* Porto won eight of the last ten championships
* Coach Pereira seizes key trophy of the season
* Thousands flock to Dragao stadium to greet team
(adds quotes, byline)
By Daniel Alvarenga
LISBON, April 29 (Reuters) - 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
"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
(Reporting By Daniel Alvarenga, editing by Dave Thompson)
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