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Photo by Isabel Silva, José Lorvão

Advantage Sporting CP in Taça de Portugal

By Sporting CP
29 Feb, 2024

A 2-1 win over SL Benfica gives Os Leões the aggregate lead

Sporting Clube de Portugal took an aggregate lead in the Taça de Portugal semifinals, with a 2-1 win against SL Benfica. Goals for Pedro Gonçalves and Viktor Gyökeres gave the team victory, and they will meet their local rivals once again at Estádio da Luz on April 3rd to decide who will go to Jamor for the final.

Coach Rúben Amorim made four changes to his starting XI: Antonio Adán, Gonçalo Inácio, Nuno Santos and Francisco Trincão were rotated out  and Franco Israel, Eduardo Quaresma, Matheus Reis and Marcus Edwards came in, whilst Paulinho returned from injury on the bench.

Sporting CP quickly began to dominate what would be an overwhelming first half from them. After eight minutes, Sebastián Coates found Geny Catamo with a great pass and he tried to serve up a ball to Viktor Gyökeres, but an opposition defender cut him off. Soon after, a penalty was appealed for when Gonçalves went down in a tussle with João Neves, but the referee allowed the action to continue.

The scoring was opened after nine minutes, as a perfect cross from Morten Hjulmand found Gonçalves at the far post, and he headed in perfectly off the post for his 14th goal of the 2023/24 season.

With a 1-0 lead, Sporting CP did not back down, and even attacked more and pressed very high, making it very difficult for SL Benfica to bring the ball out. On one of his characteristic runs, released by Hjulmand, Gyökeres went through and had his shot bounce off a defender for a corner. Gonçalves sent a corner into the heart of the area thereafter, and the Swede once again saw his attack blocked.

The one-way traffic continued and, in the 29th minute, Geny Catamo cut in very well from the right and tried to set up a teammate, but the defence cut it out. A free kick met by Ousmane Diomande also provided a chance, ending up in SL Benfica goalkeeper Trubin's hands.

SL Benfica started to press harder and higher, but Sporting CP were very solid comfortable, with the defensive line reacting well to play. Gyökeres continued to give his markers a lot of trouble and, in the 35th minute, carved out a shot for the visiting goalkeeper to save. Shortly afterwards, the striker shot into the side netting.

One of best opportunities to add to the lead came in the 44th minute, when a failed intercaption by SL Benfica resulted in the ball falling to Marcus Edwards. The Englishman, in an excellent position, could not time his shot well and was denied. SL Benfica only threatened in added time, with Otamendi's header off a corner kept out by Franco Israel.

Upon the restart, Sporting CP had a penalty kick awarded in their favour in the 47th minute for a foul on Edwards, but it was overruled for a previous offside by Viktor Gyökeres. Shortly afterwards, Geny Catamo had a shot that went slightly over the crossbar.

The second goal came soon, when Catamo played a magnificent trivela pass, releasing Gyökeres. He cut in from the right, held off Otamendi and beat Trubin at his near post for his 31st goal of the season.

Sporting CP did not take their foot off the accelerator and continued to be completely on top of proceedings. Gonçalves threatened with a direct free kick in the 57th minute and then Edwards had a shot blocked, whilst from one of SL Benfica's very rare attacks, João Mário shot for an easy save by Franco Israel.

However, against the run of play, SL Benfica scored through Aursnes and shortly afterwards believed they had grabbed an equaliser, but it was disallowed for offside.

With 15 minutes remaining, Ricardo Esgaio came on to replace Marcus Edwards and immediately pushed to make it 3-1 with a shot that went over the top.

At the other end, António Silva headed for another calm intervention by Franco Israel. Before the end, late substitute Nuno Santos struck in stoppage time with a phenomenal goal, but had his effort disallowed for offside.

Os Leões now hold the advantage going into the second leg, but return to Liga Portugal action this Sunday with a game against SC Farense -as they look to overtake SL Benfica in that competition.

Sporting CP: Franco Israel [GK], Eduardo Quaresma (Jeremiah St. Juste, 90+1'), Sebastián Coates [C], Ousmane Diomande, Geny Catamo (Nuno Santos, 86'), Morten Hjulmand (Daniel Bragança, 90+ 1'), Hidemasa Morita, Matheus Reis, Marcus Edwards (Ricardo Esgaio, 74'), Pedro Gonçalves (Paulinho, 90+1') and Viktor Gyökeres.