needed them most. The Brazilian international opened the scoring in a crucial 3-2 win at Benfica in early March and his added-time penalty the following week prevented a shock home defeat against Académica. The 25-year-old kept Porto on course for the title with the winner against Braga in early April and struck twice in the following three games to take his tally for the season to 16 as Porto triumphed.

One to watch: Nélson Oliveira (SL Benfica)
Oliveira only started his first Liga match in March 2012 but grabbed his first goal for the Eagles in the 2-0 League Cup victory against CD Santa Clara. Some eye-catching performances followed with a goal on his UEFA Champions League debut in the round of 16 triumph against FC Zenit St Petersburg an undoubted highlight. Oliveira has pace and strength, two attributes which earned him his first full international cap against Poland at the end of February and a place in Paulo Bento's provisional UEFA EURO 2012 squad.

Surprise package: CS Marítimo
The Madeira club were above Lisbon giants Sporting for most of the season before eventually slipping to fifth towards the end of the season. Danilo Dias, Roberto Sousa and Pedro Martins were the star performers in a team which performed consistently to secure European football again next season despite losing Kléber to Porto at the end of the last campaign and Baba Diawara to Sevilla FC in January.

Number: 55
The number of games Porto went unbeaten. An impressive 703 days after their previous defeat on 28 February 2010 [3-0 at Sporting], Porto succumbed 3-1 at Gil Vicente, just one game short of equalling the Portuguese record of 56 held by Benfica.

Leading scorer: Óscar Cardozo, SL Benfica (20 goals)

Relegated: CD Feirense, UD Leiria

Promoted: GD Estoril-Praia, Moreirense FC

"I am humble enough to admit it and to know that I am still growing as a coach. I believe I can become better in the future, but I am not making any promises."
Vítor Pereira refused to get carried away following a successful first season in charge after making the step up from assistant to replace Villas-Boas as coach in June 2011.

Last updated: 10/07/12 13.53CET

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