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Sporting CP stifled in derby defeat to SL Benfica

By Sporting CP
19 Apr, 2022

​An attacking setup ends in a 0-2 loss at the Estádio José Alvalade

Sporting Clube de Portugal hosted SL Benfica in the Lisbon derby on Liga Portugal Matchday 30, losing 0-2 to their cross-town rivals as an attacking strategy failed to pay off.

Before kickoff, Jérémy Mathieu was honoured at the Estádio José Alvalade for the years he played at Sporting CP (from 2017/2018 to 2019/2020), receiving a shirt and a commemorative plaque from club president Frederico Varandas in front of the fans.

Sporting CP made three changes to the starting lineup, with João Palhinha, Nuno Santos and Paulinho brought in.

The first opportunity to score came in the ninth minute, when Pedro Gonçalves served up a ball to Paulinho that the striker shot wide, with only Odysseas to beat.
Against the run of play, Benfica scored the opener, as a long pass from Vertonghen found Darwin, who struck past Antonio Adán.

Sporting CP went in search of an equaliser, and In the 21st minute Gonçalo Inácio appeared in an excellent position to finish off a chance, but preferred to try to set up a teammate.

Benfica rarely left their own half and instead waited on any error from Os Leões, who were more adventurous in their approach.

In the 30th minute, Gonçalves shot wide. At the opposite end, Diogo Gonçalves shot hard to force Adán into a stop. Sporting CP reacted with their best chance so far: Pablo Sarabia picked out Gonçalves, whose attempt to beat Odysseas was stopped by the Greek goalkeeper.

SL Benfica had a goal disallowed for offside in the 38th minute, in a rare attack. Shortly after, Sarabia hit a free kick that Odysseas tipped out for a corner. The Spanish international again tried for an equaliser close to half-time, but shot over the top and Sporting CP trailed going into the break.

The second half started with the visitors causing danger - Everton shooting wide- but the response didn't take long in coming. A minute later, Nuno Santos crossed perfectly for Sarabia, who headed onto the crossbar. Off the rebound, Pedro Porro tried his luck, but Odysseas produced the block.

After two timid attempts from Porro and Paulinho, Rúben Amorim began to change things up, taking off Luís Neto and Gonçalves for Manuel Ugarte and Islam Slimani, respectively.

The game dropped in intensity as the second period progressed, and with just over 20 minutes to go, Ricardo Esgaio and Marcus Edwards replaced João Palhinha and Sarabia.
The play was more to SL Benfica, however, as they closed off their midfield and looked for the counter. That limited Sporting CP's chances to long range efforts from Paulinho and Edwards, without success.

SL Benfica made it 0-2 in added time through Gil Dias, for a result that hinders Os Leões' title defence.

Sporting CP will now turn their attention to the second leg of the Taça de Portugal semifinal, which takes place against FC Porto on Thursday.

Sporting CP: Antonio Adán [GR], Luís Neto (Manuel Ugarte, 58'), Sebastián Coates [C], Gonçalo Inácio, Pedro Porro, João Palhinha (Ricardo Esgaio, 69'), Matheus Nunes, Nuno Santos (Daniel Bragança, 88'), Pablo Sarabia (Marcus Edwards, 69'), Pedro Gonçalves (Islam Slimani, 58') and Paulinho.

Photo by Sporting CP

Amorim: "The derby is going to be a great game"

By Sporting CP
16 Apr, 2022

The coach talks about the Sunday derby against SL Benfica

Sporting CP coach Rúben Amorim previewed the derby against SL Benfica on the Liga Portugal Matchday 30 in his pre-match press conference, as the season reaches a decisive point.

He said that he did not expect an easy contest, but was confident that his side will take the win.

“Our focus is on winning the next game, as we have always said. We don't have to do the maths for second place if we win, but even if we don't think about that, it's the objective, knowing that Benfica can do at Alvalade what we did at the Estádio da Luz [where Sporting CP won 1-3] and that they come here motivated from the last game. It's going to be a derby, a great game and we have an obligation to win it, just like they do -because that's part of the culture of both clubs," he began by saying.

"We have seen a very strong SL Benfica, especially in the Champions League, and in Liga Portugal they have had some mishaps. I don't know what to expect, but there are players who can be decisive. I expect a SL Benfica with great quality. We enjoy these games."

“Our team grows with these games and we have an obligation to win,” underlined Amorim, adding that "My prediction is to bet on Sporting CP. A derby is always 50-50, but I would bet on my team to win the game."

“I think that we are favourites due to the natural growth of the team. We are more dominant, are in a better position than SL Benfica and come from a good run in the league. Sporting CP are in good form. When I was young, it was said that the worst team won the derby, but I don't believe that. I believe that Sporting CP will win. I have great conviction in our players. Last season I didn't have the certainty that I have now, because of the way we played. I know that we can always drop points, but I am fully convinced that we can beat SL Benfica."

