Allianz League Cup: PORTIMONENSE 2-4 SPORTING LISBON
Ahead of the decisive pre-Christmas final League Cup group match against Sporting Lisbon, manager António Folha confirmed that his only aim was “to win”, adding that, “theoretically”, Rio Ave (same points, same goal difference, playing at the same time) faced the “easier task” against bottom club Gil Vicente, although “in football the more unlikely outcome sometimes happens”.
Fast forward and Portimonense made a great start, only outstanding young keeper Luís Maximiano keeping a rampant Jackson Martinez at bay before a clumsy Rafael Camacho foul on Junior Tavares prompted the otherwise inadequate referee João Pinheiro to point to the penalty spot.
A successful Jackson conversion later, Folha’s men were in full flow and the match had just passed the half-hour mark when Sporting defender Jérémy Mathieu steered an Aylton Boa Morte cross into his own net. However, the two-goal advantage did not last long, a searching Bruno Fernandes ball only minutes later allowing Vietto to out-jump Rodrigo and head past Gonda.
More action was to follow before the half drew to a close, Portimonense’s Willyan going to ground clutching his face following the slightest of touches from Yannick Bolasie, the hard-done-by on-loan Everton forward subsequently receiving his marching orders for a second yellow card.
Two-one up at the break and facing only 10 men for the second period of play, Folha may have considered bringing the experienced Jadson and Hackman off the bench to shore up the defence. Unfortunately, that option was not taken and the game recommenced. Maximiano was briefly required to excel again, tipping a Boa Morte shot against the post, but then the complexion of the match changed. Two narrow Vietto misses later, a great Camacho solo effort produced the equaliser, Gonzalo Plata showed great control to put Sporting ahead, and a classy Luiz Phellype finish completed the emphatic turnaround.
Adding insult to injury, Gil Vicente did beat Rio Ave with a 95th-minute penalty, sending the victors in Portimão through to next month’s finals weekend.
The last act of this roller-coaster encounter saw Portimonense lodge an official complaint with the league committee, claiming that Sporting were in breach of competition rules by not fielding at least two home-grown players. The Lisbonites have since shown that both Luís Maximiano and Bruno Fernandes spent the required minimum 36 months of their formative years registered with the club, refuting the claim.
Portimonense will return to league action and their quest to stave off relegation at Boavista this Saturday before welcoming immediate rivals Paços de Ferreira the following weekend.
By SKIP BANDELE