For a long time it looked like Marítimo would grab a vital three points to boost their survival hopes against Sporting in Lisbon tonight, only for the islanders to be left heartbroken by a late comeback from the hosts.
Vítor Costa put the visitors ahead early on, but all the drama was packed into the final minutes as Sporting scored in the 85th and 93rd minutes.
As if that was not breathless enough, Marítimo then appeared to have scored an equaliser deep in stoppage time, only for the goal to be chalked off after a VAR review.
Sporting goalkeeper Adán was sent off for his vehement protests before the goal was ruled out, with Lions striker Paulinho between the posts when the final whistle went.
Sporting coach Ruben Amorim made three changes to the team that thrashed Paços de Ferreira last weekend with Gonçalo Inácio, Morita and Nuno Santos dropping to the bench and making way for Matheus Reis, Arthur and Paulinho. Marítimo boss José Gomes made two changes to the side he selected in the draw with Rio Ave, Mosquera and Diogo Mendes coming in for Val Soares and Geny Catano.
Coates mistake punished
The first clear chance of the match resulted in the first goal as Marítimo shocked the home supporters in the 10th minute. Sporting captain Sebastián Coates lost the ball in a dangerous position in front of the box, with Félix Correia showing excellent awareness and quick thinking to immediately play in Vítor Costa, who produced a well-placed cross-shot into the corner of the net.
An uninspired Sporting spent the next 75 minutes probing away at a stubborn Marítimo defence while showing little penetration to the annoyance of an increasingly exasperated crowd.
Sporting 2-1 Marítimo highlights
Paulinho forced Marítimo goalkeeper Marcelo Camé into a routine save on the half hour, Manuel Ugarte and Marcus Edwards sent fierce shots narrowly off target and the usually composed Pote made a mess of an inviting opening, but in truth Camé was seldom called into action.
Marítimo also doubled their lead in the 80th minute when André Vidigal raced clear towards Adán’s net but half-time substitute Gonçalo Inácio managed to get back in the nick of time and snuff out the danger for Sporting.
The agitated home fans had been loudly expressing their discontent with Sporting’s efforts and the constant stoppages as a number of Marítimo’s players required treatment in a stop-start second half.
Pote conjures up some magic
Just as Sporting seemed clean out of ideas, a lovely piece of skill by Pedro Gonçalves saw the midfielder skip past his marker and fire over a low cross that the unlucky Matheus Costa turned into his own net.
The home team suddenly had a new lease of lift, with the atmosphere further enthused when the officials indicated seven minutes of stoppage time had been allotted.
And three minutes into added time captain Coates re-enacted his habit for dramatic late strikes from Sporting’s title winning season by sliding in to turn Paulinho’s header across goal into the net and trigger huge celebrations in the stands.
There was more drama to come however, as Riascos swept in an equaliser in the 97th minute. Sporting’s players were incandescent when the referee pointed to the centre circle, convinced that Nuno Santos had been fouled in the build-up, and after viewing the pitch-side monitor the referee agreed and disallowed the goal.
Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adán had taken his protests too far though, and was red-carded meaning striker Paulinho had to put on the gloves for the dying moments of the match, the striker-turned-goalkeeper receiving a huge cheer when he pounced on a headed back-pass and dived to the ground to eat up a few more seconds.
The defeat all but ends Marítimo’s hopes of avoiding a relegation playoff at best, and at the top of the table sees Sporting move to within one point of third-placed Braga, who will try to restore their 4-point buffer when they host rock-bottom Santa Clara tomorrow.
By Tom Kundert, at Alvalade
[0-1] Vítor Costa, 10’
[1-1] Matheus Costa (own goal), 85’
[2-1] Sebastián Coates, 90+3’