Sporting 2-1 Braga
Portuguese champions Sporting started 2021/22 as they finished the previous campaign: with that winning feeling. Braga began the Supertaça season curtain-raiser strongly and took the lead through Fransérgio, but Jovane Cabral equalised soon afterwards.
A magnificent finish by Pedro Gonçalves shortly before half time proved the winning goal as Sporting lifted the first piece of silverware of the new season.
As in several countries, Portugal officially kicks off its football season at the highest level with a match between the previous term’s league champions and cup winners. This year’s offering in the northern city of Aveiro was especially keenly anticipated as spectators were let back into the stadium (33% capacity) after an entire season of fan-less matches owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Braga began well, pressing Sporting furiously, pinning the Lions into their own half and not allowing the midfield duo of João Palhinha and Matheus Nunes to settle, the former picking up an early yellow card. Carlos Carvalhal’s team were rewarded for their bright start when Ricardo Horta’s delightful chipped pass caught out Sporting’s defence, with Fransérgio skipping past the exposed Gonçalo Inácio and firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the net from the top of the box.
The setback saw Sporting finally spring into action, and the Lisbon side were soon level. The excellent Nuno Mendes threaded a low curling long-range pass into the path of Jovane Cabral, who outsprinted Braga centre-back Paulo Oliveira and produced a cool finish under goalkeeper Matheus. Half an hour gone, 1-1.
Nuno Mendes shines
Sporting had now wrested control of the match from their opponents, and more brilliantly incisive wing play by Mendes – who was irreprehensible in his defending and attacking duties all night – set up Pedro Gonçalves, who was denied by a super sprawling save by Matheus.
Pote, last season’s top scorer in Portugal, was not to be denied for long. Sporting’s midfield duo were now dominating the centre of the pitch. Palhinha headed a clearance to Nunes, who looked up and immediately lifted a looping pass to Gonçalves, who took the ball down before sending a spectacular angled shot arrowing into the top corner of the net with the outside of his right foot. The whistle blew for the interval and Rúben Amorim’s men were leading.
Delectable camera angle of Pote's outstanding winner. https://t.co/Zwovx1re9H— Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1) July 31, 2021
The 23-year-old Gonçalves enjoyed a sensational debut season for Sporting, coming top of the goalscorer list in the Primeira Liga and it appears he has no intention of slowing down. The strike against Braga comes on the back of scoring an excellent goal, also with the outside of his right foot, in Sporting’s final preseason friendly against Lyon last weekend.
A second-half reaction would be expected from Braga, but truth be told Sporting controlled the next 45 minutes with surprising serenity.
Pote tested Matheus, Jovane skimmed a low effort narrowly wide, and Gonçalves missed a glaring chance with Matheus out of position and Nuno Santos wide open, but it did not matter as Braga completely failed to trouble Antonio Adán in the Sporting goal.
Carvalhal brought on 15-year-old Roger Fernandes for the last 20 minutes and another highly-reputed young forward Vítor Oliveira, but there was no way through a rock solid Sporting back line.
Sporting will begin the defence of their championship crown next weekend in good heart.
By Tom Kundert
Sporting: Adán, Feddal (Matheus Reis, 80’), Coates, Gonçalo Inácio, Nuno Mendes, João Palhinha, Matheus Nunes, Ricardo Esgaio, Pedro Gonçalves (Tabata, 83’), Jovane (Nuno Santos, 80’) Paulinho (Tiago Tomás, 69’)
Braga: Matheus, Sequeira, Raúl Silva (Vítor Tormena, 46’), Paulo Oliveira, Fabiano, Fransérgio (João Novais, 81’), Al Musrati, André Horta (Mario Gonzalez, 55’), Ricardo Horta, Galeno (Roger Fernandes, 70’), Abel Ruiz (Vítor Oliveira, 81’)
[0-1] Fransérgio, 20’
[1-1] Jovane, 29’
[2-1] Pedro Gonçalves, 43’