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Sunday, 02 February 2014 20:11

The 'Big Three' all drop points as Sporting draw against Académica

A Briosa hold tight to deny Sporting

Académica managed to come away from Sporting with a point ensuring all three of the Portugal's big clubs dropped points with Sporting missing a golden opportunity to go top ahead of Benfica. To make matters worse for Sporting, Jefferson picked up an injury and William Carvalho's yellow card means he will miss the Lisbon derby.
Leonardo Jardim once again put his faith Carlos Mané as the young winger started the game alongside Wilson Eduardo. Elsewhere it was the usual first team for Sporting.
Sérgio Conceição stuck with the exact same starting line-up that defeated Gil Vicente in the last round of the Primeira Liga.
During the first 3 minutes of the game the Sporting fans inside the Alvalade all stood with their backs towards the pitch in protest of Porto vs. Marítimo game in the Taça da Liga starting late.
It was the home side who started the strongest with Fredy Montero, playing his first game since his loan deal from Seattle Sounders was made permanent, having a shot well saved by Ricardo. Just a minute later and Jefferson hit the post, albeit with a wicked deflection.
After the early Sporting pressure Académica became a more solid defensive unit and Sporting, despite some pretty football, were unable to create any more clear-cut chances.
Indeed, the closest anyone came in the first half was Académica's right-back Marcelo Gioano. Bombing forward the Brazilian hit a fierce shot that hit Rui Patrício's bar with the goalkeeper beaten.
It wasn't far into the second half before Leonardo Jardim resorted to the usual plan B of bringing on Islam Slimani.

Slimani almost scores

The in-form Algerian almost scored in seconds. Some good work by Jefferson on the left and the Brazilian whipped in a cross for Fredy Montero. The Colombian headed down to Islam Slimani just a yard out of goal. The Algerian's shot was blocked by the only other Algerian on the pitch; Académica's Rafik Halliche putting his body in front to deny a certain goal.
The attack cost Sporting as Jefferson was badly injured and it meant Académica could counter as Sporting were temporarily down to 10 men. Substitute Manoel had a glorious chance from close range but his miskick found Cleyton who shot just wide.
The home side had a big shout for a penalty turned down when an Adrien corner appeared to hit Halliche on the arm but was not awarded by referee Paulo Baptista.
The game ended frantically as Académica looked to hit Sporting on the break and Sporting throwing everything they had at the visitors. 
In the 86th minute Islam Slimani once again had a glorious chance from a William Carvalho cross that was flicked on by Eric Dier. Some superb goalkeeping by Ricardo was the only thing that prevent Sporting from scoring.

William Carvalho picks up a suspension

There was more bad news for Sporting in the 2nd minute of stoppage time when William Carvalho was booked for a foul. This means the midfielder will miss the upcoming derby away to Benfica.

The result will be hugely disappointing for Leonardo Jardim and his men. Islam Slimani, in particular, will feel guilty having failed to score with the game's best chance. Sérgio Conceição will no doubt be very happy with the point and the performances of Halliche and Ricardo in particular stood out. The result means Académica go ahead of Rio Ave to take 8th place.
by Richard Cole
Rui Patrício; Cédric Soares, Maurício, Marcos Rojo, Jefferson (Eric Dier, 63'); William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, André Martins (Islam Slimani, 57'); Wilson Eduardo (Diego Capel, 71'), Carlos Mané, Fredy Montero
Ricardo; Marcelo Goiano, João Real, Djavan, Rafik Halliche; Makelele, Fernando Alexandre; Marinho (Salvador Agra, 57'), Cleyton (Aniíbal Capela, 74'), Ivanildo; Magique (Manoel, 57')
Comments (2)
Fair Result But Sporting Should Have Done Better
2 Sunday, 02 February 2014 21:01
This was a very tough game, Academica played for their life, making nothing easy. Sporting had control of the ball and dictated most of the real attacking plays in the game, but ultimately we didn't come away with the three points that we really should have taken here. This was a great opportunity and I felt Sporting really should have done a bit better! The team had its chances and just didn't take them the best, but it was overall a really tough game so credit to Academica.

I'm happy with the work Jardim has been doing, he's a great manager, but today I believe he got the starting line up wrong. I know maybe he was thinking about resting players for the big match next week. But to me that didn't seem necessary cause players would have a full week to recover anyway with no mid week action. I think he really needed to go out and put our very best lineup out to make sure and secure the win, then regardless of suspensions/injury then worry about next week. The wing play from Sporting this week was lacking the usual quality and attacking drive.

I'm a fan of Carlos Mane, he's a good young talent, but if I were manager I still would have started Carillo for this game. And Wilson tries his best, but realistically he's a very simple player, he doesn't have much magic or dribbling ability to actually dribble the ball up the field, he mainly just passes and crosses, and if he's in the box well yes he does have finishing ability. But I'm saying our wing play was missing today and that is what supplies the assists crosses passes to our center forward Fredy. For me Carillo and Capel are the best in the squad (well excluding the new signings Shikabala and Heldon) at running at the defense and opening up the attack on the wings. Those two players are ones that come looking for the ball, can turn and run it up with speed. I thought we missed that today.

Mane looked to run in behind his marker more often than not, rather than coming to receive the ball turn and then run with the ball. And Wilson, didn't do anything out of the ordinary on his wing, barely ran with it either. When we have wing players who run skillfully with the ball, then it draws defenders off the center forward, and opens up even more space if our wingers have the skill to beat at least one defender and continue going, then they can be in a perfect position to lay off a nice through ball, cross pass whatever. Wing play is a big part of Sporting's game and today it wasn't at its best. Jardim's calculated decision for whatever reason to rest what I think have become the first choice wingers so far (Carillo for sure, Capel maybe but he's had injuries so that side has been 50-50 with him and Wilson) didn't work out.

Big opportunity lost, for Sporting here, but its not over, just means Sporting have to come even better and play their absolute best next week to get a result! I do think the new signings would improve the wing play even more, just a pity they weren't available for today. Next week Sporting has to come out and give 110%!

Forca Sporting!
William's suspension
1 Sunday, 02 February 2014 20:58
I only managed to catch the last 20 minutes or so. Academica seem to always up their game against the big three so I'm not too surprised with the result. What they lack in technical quality they make up in discipline, grit, and determination.

Sportinguistas will surely be frustrated with the result, but the loss of William against Benfica could be even more damaging. William's importance to Sporting's midfield simply cannot be overstated. The kid is pure class; his calming presence will certainly be missed vs Benfica.

I've been critical of Sporting's lack of depth for quite some time now. I wonder how they will fare in such a crucial match without their best player?

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