The 2017 Macau Elite League reached its conclusion this weekend with Benfica de Macau confirming their 4th title in a row, putting an end to a closely fought battle with C.P.K. and Monte Carlo throughout much of the season. Macau U23 and Lai Chi both suffered relegation to the 2nd division.
Perhaps the most crucial match in determining the league champions was the game between C.P.K. and Benfica de Macau in round 16, and with C.P.K. leading the pack with one point more than their opponents at that point, a win in this match would have meant that C.P.K. would have had a clear run to clinching their first ever domestic league title. Monte Carlo were also keeping one eye on the match, since a draw would have put the former champions in the lead and with a big chance of winning the 2017 season.
The match ended in a 2-0 win for Benfica with goals scored by Marco Meireles and Carlos Leonel, in a tense encounter that saw C.P.K trying to exploit on the counter attack, but Benfica’s experienced players held firm to take the 3 points and also the lead in the league standings.
Their victory lifted them to the summit of the table with one point more than Monte Carlo and two more than C.P.K., with only two matches remaining. From the three championship hopefuls, Benfica had the more difficult matches to end the season, with their final fixture being against Sporting Macau in one of the biggest matches in Macau – the “Portuguese classico”. Due to Sporting’s loss of financial backing this season, however, the previous game between the two sides had ended in a 9-0 win for Benfica.
In the end though, C.P.K. made life easy for last year’s champions after they dropped points by drawing 1-1 with Policia, ending their hopes of winning the title. This meant that the race was now between Benfica and Monte Carlo, with the former facing Cheng Fung whilst Benfica and Sporting battled it out. Both teams did their job and trashed their respective opponents with Benfica’s match ending in a 7-1 win and Monte Carlo romping to victory by 9-1, but due to Benfica’s slender lead at the top of the division, this meant they secured a fourth league title in a row.
The relegation fight also remained wide open in the last round of matches with three teams fighting it out to avoid the drop. Macau U23 and Lai Chi were the eventual two teams to be relegated, making Policia the lucky team that escaped relegation to the 2nd division.
Sporting Macau, Ka I, Cheng Fung and Kei Lun all ended with mid table finishes after a quiet season, safely away from relegation but lagging way behind the teams at the top of the table.
The title of top scorer was also won by a Benfica player, with Carlo Leonel scoring 23 goals, this being the second straight year that the Portuguese-born striker claimed this honour. “I’m already thinking ahead to the Macau FA Cup, a potential 5th title and also the AFC Cup. I’m always looking forward.”, said Leonel after the win over Sporting. “Everyone wants to win the best striker title – even Batista (Benfica’s goalkeeper) wants to win it, so I’m really happy!”
Benfica also booked their place in the AFC Cup group stages, at least in theory, since starting in the 2018 season, the AFC demands that the teams entering in the AFC Cup need to comply with the AFC Club Licensing Regulations. Benfica head coach Duarte Alves explained that the club are currently working hard in order to comply with it. “The AFC now demands that a club entering in the AFC Cup must comply with the Club Licensing, which is really demanding and includes account auditing and other elements. For that we will need help from everyone, including players since most of them are not fully professional players, and the Macau FA as well as public entities like the Macau Sports Institute. We’ll have to wait and see if we can get the licensing since it’s the first time that a Macanese club is applying.”
The final of the FA Cup between Benfica and Monte Carlo will take place on the 8th of July.