Early goals see Sporting ease past Moreirense to go back top

Moreirense 0-2 Sporting

A strong first-half display and a near perfect defensive performance resulted in a 2-0 victory for Sporting at high-flying Moreirense.

Hidemasa Morita and Pedro Gonçalves put the Lions two goals up midway through the first half and a dominant Sporting could have increased their lead before the break.

The hosts improved in the second half but never truly threatened to get back in the match, with Sporting taking home the three points to draw level again with Benfica at the top of the table with a game in hand. 

Tough schedule

Many have suggested that Sporting’s mini-cycle of 4 league matches that includes tough-looking trips to high-flying Moreirense, an improving Rio Ave and a dangerous Arouca side – just ask Porto – would be a litmus test of their title credentials.

The first of those obstacles was overcome with surprising ease in Moreira de Cónegas tonight.

A full-strength Sporting got off to the perfect start with Morita scoring after just three minutes. A Nuno Santos corner found its way to the second post where Frimpong’s attempted clearance hit the Japanese midfielder and rolled gently into the net.

Bubbling with confidence after a series of big wins, Sporting quickly looked to build on the lead, playing the entire game in the attacking half of the pitch and threatening to overwhelm the home team.

Pressure tells

Francisco Trincão and the lively Geny Catamo both stung goalkeeper Kewin Silva’s hands with powerful left-footed efforts, and it was little surprise when Sporting doubled their lead in the 23rd minute. Catamo and Trincão combined well down the right wing, the latter cutting the ball back for Pote to score from close range.

Still Sporting came surging forward for more, Nuno Santos denied by an excellent diving save by the overworked Kewin.

The first half ended with Sporting clocking up 11 efforts on goal, 5 of which were on target, compared to just one wayward punt from distance from Moreirense. 

Pote hits the post

The second half started with a bang as Pote fired a terrific 20-yard shot against the post, with Trincão knocking the rebound into the net, but the winger had strayed offside and it did not count.

Geny Catamo then tried his luck after a typical jinking run cutting in from wide right and firing in a powerful shot with his left foot, but it was too high and sailed over the bar.

Moreirense were doing a far better job at stemming Sporting’s forward flow in the second half, with chances drying up for the visitors, but the hosts could not lay of glove on the Lisbon outfit from an attacking point of view.

With Sporting content to control the game rather than accelerate it, the final half hour proved of little interest, only enlivened by two close calls in stoppage time.

A Gyökeres pass played Trincão through on goal, but Kewin did well to race out and stop the Sporting number 17 from scoring for a sixth consecutive league match. In the dying moments Moreirense at last came close to finding the net, Maracás heading a corner narrowly wide of the post.

Rotation ahoy

Next up for Sporting is the second leg of the Europa League playoff against Young Boys in Lisbon on Thursday. With a 3-1 advantage brought back from Switzerland, Rúben Amorim promised the team will be rotated.

By Tom Kundert