Advantage Sporting in first leg of derby affair versus Benfica

Sporting 2-1 Benfica

Sporting have edged themselves closer to the final of the Taça de Portugal after narrowly defeating Benfica 2-1 in the first leg of their semi-final, at the Alvalade stadium this Thursday night.

The Lions dominated for large periods of the first half, landing the game’s first goal from Pedro Gonçalves’ header in the 9th minute.

Viktor Gyökeres followed up with his 31st strike of the season to make it 2-0 early in the second period before Fredrik Aursnes was able to claw a goal back for Benfica and complete a 2-1 scoreline, leaving the second leg wide open.

Absences at the top afforded Roger Schmidt the chance to play a fluid attack, without a recognised striker for Benfica, whereas the only notable change in the Sporting side was in goal, with Franco Israel holding onto his spot as the favoured cup goalkeeper.

The hosts produced a rapid start that came complete with strong penalty claims against João Neves for a trip on Pedro Gonçalves in the 8th minute, waived by the referee.

Incensed by the call, Pedro Gonçalves wouldn’t have to wait much longer to feel repaid as Morten Hjulmand found the midfielder inside the box for the game’s first goal, a minute later, via a back-post header.

The home crowd roared on for a second goal which was met by a handful of half chances for the Sporting cast, more prominently for Marcus Edwards at the tail end of the first half who saw a placed effort crucially blocked by Aursnes inside the box. 

Edwards was at the centre of all the action coming into the second period after falling inside the box and initially winning his side a penalty, only for the spot-kick to be reverted promptly for no contact being established between the Englishman and Nicolas Otamendi.

But the Lions continued to attack purposefully in numbers and in the 54th minute, they found their just reward as Gyökeres made it 2-0 following a Geny Catamo opening, spinning Otamendi before squeezing a shot in at the near post.

Benfica responded via a 68th minute volley from Aursnes deep inside the home side’s area, halving Sporting’s advantage with a finish from Di Maria’s left-sided cross.

Just three minutes later, the Eagles thought they had levelled in quick succession with Di Maria again at the heart of it all, poking home from a one-two with Orkun Kökçü, but Casper Tengstedt’s offside position ruined the move, enabling the goal to be chalked off.

The taste was passed onto Sporting in the 89th minute after Nuno Santos produced a goal-of-the-season-worthy volley from outside of the box before Paulinho was caught offside in the build-up by VAR.

The scoreline remained untouched at 2-1, leaving matters finely-poised for the return leg at the Estádio da Luz in a month’s time.  

By Patrick Ribeiro

Sporting XI: Franco Israel - Edu Quaresma, Sebastian Coates, Ousmane Diomande - Matheus Reis, Morten Hjulmand, Hidemasa Morita, Geny Catamo - Marcus Edwards, Pedro Gonçalves, Viktor Gyökeres

Benfica XI: Anatoliy Trubin - Fredrik Aursnes, António Silva, Nicolas Otamendi, Alexander Bah - João Neves, João Mário, Orkun Kökçü - Angel Di María, David Neres, Rafa Silva