Asked about the title challenge, Amorim responded that “The only way to be champions is to win every game. Motivation is high, and the players have been fighting with this season and next season in mind. It's a great motivation because, by guaranteeing Champions League football, we can plan for next season with greater certainty. This is essential for us. We fight for our lives, for the project and so as not to take steps back."

Photo by José Lorvão

Slimani named Striker of the Month

By Sporting CP
14 Apr, 2022

The Sporting CP player is chosen by Liga Portugal coaches

Islam Slimani was named Liga Portugal's Striker of the Month for March, recieving 21.48% of the votes from the competition's head coaches.

The Sporting Clube de Portugal forward played three games and scored three goals in March, two of them against FC Arouca in the opening matchday of the month.

The striker finished ahead of Evanilson (18.52%) and Mehdi Taremi (13.33%) of FC Porto in the voting.

Photo by José Lorvão

Amorim: "It was one-way traffic"

By Sporting CP
10 Apr, 2022

The coach gives credit to the team for their showing against CD Tondela

Following the triumph over CD Tondela, Sporting Clube de Portugal coach Rúben Amorim analysed the 1-3 away result, stating that the success came largely from an attack without an out-and-out striker.

“The idea was to take away any references for CD Tondela, who have three central defenders who are very strong in the air and field two very close lines: One defensive and one for midfield. We wanted to have strong players between the lines and arriving from behind, because they attack the area well and are used to playing high up the pitch. It had an effect,” he began by saying in his post-match press conference.

“We had a very complete first half, but the second half was not so good because we lost the ball in areas where we didn't have to. Without applying a high press, we gave the ball to the opposition and they had some transitions. It was one-way traffic, apart from a few breaks. We ended up winning fairly,” he stressed.

The coach then addressed the situation involving Islam Slimani, the striker having not been in the team's last training session and left out of the squad for the game.

“Slimani didn't know if he was going to play and he didn't participate in the last training session because, according to how the week went, we understood that he wasn't up to the standard of what is required of a Sporting CP player. There are basic things that are important, but there is no issue. I am sure that Hugo Viana and the president trust me and the way I lead the group. I'm sure that none of my players are bad people and, therefore, everyone can have bad weeks. Tomorrow he will have a new opportunity, he will be in training and he will be at his best. With a new week, comes a new life. He was not at the required level to play, but next time he will be,” he assured.

Finally, Amorim admitted that he was “irritated” by the fact that Matheus Reis picked up a yellow card, which rules him out of the derby against SL Benfica.

“He allowed himself to be pressured by an opposing player, and then when he wanted to go for the ball there was contact. I was irritated by the yellow card and the way we lost the ball. It takes away an option because he is a player with different characteristics and we don't have him to play left back now. But we have Vinagre, who started very well, and Nuno Santos, who was suspended this week. It’s one less option for us, but we’re going to go into the game with a lot of desire to win,” he concluded.

Amorim: "We will have to be creative, mobile and aggressive against CD Tondela"

By Sporting CP
08 Apr, 2022

​The coach previews Saturday night's league game

In a Friday press conference, Sporting CP coach Rúben Amorim previewed the match against CD Tondela on Matchday 29 of the Liga Portugal season. He had praise for the opposition, stressing that his side must play better than last weekend in order to get the victory.

“I expect the usual game against a team fighting for survival, with talented players and a 5-4-1 formation, which takes away a lot of space in our play. We will have to be creative, mobile and aggressive in the way we attack all the small spaces that CD Tondela might leave," he told the media.

"On the last matchday they played without a forward, with a lot of mobility and they are very strong not only in terms of speed, but also in the way they link up. They are very dangerous. They are very motivated because they won last time out, and they don't have any pressure on them this weekend, so I am predicting a difficult game. As for us, we have to win and play better than last week. That's what we have focused on during the week,” stated the coach.

CD Tondela recently changed coaches, with Nuno Campos now in the dugout. Amorim says he knows what to expect.

“He has specific characteristics and knows the league very well. For me, Pako [Ayestarán] had an excellent season, bringing together very talented kids with a good way of playing. I think they maintain that same shape, but a Portuguese coach adapts better to what the game asks for."

Sporting CP side will be without João Palhinha and Nuno Santos through suspension, as well as the injured Zouhair Feddal.

“Feddal felt some discomfort  in training and will be out. We are going to include José Marsà in the squad and everybody else is ready to be called up. We had periods in the last game that weren't good and we tried to work on that, and there is internal competition for places. We want to get back to having great performances and, above all, win the game."

“We have a lot of belief that we can win every game. Winning all the games would give us a very high points tally, and then we shall see what might happen. We have to believe until the last moment. By winning our games, we get closer to something happening. If we lose or draw, everything becomes much more difficult in terms of the title chase."

