Rio Ave 0-2 Sporting
Sporting have taken themselves one step closer to winning the Primeira Liga title after qualifying for next season’s edition of the UEFA Champions League, three games away from the end of the season, with a 2-0 away win versus Rio Ave, this Wednesday.
The table-topping Lions were keen to put the pressure on FC Porto ahead of their Clássico clash against Benfica, scheduled for tomorrow night, as they bid to defeat Rio Ave in Vila do Conde.
Pedro Gonçalves steered his club in the right direction from the spot before Paulinho stole the limelight with a storming second goal for the title hopefuls, securing a 2-0 victory away from home.
For the key encounter, Rubén Amorim handed João Pereira a rare start at right back, filling in for the unavailable Pedro Porro and adding to the experience of João Mário and Antonio Adan, seeping back into the Sporting XI.
The Lions came into the encounter in gear, hitting the post as early as the 7th minute through Sebastian Coates, towering over the Rio Ave defence from a corner.
João Palhinha mimicked his captain moments after Nuno Santos had also gone close to giving Sporting an early lead, as the defensive midfielder’s leap was met by a header against the frame of the goal in the 13th minute.
The game continued to know no other team when it came to chance creation as Pedro Gonçalves tested Pawel Kieszek’s hands from close range prior to Pedro Amaral running the risk of turning the ball into his own net in a mini goal-mouth scramble.
From the subsequent corner, Paulinho’s hooked cross onto Ivo Pinto’s arm gave the referee, aided by the VAR, an important decision to make with the wait in the 33rd minute translating into a Sporting penalty.
Leading goalscorer Pedro Gonçalves was the man elected to convert from the penalty spot, sending Kieszek the wrong way in his latest duel and placing the visitors a goal up with his 18th league goal of the season.
The league leaders took their time to warm to the second period, as Rio Ave looked to react to the initial one-goal deficit, but Sporting wouldn’t take as long as they did in the first half to register another goal.
With Toni Borevkovic back-peddling to head away a long ball, January transfer Paulinho was quick to take the clearance on his chest and volley at goal from outside the box, finding Sporting’s second with a clean execution into the bottom corner in the 62nd minute.
The Lions prioritised control over a renewed search for goals, settling on a two-goal advantage that Rio Ave failed to avert, leaving the visitors over €20 million richer and just four points away from the Primeira Liga title.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Rio Ave XI: Pawel Kieszek - Pedro Amaral (Carlos Mané, 45’), Aderlan Santos, Toni Borevkovic, Ivo Pinto - Filipe Augusto (Pelé, 78’), Guga (Sávio, 88) - Gelson Dala, Francisco Geraldes (Gabrielzinho, 71’), Fábio Coentrão, - Junior Brandão
Sporting XI: Antonio Adan - Zouhair Feddal, Sebastian Coates, Gonçalo Inácio - Nuno Mendes, João Palhinha, João Mario (Jovane Cabral, 77’), João Pereira (Luís Neto, 83’) - Nuno Santos (Matheus Nunes, 53’), Paulinho, Pedro Gonçalves (Daniel Bragança)
[0-1] - Pedro Gonçalves (34’)
[0-2] - Paulinho (62’)