Penalties smile on Sporting again as Lions retain Taça da Liga crown

FC Porto 1-1 Sporting* 

Renan Ribeiro went from zero to hero once again for Sporting as they edged out FC Porto for the Taça da Liga after a tense game in Braga.

Fernando Andrade looked to have given Porto the trophy when he made the most of Renan’s fumble late in the game but a VAR-assisted Bas Dost penalty took the game to a penalty shootout. Renan’s save from Hernani and Felipe’s miss gave the first silverware of the season to Sporting.

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There was a lot of focus on VAR after the eventful semi-finals in the Estádio Municipal de Braga midweek even resulting in an extra VAR official being assigned for this game. VAR would prove to be a key moment in this game but in less controversial fashion this time.

On the pitch, Porto were without Danilo Pereira from the start as had been expected so Héctor Herrera and Óliver Torres made up the central midfield. Sérgio Conceição’s team had one extra day of rest compared to their opponents, and were looking to finally add the Taça da Liga to their trophy cabinet.

Defender Jérémy Mathieu wasn’t available to Marcel Kezier after picking up an injury in the semi-final shootout win over Braga so André Pinto slotted into his position. Marcos Acuña started at left back with, if rumours are to be believed, the possibility of this being his last game for the club.

There was very little in the way of goalmouth action in the first half but Sporting were perhaps the better of the two sides. Sporting’s high pressing created opportunities on the counter-attack with Nani having an early effort fire over Vaná Alves’ goal.

However the best chance of the first half came from Porto when Acuña lost possession of the ball allowing Jesús Corona to cross but André  Pereira’s close range header fired over Renan Ribeiro’s goal.

Injuries hurt Sporting

The second half started with some almost comical moments in the Sporting defence. André Pinto clashed heads with Moussa Marega that lead to a broken nose for the Sporting defender. Pinto tried to continue but had to be replaced by Radosav Petrovic, the Serbian midfielder the closest thing Marcel Keizer had to a centre-back on the bench.

However, Petrovic immediately preceded to do the very same thing as his colleague resulting in a bloody mess and badly damaged nose that made the Serbian almost a grotesque caricature in Sporting’s back line. Keizer looked like he may have to drop Nemanja Gudelj into defence instead but Petrovic was able to continue after a change of shirt.

If Sporting were the better team of the first half then Porto were certainly the better side in the second. The tired legs of Sporting allowed Brahimi to influence the game more and Porto realised they could find a way through the makeshift Sporting defence.

[To watch the match highlights click on the screen below]

Porto got their deserved goal after Héctor Herrera did well to find space and shoot at Renan from outside the box. The Brazilian goalkeeper, who had been the hero in the shootout against Braga, fumbled the ball which led to it bouncing gratefully for Fernando Andrade to put Porto ahead after 79 minutes gone in the tie.

It looked like the Brazilian’s goal was going to be the difference on the night but VAR would have another say in the outcome of the Taça da Liga this season when, in stoppage time, Óliver Torres challenged Abdoulay Diaby for the ball as Porto tried to clear their lines in a rare second half Sporting attack. The initial foul had been ignored by referee João Pinheiro but the VAR proved to come to Sporting’s aid in a decision that should prove to be considerably less controversial than some of the ones featured in the previous two semi-final games.

So. step up Bas Dost. The Dutch striker missed his last penalty in the shootout against Braga but this time made no mistake of converting and setting up another penalty shootout. Although Raphinha had an effort well saved by Vaná Alves just after the equaliser that could have prevented yet another penalty shootout.

It goes to penalties

Sporting will have been the more confident of the two teams. This time last year Sporting won the trophy after having beating Porto on penalties in the semi-final and subsequently Vitoria FC on penalties in the final. Porto were also eliminated by Sporting in the Taça de Portugal last season by the same method, it was a familiar scenario for Conceição’s men.

Vaná was incredibly close to stopping Bas Dost’s opening penalty but couldn’t get a strong enough hand onto it as Iker Casillas watched on from the bench. Alex Telles stepped up next and converted his spot-kick expertly. Sebastián Coates, Sporting’s best player on the night, blasted his penalty over the bar and into the nearby quarry. Éder Militão looked confident when he stepped up to possibly put Porto in front but his penalty went wide past the post. Bruno Fernandes made no mistake from his next one but Renan Ribeiro made the save to deny substitute Hernâni. Nani struck a good penalty to put all of the pressure on Felipe who had to score to keep Porto in the tie. However the defender’s effort cannoned off the bar to give Sporting the Taça da Liga.

It was a remarkable game that lacked true quality on the pitch but was an absorbing and fascinating encounter. Porto will feel like they did enough to win but the late mistake cost them in the end and so Marcel Keizer picks up his first trophy in Portugal.

by Richard Cole

Porto XI: Vaná Alves; Éder Militão, Felipe, Pepe, Alex Telles; Óliver Torres (Hernâni, 90+4'), Héctor Herrera; Jesús Corona (Danilo Pereira, 82'), Yacime Brahimi; Moussa Marega, André Pereira (Fernando Andrade, 64')

Sporting XI: Renan Ribeiro; Stefan Ristovski, Sebastián Coates, André Pinto (Radosav Petrovic, 53'), Marcos Acuña (Jefferson, 45'); Nemanja Gudelj (Abdoulay Diaby, 83'), Wendel, Bruno Fernandes; Nani, Raphinha, Bas Dost


[1-0] Fernando Andrade, 79'
[1-1] Bas Dost (pen), 90+2'