In Tondela, Amorim will take charge of his 100th game with Sporting CP. He commented on this, saying that “I hope to be here for 100 more. My goal is to stay at Sporting CP for many years, but it all depends on the results and the most immediate match is that against CD Tondela."

Photo by José Lorvão

Training for CD Tondela

By Sporting CP
07 Apr, 2022

The squad are put through their paces on Thursday morning

Sporting Clube de Portugal trained this morning at the Academia Sporting, in Alcochete, in order to prepare for Saturday's game at the Estádio João Cardoso against CD Tondela.

Coach Rúben Amorim once again had the entire squad available for the session.

The team will have another session on Friday at 10:30am local time, held behind closed doors. The pre-match press conference will take place at 12:30pm.

Photo by José Lorvão

Amorim: "The game summed up what our season has been like"

By Sporting CP
04 Apr, 2022

​The coach reflects on a 2-0 win over FC Paços de Ferreira

Rúben Amorim expressed his satisfaction with another triumph for Sporting CP in Liga Portugal, although he admitted that his side did not put in their best performance against FC Paços de Ferreira.

“In the first half there were many balls that we recovered very high up the pitch, with FC Paços de Ferreira left open, and we could have finished those chances off better. We controlled the game well, but at the start we lacked better finishing," he stated in his post-match press conference.

"We didn't give Paços chances, we didn't let them circulate the ball and then we took the lead. At the beginning of the second half, it was obvious to everyone that we had difficulties. Bringing on Ugarte and Marcus Edwards helped, but the whole team improved: We had more of the ball and we controlled the opponents more. This game was a sort of a summary of what this season has been like: There were moments of anxiety, of euphoria, shots hitting the posts and moments in which we controlled things. Players have to understand that a game has several phases.”

"What matters is that we ended up winning and didn't concede. Now we will focus on the next game."

The coach reiterated that he believes the team can win their remaining games this season.

“I'm never calm, because I think the team can always do better, but we're always evolving . I don't feel at ease, but I feel rested because we did our job. Whatever will happen, happens, we just have to focus on ourselves and I believe we can win the next six games.”

“Today the fans demanded more - Sporting CP are always demanding more. I think we had an excellent end to the game against a team that had zero shots on target. It's a good sign when people want more from a team that had several chances to score and that controlled the game. It is a sign of growth for the team and the club. We always have to do better."

Amorim also addressed the controversy surrounding the penalty awarded to Sporting CP.

“If people say that our coaching staff manage to make Sporting CP benefit from refereeing, then that is a miracle and a compliment they are paying us. The referee went to VAR, rescinded Paulinho's yellow card for simulation and gave a penalty. It didn't change the content of the game, which continued to be the same throughout the match."

Photo by Isabel Silva and José Lorvão

2-0 win on return from international break

By Sporting CP
04 Apr, 2022

Sporting CP strike twice without response at home to FC Paços de Ferreira

Sporting Clube de Portugal hosted FC Paços de Ferreira on Matchday 28 of the Liga Portugal season, winning 2-0 at the Estádio José Alvalade. The victory took them three points off the top of the table, with rivals FC Porto taking on CD Santa Clara on Monday night.

The match marked the return from the international break, and Rúben Amorim chose a starting XI of Antonio Adán, Gonçalo Inácio, Sebastián Coates, Matheus Reis, Pedro Porro, João Palhinha, Matheus Nunes, Nuno Santos, Pablo Sarabia , Paulinho and Pedro Gonçalves for the task at hand.

Sporting CP commanded proceedings, with FC Paços de Ferreira able to stifle the channels through to goal in the first 15 minutes. However, persistence paid off and in the 20th minute the home side took the lead with a goal from Pablo Sarabia from the penalty spot. Paulinho had gone down in the box, initially receiving a yellow card for simulation, but VAR corrected the decision and resulted in the awarding of the penalty. Sarabia sent goalkeeper André Ferreira the wrong way from the spot, scoring his 15th goal for the club -his ninth in the league.

After half an hour of play, Sporting CP came close to making it 2-0: First through Paulinho, who had an effort held by André Ferreira, then by Pedro Gonçalves, whose first-time shot off a pass by Pedro Porro went just over.

Antonio Adán was a steady presence in goal in the first half, albeit rarely tested by shots on target.

After the interval, FC Paços de Ferreira looked to equalise, and prevented Sporting CP from creating dangerous situations. Rúben Amorim made a change before the hour, taking off João Palhinha -on a booking- and Pedro Gonçalves, and bringing on Manuel Ugarte and Marcus Edwards.

Both provided a boost for the team, but Sporting CP were struggling to convert their chances into goals. Matheus Nunes, Marcus Edwards and Paulinho came close, and Pablo Sarabia hit the bar with a shot from outside the area.

