A brilliant match unfolded in the Portuguese capital tonight with table toppers Sporting taking the lead, falling behind, then flipping the result around again for a hard-earned victory that maintains their 3-point buffer at the top of the Primeira Liga ahead of next week’s derby against Benfica.
Estrela da Amadora and their sizeable travelling contingent of fans played their full part in the night’s entertainment. Marcus Edwards stole the show with a sensational Maradona-like goal before providing the assist for Paulinho’s winner.
With Geny Catamo and Morita injured Sporting coach Rúben Amorim recalled Nuno Santos and Daniel Bragança to the starting lineup, but the biggest surprise was centre-back Gonçalo Inácio starting on the bench, perhaps protecting him from a potential yellow card that would have ruled him out of next week’s clash against Benfica. Amorim also named 16-year-old forward Geovany Quenda as one of the substitutes.
Estrela coach Sérgio Vieira also had to make changes owing to injuries, with Léo Cordeiro, João Reis and Jean Filipe selected in the starting XI.
Estrela defenders impress
The game quickly settled into a pattern of Sporting dominating possession and playing the entire match in Estrela’s defensive half of the pitch, but that is not to say that the visitors were being overwhelmed. As would happen throughout the 90 minutes, Sérgio Vieira’s team showed composure, organisation and quality in their play, with Johnstone Omurwa and Kiolonda Gaspar outstanding.
Sporting were passing the ball around crisply, but Estrela were blocking all routes to goal with neither goalkeeper seriously tested in the opening half hour.
Unsurprisingly, it was a moment of dynamism from Viktor Gyökeres that led to the breakthrough in the 33rd minute. The Swedish striker went on one of his typical lung-busting diagonal runs towards the byline, cutting the ball back intelligently for Daniel Bragança on the edge of the box who produced an excellent low finish into the corner of the net with his left foot.
Estrela almost hit straight back, Léo Jabá racing clean through on goal with Sporting goalkeeper Ádan coming out on top in the one-on-one battle to preserve Sporting’s lead.
Marcus Edwards nearly doubled Sporting’s lead shortly before the break, cutting inside and unleashing a powerful goal-bound shot that was prevented from hitting the net thanks to a deflection off the back of an Estrela defender. Half time, 1-0 Sporting.
Visitors stun hosts with double whammy
After seemingly being all set for a straightforward win, the hosts were shocked in the first ten minutes of the second half by a quickfire double from the visitors.
The impressive Léo Jabá first won and converted a penalty, then produced a superb chipped assist into the path of substitute Kikas, who volleyed into the net. With a little over half an hour left, Sporting suddenly found themselves trailing.
Amorim acted quickly, bringing on Francisco Trincão, St. Juste and Gonçalo Inácio for Ricardo Esgaio, Matheus Reis and Sebastián Coates, and the home team immediately began applying heavy pressure in search of an equaliser.
Hjulmand and Trincão came close, and another substitute introduced by Amorim, Paulinho, crossed dangerously but just too far in front of Edwards.
Edwards’ moment of magic
On 71 minutes Sporting equalised with a goal that brought the house down. Marcus Edwards had looked in the mood all night, but when the Englishman picked up the ball midway inside the Estrela half nothing looked on. No matter, Edwards embarked on a mesmerising high-speed dribble, bewildering half a dozen Estrela players before placing a perfect low finish into the corner of the net for a spectacular individual goal that Lionel Messi would have been proud of.
Edwards wasn’t finished. A few minutes later he made another decisive contribution, producing a pinpoint cross with his trusty left foot that Paulinho headed into net from close range to spark wild celebrations among the home fans.
What a game this is! Sporting fans going wild after turning 1-2 into 3-2, thanks to Marcus Edwards magic. Not over yet this one! pic.twitter.com/rj3VN5MFw2— Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1) November 5, 2023
Sporting now had their tails up, Pedro Gonçalves forcing António Filipe into an unbelievable diving save to tip over his 25-yard shot that was heading for the top corner.
Trincão was then denied by another great save from the Estrela goalkeeper who somehow kept his point-blank header out.
Estrela had a late chance to grab an equaliser when Omurwa headed a corner wide, before Gyökeres shot just over the bar. Sporting saw out the final minutes of a breathless game played in a terrific atmosphere.
With less than a third of the league season played it is too early to declare the Lions favourites for the title, but Amorim’s men could hardly have made a better start to their Primeira Liga campaign, dropping just two points from a possible 30 (a draw away at Braga).
Estrela on the other hand, as they had done against Porto and Benfica earlier in the season, proved they very much belong back in the big time and will surely have no relegation worries upon their return to Portugal’s top division.
By Tom Kundert at Alvalade