Turnaround takes Sporting CP back top
A 3-1 win over Gil Vicente returns Os Leões to the summit
Sporting Clube de Portugal moved back to the position of outright leaders in Liga Portugal, defeating Gil Vicente FC 3-1 in the closing game of Matchday 12.
They started out at a disadvantage, thanks to Rúben Fernandes' goal for the visitors, but gave an emphatic response as Nuno Santos equalised before the break and, in the second half, Viktor Gyökeres scored twice in the space of just four minutes.
Rúben Amorim returned Nuno Santos and Marcus Edwards to the starting XI, as well as Sebastián Coates – who was honoured with a special shirt worn by the team onto the pitch, celebrating his becoming the foreigner with the most games played for Sporting CP.
Gil Vicente came into the game in 13th place and still winless away from home.
Playing in Alvalade, in front of their home crowd, Sporting CP showed they wanted to get ahead early on. In the opening moments of the match, Morita was set up to score from close range, before Félix Correia snatched the ball away from him. Before the first ten minutes were out, Gyökeres thought he had scored, but was offside.
As the pace dropped, the home team remained on top. Gyökeres found himself in space and Edwards broke through the lines through his technical skill. However, in the 34th minute, Gil Vicente FC, against the run of play, made it 0-1 through Rúben Fernandes, who headed in a free kick.
The response was almost immediate. After Gyökeres was just centimetres away from meeting a cross in, in the 43rd minute Nuno Santos took advantage of a poor clearance to bring Sporting CP back on terms, with a shot that hit Pedro Tiba before entering the net.
Before half-time, Pedro Gonçalves could have made it 2-1, but he sent his effort over the crossbar.
For the restart, Amorim made three changes, with Jeremiah St. Juste, Geny Catamo and Matheus Reis coming on. His team came back out with the same intensity they had shown at the end of the first half, and Ricardo Esgaio gave the first warning, forcing Andrew into a parry away.
Then, the Viktor Gyökeres Show began. The team's top scorer struck twice in quick succession, first smashing the ball in from the heart of the area when Gil Vicente failed to clear, then in the 56th minute knocking in a cross from Pedro Gonçalves, increasing the lead to 3-1.
Always switched on and far superior to their opponents, Sporting CP then suffered a setback with Jeremiah St. Juste being forced to go off due to injury, being replaced by Eduardo Quaresma.
Soon after, Gyökeres had another goal disallowed for offside. Os Leões then withdrew in the final 20 minutes, so as not to take any risks, allowing more of the ball to Gil Vicente but with Adán never truly tested.
Gyökeres was on the verge of a hat trick, first with a shot saved by the goalkeeper and then with a long strike that went just outside the post. The newly introduced Paulinho also tried his luck, but the score remained 3-1 at the final whistle.
With this triumph, Sporting CP are now two points clear of SL Benfica in second place, and three clear of third-placed FC Porto.
Next up is a demanding trip to Guimarães to face Vitória SC on Saturday, before returning to European action, on December 14th, in the final UEFA Europa League group stage game against SK Sturm Graz.
Sporting CP: Antonio Adán [GK], Ousmane Diomande, Sebastián Coates [C], Gonçalo Inácio (Jeremiah St. Juste, 45', Jeremiah St. Juste, 67'), Ricardo Esgaio (Geny Catamo, 45'), Hidemasa Morita , Morten Hjulmand, Nuno Santos (Matheus Reis, 45'), Marcus Edwards, Pedro Gonçalves (Paulinho, 84') and Viktor Gyökeres.