The second goal finally came in the 72nd minute. Manuel Ugarte played a long pass upfield, and an unmarked Nuno Santos broke into the box to make it 2-0 to Sporting CP.

Pablo Sarabia nearly scored a third, but fired wide from close range. 3-0 on his feet, but the shot went wide. Os Leões claimed an important three points, and now have just under a week in which to prepare for an away fixture against CD Tondela on Saturday at 8:30pm local time.

Photo by Bernardo Vidal

Amorim: "We're prepared to win against Paços de Ferreira"

By Sporting CP
02 Apr, 2022

The coach looks ahead to the return from the international break

Returning to action after the international break, Sporting Clube de Portugal welcome FC Paços de Ferreira on Matchday 28 of the Liga Portugal season.

Coach Rúben Amorim gave a pre-match press conference ahead of the game, and began by commenting on the last two weeks of work and preparation.

"It was a good two weeks. We had players away with their national teams and we also didn't have the opportunity to see some of the kids, because they also went away with the youth national teams -which is a good sign. But we worked well, we had important players from the first team stay here, and that was good for them to get back to their routines and work well to prepare for this game."

"Since César [Peixoto] was appointed as Paços de Ferreira coach, they have picked up 22 or 23 points. They are a team full of confidence that come to Alvalade without any pressure. The pressure is all on us, and we have prepared the game in the best way. We know the difficulties we are going to have and we are prepared to win the game," he told journalists.

Asked whether second place is a given at this stage of the campaign, especially in the event of a victory over FC Paços de Ferreira this weekend, Amorim rejected the idea and reinforced that every match is important.

"We don't take anything for granted because we can drop points at any time. Our focus is on winning every game. We don't drop that many points and we are six points behind first place. FC Porto have dropped even fewer points than us and any game can make a difference. We are always alert, but we don't affirm anything if we don't win, nor do we guarantee anything if we win. We have to win every game if we want the title and we have to win our games to guarantee second place. When it's mathematically guaranteed, we can relax in that sense and just think about the top spot."

Regarding the players at risk of suspension due to the accumulation of yellow cards, Amorim assured that he will field those he considers best for the game.

"All of the players are prepared and I will not keep anyone in reserve. If someone gets a yellow card that takes them out of the next game, I have other players. This is the most important game. We will continue on this path, because we have confidence in the players."

Another of the topics addressed was that of the decision to extend the five substitutions rule, with Amorim revealing that he was in favour of the move.

"It used to be very traditional in that aspect, but I think it's very good for football to have five substitutions available. In terms of our management of the squad, it's also important to have five players who can participate in the game off the bench. I think the five substitutions should stay. It makes perfect sense."

Finally, the coach spoke about the signing of Fatawu Issahaku, an 18-year-old Ghanaian player: "He will, at least, take part in preseason in the summer with us. We believe in him a lot and we have called him up to train with the first team a few times. He has made an adaptation in the B team to grow physically and adapt to the club. We can see that he needs to learn tactical concepts, which is normal for a young player coming from a different kind of football. He has great talent, is very fast and shoots from different spots. He can improve a lot, but it is on him to get into the first team. In my mind, he is a first team player. We believe in him a lot and we did a great job to convince him to come here, knowing that many clubs wanted him."

Sporting CP vs. FC Paços de Ferreira takes place at 8:30pm local time this Sunday, April 3rd, at the Estádio José Alvalade.

Photo by José Lorvão

Gonçalo Inácio renews through to 2026

By Sporting CP
02 Apr, 2022

​The defender signs a contract extension with Sporting CP

Gonçalo Inácio and Sporting Clube de Portugal have agreed a contract extension for the central defender, running through to 2026 and with a 45 million euros buyout clause. The 20-year-old has been at the club since 2012, making his way up through the ranks before reaching the first team in 2020/2021.

"I've spent many years at the club and it's a huge source of pride to represent Sporting CP and wear this shirt. I feel privileged and I have to keep working hard," he began by telling the media after putting pen to paper on the new deal.

"It's a recognition of how I worked hard to get here. I appreciate the trust placed in me and I will continue to do my best. It's always special to wear the Sporting CP shirt. I have always worked hard, even when I was playing less. I only thought about improving, day after day."
"What I would say to young players is that you always have to believe in your dreams and work as hard as you can, because one day that will be rewarded."

This season, Inácio has been the player with the fourth most minutes to his name (3139), and the most frequently used defender by coach Rúben Amorim. In total, he has played 37 games and scored four goals for Sporting CP this season.

His list of honours includes the Liga Portugal title (2020/2021), two Taças da Liga (2020/2021 and 2021/2022) and a Supertaça de Portugal (2021), but he assured fans that he does not want to stop here: "I want to continue winning trophies, and this is what we are working to do. I watched many Sporting CP games when I was little and now I'm here to give my best and give the fans plenty of joy."

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