Porto, for a day at least, jump ahead of Benfica to the top of the Primeira Liga after hanging on to a 2-1 win against Sporting at the Estádio do Dragão, ensuring a two horse race until the end of the season.
An impressive debut from Tiquinho Soares gave the home side a 2-0 lead going in to the break. Substitute Alan Ruiz pulled one back in the second half with a lovely finish but it wasn't enough for the visitors. Iker Casillas made an exceptional save in the last minute to prevent Jorge Jesus' side from grabbing a point.
Both managers fielded attacking line ups on a soggy evening in Porto, Nuno Espírito Santo immediately throwing new signing Tiquinho Soares into the mix alongside André Silva, Yacine Brahimi, and Jesús Corona.
Jorge Jesus surprised many with Matheus Pereira, having just 1 minute of Primeira Liga side, starting on the left-side of attack. João Palhinha took the place of William Carvalho in front of the back four.
Porto's new signing Tiquinho Soares made a dream start when he scored after just 5 minutes of the game gone. The goal started from a huge throw from Iker Casillas to start a counter attack. Jesús Corona got past Marvin Zeegelaar all too easily to cross for Soares, who escaped João Palhinha's attempt at marking him to start his Porto career off in style.
Porto double their lead
Porto looked the better side going forward in a half with little goalmouth action. The next chance of the game proved to be Tiquinho's second, after 40 minutes. This one came through a clinical pass through the middle by Danilo Pereira and the Brazilian forward made no mistake to double Porto's lead.
Jorge Jesus had work to do at half time. The ineffectual Matheus Pereira, who was having a tough time against Maxi Pereira, was replaced by Alan Ruiz.
The improvement was instant from Sporting. Bryan Ruiz, moved out to the flank after failing to make an impact through the middle, forced the first real save out of Iker Casillas a few minutes after the restart.
Minutes later Adrien Silva had an even better effort Sporting when his shot thumped the top of the bar.
Sporting pull one back
In the 60th minute Sporting pulled a goal back through substitute Alan Ruiz. Bas Dost headed down into the Ruiz's path, and Iker Casillas couldn't do anything to stop the Argentian's fierce shot.
Iker Casillas however made a brilliant save to deny Coates heading in from a freekick in the 82nd minute.
But Casillas' finest moment came in the very last minute when a Sporting corner once again found the towering head of Sebastián Coates, but the Spanish goalkeeper did fantastically well to tip the ball round the post. It was one of the saves of the season from the resurgent Casillas.
The result all but ends Sporting's disappointing season. The silver lining for Jorge Jesus will be the vastly improved second half performance and the chance to focus on the development of the Academy products who returned to the club for the rest of the season. Another poor performance from Marvin Zeegelaar may mean the abandoned André Geraldes move to Chaves was a blessing in disguise.
It was a huge win for the home side, with Benfica no longer romping towards the title. The pressure is now fully on Rui Vitória and his team in their game against Nacional tomorrow. Tiquinho Soares looks to have given Porto a new dimension going forward after his eye-catching debut.
by Richard Cole
Porto XI: Iker Casillas; Maxi Pereira, Felipe, Iván Marcano, Alex Telles; Jesús Corona (João Teixeira, 83’), Danio Pereira, Óliver Torres, Yacine Brahimi (Diogo Jota, 70'); Tiquinho Soares, André Silva (André André, 65')
Sporting XI: Rui Patrício; Ezequiel Schelotto, Sebastián Coates, Rúben Semedo, Marvin Zeegelaar (Ricardo Esgaio, 57'); João Palhinha (Daniel Podence, 80’), Adrien Silva; Gelson Martins, Matheus Pereira (Alan Ruiz, 46'); Bryan Ruiz, Bas Dost