Sporting 1-1 Raków Częstochowa
Sporting came out onto the pitch against Raków Częstochowa at the ArcelorMittal Park looking smart with their neat all white kit. Unfortunately, their uniforms were the only thing that were sleek and sharp on the night.
The Lisbon club were lucky to escape with a point against a well-organised Raków Częstochowa side.
Defender Sebastián Coates’ headed goal was the one bright spot in an otherwise dull evening for Sporting in Poland. Fabian Piasecki’s close range shot gave Rakow a much-deserved equaliser to earn their first points in the Europa League this year.
In fairness, Sporting found themselves in a difficult position after star striker Viktor Gyökeres was sent off in the 8th minute. Sporting went from heavy favourites to clear-cut underdogs within a few minutes after the controversial red card.
In the end, Sporting held on for a 1-1 draw and remain in second place in Group D. Raków Czestochowa picked up their first points of the competition with a vital draw at home but remain bottom of the group.
Sporting’s early red and Raków lose their captain
Vikter Gyökeres, Sporting’s record signing this summer, has been exceptional so far this season. On this occasion, however, the Swedish striker went from hero to villain in a matter of seconds. His lunge on Zoran Arsenić was more clumsy than malicious. After a VAR review, the referee deemed that Gyökeres’ stamp was enough to warrant a red.
The Raków captain looked uncomfortable after the challenge and was substituted soon after the tackle by Gyökeres.
Sebastián Coates with vital goal to give Sporting early lead
With their star striker out, Rúben Amorim decided to stick with his squad and adjusted his original 3-4-2-1 formation to a 3-5-1 with Edwards moving up front as the lone striker.
In the 14th minute, Sporting won a corner which lead to a perfectly timed header from captain Sebastián Coates. The goal provided Lions with something to hold on to.
Raków Częstochowa’s second half fightback
The Polish side started slowly and looked nervous early on but found some consistency in the second half. The home team had chances to equalise but failed to convert.
Brazilian winger Jean Carlos had a glorious chance in the 48th minute after a teasing cross, but somehow missed the target. Srđan Plavšić had a shot that sailed over in the 64 minute.
Raków manager Dawid Szwarga opted for fresh legs with Bartosz Nowak and Fabian Piasecki coming on in the 75th minute. The two were lively and provided some much needed energy to a ailing Raków attack.
The substitutions paid off with a well-worked goal in the 79th minute. A through ball from Vladyslav Kocherhin was met by Piasecki, who had an easy tap-in to equalise. The goal saw the crowd erupt and provided hope for the home team.
The rapid rise of Raków Częstochowa
This was an impressive performance from Raków Częstochowa, a team that has gradually worked their way up the European ladder.
The club was promoted to the top flight in Poland (the Ekstraklasa) in 2018-19 after a 21-year stretch in the lower leagues. Since then, the club have finished runners up in 2021 and went on to win their first Ekstraklasa title in May 2023. They also won the Polish cup in 2021 and 2022 and the Super Cup in 2021 and 2022.
Raków Częstochowa were close to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League this year, but fell just short losing out to FC Copenhagen in the final qualifying round.
The Polish club earned their first points in the Europa League on a historic night against a talented Sporting side. It was a memorable night for a club that continues to exceed expectations.
The red card was definitely a major blow for Sporting. The early setback forced Ruben Amorim to adjust his tactics and rely predominantly on the counter attack.
Raków Częstochowa took some time to find their footing but displayed the quality and talent in the second half that showed why they were Polish champions last season.
Sporting will consider themselves lucky to escape with a draw after a foolish misstep from Gyökeres early in the match. Raków will be disappointed to leave with just a point after missing several clear chances to take all three late in the match.
The 2-2 draw between Sturm Graz and Atalanta in the other match in Europa League Group D means Sporting remain second in the standings on four points alongside Sturm Graz, three points behind the Italians at the halfway stage.
By Sahir Bhojwani