By Chris Wright [email protected]
The green and white of Sporting Lisbon fans heavily outnumbered the red and black of Olhanense as the Algarve outfit clocked up a record crowd of 10,148 on a bright sunny evening at the Algarve Stadium last Sunday.
Sporting fans are expecting great things from their team after their worst ever campaign last season when they could finish only seventh.
The Lisbon side fielded seven players who had progressed through their world famous youth academy including England U21 player Eric Dier who made his debut for his native country in the 6-0 win over Scotland in August. Centre-back Dier, who moved to the Algarve at the age of 10 when his mother was involved in the organisation of Euro 2004, was making his first start of the season.
Olhanense featured two former Sporting players, goalkeeper Ricardo and wing-back Luis Felipe, who both played a part in the home side’s demise.
The game got underway to a cacophony of sound with Olhanense knowing they would have to be on top form to stop a rejuvenated Sporting. With just 15 minutes on the clock, Luis Felipe hobbled off to be replaced by the Romanian Mladen on-loan from AS Roma.
It was cat-and-mouse for most of the first-half, with Sporting endeavouring to breakdown a resolute Olhanense defence. Whilst the visitors had several opportunities to open their account, it was Olhanense who went closest when Diakhité’s header cannoned off the crossbar.
Shortly after restart, Sporting took the lead when Fredy Montero headed home his sixth goal in four games from a André Martins free-kick. TV replays showed that Montero was clearly offside when the kick was taken but no flag was raised and the goal stood.
Ten minutes later and former Olhanense player Wilson Eduardo slipped the ball across the six yard box for André Martins to guide the ball home.
On reflection, the usually reliable Ricardo will have felt he should have done better with both goals.
Sporting were now in total control and brought on Capel and Vitor. The later was making his debut, after signing from P.Ferreira, and had played at the Algarve Stadium three weeks previously when P.Ferreira lost 1-0 to Olhanense.
With 15 minutes remaining, Vitor Bastos was left totally unmarked in front of the Sporting goal but the centre-back could only plant his header into the grateful arms of keeper Rui Patricio.
A goal then might have made for an exciting finish but the fight was over and Sporting fans celebrated in festive mood as their new heroes remain just two points behind leaders Porto but, more importantly, three ahead of Lisbon arch rivals Benfica. Tomorrow (Saturday) are away to Gil Vicente who lost 2-0 at Porto last week.