"FC Zurich 0-2 Sporting"

Original Date: 15th September 2011
Original Link: http://portugoal.net/index.php/more-europa-league-news/27347-insua-stars-as-sporting-win-in-zurich

Sporting got off to the ideal start in their first game of the Europa League group stages with an away victory over Switzerland’s FC Zurich. Lazio could surprisingly only draw at home to FC Vaslui which means Sporting top Group D after the first round of games.

Sporting began the game in the best possible fashion, after just 3 minutes a Stijn Schaars freekick floated to an unmarked Emiliano Insua, who cleverly turned in midair before heading to the goalkeeper’s opposite side for his first Sporting goal in just his second game. Zurich had only themselves to blame for it, as poor marking left the Argentine with plenty of room, though nothing can be taken away from Insua’s great finish.

The visiting side continued to press Zurich whenever the hosts had possession and when in possession Sporting looked to create down the left side through the impressive Insua and Diego Capel.

FC Zurich’s first chance came in the 16th minute. Ogucihi Onyewu passed the ball back to Rui Patricio who proceeded to pick it up. The Sporting players felt Onyewu had been fouled, which perhaps explains Patricio’s decision to pick up the ball.

The Portugal goalkeeper had given away a free kick in identical circumstances on Saturday against Pacos de Ferreira, a highly disputed decision that led to a goal. Free kicks inside the box are always tricky to defend and Sporting had to rely on luck to survive this one. Ricardo Rodriguez’s shot hit the outside of the post and Sporting survived a genuine moment of danger.

The Lions went back on to the attack and a Stijn Schaars free kick was well saved by Zurich goalkeeper, Johnny Leoni, who palmed it out to Diego Capel on the outside of the box. The Spaniard pulled the trigger and Leoni once again made an impressive save.

But Leoni could do nothing about the next Sporting chance. Once again Insua and Capel linked up on the left-hand side, and Insua found himself in lots of space to play a square pass for Ricky van Wolfswinkel to tap home. The Dutchman scored his second goal in two games after opening his Sporting account at the weekend.

Zurich failed to create much in the attacking third. The Swiss team tried to play long balls behind the defence to catch out the centre-back partnership of Onyewu and Rodriguez but the pair were capably dealing with the threat.

In the 26th minute a neat interchange outside the box fed Alexandre Alphonse, but his pass to the lively Yasine Chikhaoul was well cut out by the Sporting defence. Sporting went into the break after undoubtedly their most confident half so far this season.

In the second half Zurich stepped up their game, with Sporting taking their foot off the pedal and happy to sit on the 2-goal cushion. Zurich had their chances, the impressive Admir Mehmedi hitting the post in the 57th minute after weaving past Insua and Alberto Rodriguez.

That scare may well have been a deciding factor in Domingos Paciencia’s first substitution of the game, bringing on midfielder Andre Santos for the lively forward Andre Carrillo, which meant moving Bruno Pereirinha on to the right and Santos into the middle. Paciencia then brought on Diego Rubio for goal-scorer Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and the final change was a far more defensive one. Evaldo came on for the very impressive Diego Capel, with Insua moving into Capel’s former position.

On 76 minutes Ricardo Rodriguez, the man who hit the freekick onto the post in the first half, stepped up to take another one but this time the shot smashed the bar instead of the post with Patricio beaten. At the other end of the pitch Diego Rubio had a great chance to open his account with the club in a competitive match, after a typically battling Fabian Rinaudo found space for the Chilean forward but Rubio’s resulting shot went narrowly wide.

Zurich refused to lie down and gave Sporting some worrying moments in the closing stages. A goalmouth scramble could so easily have ended up in a Zurich goal and in the dying seconds of the game Alexandre Alphonse headed a free header over the bar from a corner.

In the end though a 2-0 win away from home in the Europa League is a very positive result and for the first time since the 24th January of this year Sporting have won two games on the bounce.

"Sporting 2-3 Maritimo"

Original Date: 29th August 2011
Original Link: http://www.portugoal.net/index.php/more-liga-sagres-news/26826-maritimo-stun-sporting-at-the-alvalade

Sporting slumped to a 3-2 home defeat against Maritimo last night to continue their hugely disappointing start to the season. Izmailov gave the Lions a half-time lead, but two quick-fire goals from Miranda and Sami turned it around after the break.

Jeffren equalised for the hosts, but a stoppage time header from Baba won all three points for the islanders, and left Sporting with just two points from their opening three Liga matches.

Paciencia went with the same starting eleven that had picked up Sporting’s first victory of the season against Nordsjælland in midweek. Pedro Martins only made one change from the Funchal club’s loss to Braga the previous weekend, Olberdam starting ahead of Baba Diawara.  

A recurring theme for Sporting so far this season has been frustration in the final third in spite of the midfield usually dominating proceedings. For the most part the back four has done its bit with only Wilson Eduardo’s brilliant strike on the opening day of the season a stain on the defensive record. There were signs early on though that this could change; Rui Patricio had to make a superb diving save to prevent Olberdam from heading in from a corner kick.  

The second recurring theme for Sporting has involved referees. The farcical events of last weekend against Beira-Mar will not be forgotten but there were certainly some decisions that went against the Lisbon club. Evaldo had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside when replays showed that the left back was in fact onside after he tapped the ball in from Pecanha’s spill of a Stijn Schaars free kick.

When Sporting did take the lead there was no doubt about it. Marat Izmailov has done well at the start of this season to put forward his case to be playing in spite of the mass amount of new faces. His 38th-minute strike from outside the area left Pecanha helpless.

At half time it seemed like the beginnings of a straightforward home win for Sporting, although the set pieces of Maritimo will certainly have been a concern.

Huge credit must go to the Madeira club for the way they exploited this soon after the second half, with a Robson forcing Patricio to tip a header from a free kick over the bar. From the resulting corner Maritimo equalised, this time Rafael Miranda steering a looping header over Patricio in the 48th minute.

Maritimo got another only four minutes later, when Sami struck a powerful long-range effort that Rui Patricio’s outstretched hand failed to deviate from its path. The bigger concern will be the lack of closing down from the Sporting defence but nothing can be taken away from the sheer power of the strike.

Sporting were shell-shocked and straight away changes were made. Jeffren came on for Diego Capel, and Valeri Bojinov, who had made his debut on Thursday, came on for Yannick Djalo. 

Jeffren, who has been one of the most impressive of the new batch of Sporting players, equalised in the 75th minute with a free kick but injured himself in the process, leaving the hosts a man down for the rest of the match given that Paciencia had introduced Ricky van Wolfswinkel for the misfiring Helder Postiga ten minutes earlier.

Maritimo now were playing against ten men and the manner of their winning goal was familiar. In the 91st minute another corner found Baba in acres of space to leave the goalkeeper stranded and finish off a fantastic result for the Verde-Rubros.  

The Alvalade rang out with boos after the final whistle. There has so far been a distinct lack of chemistry in the new-look Sporting, although the side was largely made up of players who were already at the club (only two new signings were in the starting XI). The result allowed the impressive Maritimo to leapfrog Sporting in the early standings, with the Lions languishing in the lower reaches of the table.