Sporting 1-0 Sp. Braga
Sporting have become the Allianz League Cup champions after a sole goal from Pedro Porro tipped the balance against Sporting de Braga in a 1-0 victory, tonight.
In the intense rain, a strike from Porro in the first period, arriving late in the half, gave Sporting a hard-earned advantage going into the break.
The Lions required a great deal of huffing and puffing in the subsequent period, littered with half chances at either end before showing enough resilience to clinch back-to-back League Cup wins for boss Rubén Amorim, defeating the holders.
In torrid conditions, Tuesday night’s semi-final hero Jovane Cabral made the cut for Amorim’s men ahead of Nuno Santos, joined by Nuno Mendes on the left flank. Meanwhile Braga named an unchanged XI for the big occasion.
A drenched pitch did very little to help both sides, slipping into a phase of sheer combativeness with few goal-scoring opportunities to show for it.
The battling extended itself to the sidelines as both Amorim and Carlos Carvalhal aimed sharp words at each other, leaving both sides manager-less following the referee’s zero-tolerance stance in sending the two coaches off.
Braga’s best chance to threaten Sporting’s goal in the first half came from a low cross aimed at Fransérgio, saved by Adan, prior to a subsequent offside call.
The Lions changed the course of the game with a Gonçalo Inácio free-kick down the right channel in the 43rd minute, picked up by Porro before dispatching a low-drive past Matheus and giving the league leaders a 1-0 advantage before the break.
Meanwhile the rain eased ahead of the second period, the game stuck to its cagey characteristics, as Sporting readied themselves defensively for Braga’s search for an equaliser, retreating into their own half.
The Lions’ defensive foundations opened up an avenue for them to hit their opposition on the break, picking holes in Braga’s set-up in the 65th minute before a firm hand from Matheus denied Pedro Gonçalves’ shot, under pressure from Nuno Sequeira.
Carvalhal’s men replied through Iuri Medeiros four minutes later, working an angle to shoot from inside the area before forcing a save out of Adan. Paulinho went even closer, despite edging offside, peeling off the backline to thunder a strike on his left foot onto the crossbar and leaving Adan powerless.
The Arsenalistas continued to make it difficult for Sporting to cope defensively, going close once more in the 80th minute through Al Musrati, striking a loose ball just wide from edge of the 18-yard box.
Sporting's response came like clockwork just one minute later with a cut-back for Sporar, but the move came all too quickly for the striker, unable to divert the ball away from Matheus’ radius in goal.
Braga threatened again from range and even had the ball in the back of the net via Ricardo Esgaio on the rebound, but it was done so from another offside position, picked up on by the linesman to maintain the 1-0 scoreline.
As emotions ran high coming into the final five minutes, Pedro Gonçalves left his side defending the final embers of the game down to ten men, as João Novais pulled an important stop out of Adan as late as the 95th minute, ultimately reuniting Sporting with the League Cup.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Sporting XI: Antonio Adan - Zouhair Feddal, Sebastian Coates, Gonçalo Inácio (Luis Neto, 90’) - Nuno Mendes, João Palhinha, João Mário (Matheus Nunes, 67’), Pedro Porro - Jovane Cabral (Nuno Santos, 45’), Tiago Tomás (Andraz Sporar, 59’), Pedro Gonçalves
Sp. Braga XI: Matheus - Nuno Sequeira, David Carmo, Vitor Tormena - Galeno, André Castro (Iuri Medeiros, 62’), Al Musrati, Fransérgio (João Novais, 73’), Ricardo Esgaio - Ricardo Horta, Abel Ruiz (Paulinho, 45’)
[1-0] Pedro Porro (43’)