Football: - Around The World: Boavista ready to constrict `big three'

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The Independent Online

THE RACE for the Portuguese title could go all the way to the final day and, for the first time in 53 years, a club outside the "big three" may lift the trophy.

At this stage last season, Porto held a commanding nine-point lead over Benfica and they maintained that gap as they cruised to their fourth successive league triumph. With just 10 games to go in the current campaign Porto are again setting the pace, but Benfica and the outsiders Boavista are just one point behind.

Benfica took advantage of a tense 0-0 draw in the derby between Boavista and Porto on Sunday to close on the leaders. Graeme Souness's side travelled across Lisbon to Alverca and came away with a 2-0 win, with the Welsh striker Dean Saunders opening the scoring.

Boavista have won the Portuguese Cup five times but have never come close to lifting the league title, which has been the exclusive preserve of the "big three" - Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon - for the past 50 years. Since the league started in 1935, the only club outside that trio to win the title was Belenenses in 1946.


THE ALBANIAN First Division team Burreli have ended a 10-day hunger strike launched in protest against penalties imposed by the Balkan country's football federation.

Burreli's 17 players halted the strike on Sunday after the federation warned them either to play their next match or suffer relegation to the Second Division. The club, who had three of their players rushed to hospital after the strike was called off, will play Apollonia Fier in Tirana today. They were banned from playing at home for four matches after gunshots rang out during a match against SK Tirana in December and two of their players kicked and punched the referee.


THE FORMER Newcastle striker Faustino Asprilla has been restored to the Colombian national side after his banishment from the World Cup - but he is still not a happy man. Last week he complained that he was only given economy-class tickets to fly from Italy, where he plays for Parma, to Miami, where he scored twice in last month's 3-3 draw with Germany. "To belong to the national team is to suffer," he said. The Colombian Football Federation has responded by telling him not to complain in public.