Sporting chance in Portimão

Portimonense 1-2 Sporting Lisbon

Sporting Lisbon kept their hopes of finishing second in the league table alive with a last-minute winner against Portimonense last Saturday night. The result was of particular significance as fierce rivals Benfica, now level on points with the ‘Lions’ following an unexpected home defeat to Tondela, must visit the Alvalade Stadium this weekend.

But back to Portimão … the almost 6,000 supporters witnessed a lively encounter featuring another good performance from stand-in keeper Leo who can shoulder no blame for two great strikes from Sporting’s match-winner, Bruno Fernandes.

While Shoya Nakajima did his best to keep Portugal keeper Rui Patrício on his toes at one end, Leo kept the home side in the game early on with a top reflex save from a Battaglia header followed by great anticipation as Bas Dost was closing in.

Unfortunately, the Brazilian was then powerless when Battaglia and Dost combined to set up Bruno Fernandes in the 23rd minute, the international midfielder coolly lobbing the keeper to open the scoring.

Portimonense almost equalised soon afterwards but Pedro Sá just failed to connect with a Nakajima cross, and half time was approaching before Fabrício did level the match when meeting a Tabata in-swinger first-time.

After the interval, Nakajima continued to test Patrício either side of a wide Rafa effort, but once again it was Leo who stood out with important saves from Gelson and the just substituted Misic.

However, as the game looked to be heading for a draw, Fernandes was in the right place at the right time to smash in an unstoppable volley from the edge of the area and settle matters in Sporting’s favour.

“We were beaten by the genius of a player whom I consider to be the best in the league,” Portimonense coach Vítor Oliveira said afterwards. “Losing is always difficult for any team, but the idea is to make the club grow, and the club is experiencing sustained development, on and off the pitch, creating the infrastructure for a real top division club.”

Portimonense still enjoy a six-point cushion over the relegation places and travel to Belenenses this Saturday before welcoming Paços de Ferreira on the last day of the season.