Sporting CP fight back in Portimão
The team recover from going behind to win 2-3 against Portimonense SC
Sporting Clube de Portugal took a 2-3 victory over Portimonense SC on the penultimate matchday of the Liga Portugal season, with two goals from second half substitute Pablo Sarabia turning the scoreline around in the second half.
Before kickoff at Portimão Estádio, Sporting CP had conceded the league title to FC Porto, as their rivals' win away at SL Benfica meant that the gap was mathematically insurmountable.
Coach Rúben Amorim made two changes to the starting XI that had featured against Gil Vicente FC: The suspended Luís Neto was out of the squad and Sarabia rotated to the bench, making way for captain Sebastián Coates -back after injury– and Bruno Tabata. Youngster José Marsà was among those called up to travel with the team, in the absence of Zouhair Feddal through injury.
With more possession of the ball from the get-go, Sporting CP quickly took the initiative and created the first opportunities, finding spaces behind an opposing back line of five and sometimes even six players.
The team continued with a mobile trio in attack, this time with Tabata as the new intermediary on his return to Portimão, playing against his former club.
After Pedro Gonçalves and Tabata had initial attempts go off target, Sporting CP found the net in the 12th minute. Tabata chased a lost ball in the Portimonense SC area and opened the scoring, after a good solo initiative by Marcus Edwards.
However, just before half an hour into the game, the script underwent a major upheaval. After Matheus Nunes had shot from afar and had his effort saved by Samuel Portugal, the home side responded with maximum effectiveness in their maiden attacks. First, of a direct free kick that took a decisive deflection off the wall, Carlinhos put them back on terms. From the next move, Welinton Júnior finished a quick transition with a chip over Antonio Adán, turning the score around to 2-1.
A a frenetic phase with several chances followed, mainly for Os Leões . For Portimonense SC, Shoya Nakajima had a shot kept out by Adán, before Sporting CP took the reins of the game again and laid siege to the opposition goal. First, Pedro Porro set up Pedro Gonçalves perfectly, but the forward mishit. Later, Tabata headed an effort onto the crossbar.
The equaliser seemed close, and Porro came very close to surprising Samuel Portugal with a free kick from the wing, but the visitors still trailed at the interval.
For the second half, Amorim moved Ricardo Esgaio (on for Matheus Reis) to the right side of the midfield, switching Gonçalo Inácio to the left side. With Porro increasingly higher up the pitch, the main threat after the restart was by the Spaniard. In the 56th minute, Amorim decided to bring on Sarabia and Manuel Ugarte to replace Pedro Gonçalves and João Palhinha.
Both goalkeepers were called upon, but it was Samuel Portugal who had the most to do. Nuno Santos played through Edwards, but was thwarted by the Portimonense SC custodian.
Finally, Sporting CP pulled level on 70 minutes. A cross by Porro was followed by two deflections; the first off Edwards and the second, decisively, by Sarabia, who turned the ball in at the back post.
The reaction would not stop there, as just five minutes later, the Spanish forward scored again, reaching a precise low cross by Tabata to convert his second goal -to the delight of the travelling Sportinguistas.
Sporting CP would have a goal disallowed for VAR and a Bragança strike kept out by the goalkeeper, but a 2-3 turnaround was enough to give them the three points.
The last match of the Liga Portugal season sees the team play CD Santa Clara next weekend.
Sporting CP: Antonio Adán [GR], Pedro Porro, Gonçalo Inácio, Sebastián Coates [C], Matheus Reis (Ricardo Esgaio 45'), João Palhinha (Manuel Ugarte 56'), Matheus Nunes (Daniel Bragança 61'), Pedro Gonçalves (Pablo Sarabia 56'), Marcus Edwards and Bruno Tabata (Rodrigo Ribeiro 84').