Win against Gil Vicente FC guarantees second place minimum
A 4-1 victory means Sporting CP will have Champions League Group Stage football next term
Sporting Clube de Portugal beat Gil Vicente FC by 4-1 on Matchday 32 of the Liga Portugal season, and secured a lowest possible finish of second place for the current campaign. The team thus have a guaranteed a place in next season's UEFA Champions League Group Stage.
With captain Sebastián Coates unavailable due to injury and Bruno Tabata suspended, coach Rúben Amorim reshuffled his defence to put Gonçalo Inácio in the centre, Luís Neto on the right and Matheus Reis on the left, in addition to bringing back Pedro Porro. In attack, the trident of Marcus Edwards, Pablo Sarabia and Pedro Gonçalves was retained.
As part of a club initiative for Mother's Day in Portugal, the players came out with the names of their mothers on their shirts.
Sporting CP provided the first warning right away: Nuno Santos, from distance, tested the reflexes of goalkeeper Andrew.
As expected, Sporting CP began to dominate against the league's fifth placed side, pushing on the wings in an attempt to find spaces behind the opposing defense. However, it turned out to be from a set piece that they came close to opening the scoring again. Off a free kick on the edge of the area, Sarabia shot powerfully, missing the target by centimetres.
The first goal of the match arrived from a penalty, when Nuno Santos was brought down on 19 minutes and Pablo Sarabia converted for his 18th goal of the season.
Even with the advantage, Sporting CP did not take their foot off the accelerator and remained focused on attacking. After Sarabia had tried his luck on two more occasions -one of them going just wide-, Pedro Porro came close to a fantastic goal with a drive that pushed Andrew to the limit.
It was only a matter of time before the second goal was scored, in the 38th minute. Following a header by Neto, poorly met by the goalkeeper, Marcus Edwards tapped in the rebound to make it 2-0.
Gil Vicente FC managed to pull a goal back through Fran Navarro in the final moments of the first half, and before the whistle Pedro Gonçalves shot wide from inside the area.
On their return from the interval – and after the rugby, swimming and gymnastics teams had been honored at half-time for their respective recent trophies– Sporting CP came back out onto the pitch with an unchanged lineup and with the same hunger. After Sarabia threatened with a shot that went over, the third goal arrived through an own goal by Lucas Cunha, who was attempting to clear a cross from Nuno Santos.
Amorim then brought on Paulinho in place of Edwards, giving a fixed centre forward to the attack, and on his first intervention he backheeled for a long-range shot from Gonçalves -again kept out by Andrew.
The chances followed one another, including a second penalty of the match: In the 63rd minute, from a penalty, Gonçalves scored his 15th goal of 2021/22.
From then on, the home team slowed down and preferred to play in a more reserved fashion. Although Gil Vicente pushed, the more dangerous chances were for Sporting CP, who threatened again through Nuno Santos and Paulinho.
With everything practically decided, the final minutes were notable only for a long range effort wide from Rodrigo Ribeiro, the 17-year-old forward who came on for Sarabia.
Os Leões, who surpassed the hundred-goal mark this season – they now have 102 –, will play their 33rd and penultimate Liga Portugal match on Saturday, May 7th, away to Portimonense SC.
Sporting CP: Antonio Adán [GR], Luís Neto [C], Gonçalo Inácio, Matheus Reis, Pedro Porro, João Palhinha (Manuel Ugarte, 66'), Matheus Nunes (Daniel Bragança, 83'), Nuno Santos, Marcus Edwards ( 56', Paulinho), Pedro Gonçalves (Rúben Vinagre, 67') and Pablo Sarabia (Rodrigo Ribeiro, 84').