Sporting come from behind to beat Estrela 2-1 ahead of Benfica showdown

Three more points and no injuries or suspensions ahead of the huge Lisbon derby next weekend against Benfica meant it was mission accomplished for Sporting tonight.

A tricky trip to Amadora in the Lisbon suburbs had the potential to derail Sporting’s title charge, and when Leonel Bucca took advantage of a bad Franco Israel mistake to put Estrela ahead early on, the large contingent of Lions fans who made the short trip must have feared the worst.

But Francisco Trincão stepped up, creating goals for Paulinho and Nuno Santos to turn around the result before the break. Although Rúben Amorim’s side missed chances to kill the match in the second half, a controlled display made sure they left the Estádio José Gomes with a 12th victory in their last 13 Liga matches to stay top of the pile. 

Sporting captain Sebastián Coates missed the game with a stomach bug, while star midfielder Morten Hjulmand began on the bench as Amorim sought to protect the Dane who was a yellow card away from a one-match suspension. Nuno Santos and Ousmane Diomande were also both at risk of being ruled out of the Benfica match if they saw yellow. 

Israel blunder

But 17 minutes in and Sporting had more pressing worries. Goalkeeper Franco Israel made an excellent save to beat out Léo Cordeiro’s powerful effort in the 16th minute, but the Uruguayan undid that good work from the resulting corner. He got an attempted punched clearance horribly wrong, only succeeding in diverting the ball behind him onto the post, with Leonel Bucca left with a simple header to turn the rebound into the net to send the home fans into joyful celebrations.

Estrela’s lead did not last long though. Five minutes later Geny Catamo sent the lively Francisco Trincão away down the right flank, the winger cutting towards the box, looking up and placing a pinpoint cross onto the head of Paulinho who duly thumped the ball into the net.

Sporting started to boss the game, but Estrela remained extremely dangerous from set pieces, the giant centre-back Kialonda Gaspar almost scoring when he rose highest at a corner, but Israel redeemed himself with a tremendous reflex save.

Gasper was then in action in his own box, doing well to cut out a dangerous cross from Trincão after an excellent combination with Catamo.

Trincão on fire

Trincão was proving a thorn in the home team’s side and the skilful Portuguese forward was at the root of Sporting’s go-ahead goal shortly before the break. Picking up the ball just past the halfway line, Trincão jinked his way past two defenders, cut across the top of the box and fired and powerful shot towards goal. Estrela goalkeeper Bruno Brígido made a fine diving save, but Nuno Santos was on hand to gleefully steer the rebound into the open net.

Sporting brought on Gonçalo Inácio for Matheus Reis at the break, Amorim explaining after the match that he did so because his team were not defending corners well, and sure enough with the Portugal international on the pitch Estrela no longer proved a threat in the air.

Estrela also made changes at the break, bringing on Régis Ndo and Hevertton Santos for Cordeiro and Nanu, but the hosts were far less threatening in the second half. Sporting were always closer to making it 3-1 rather than conceding an equaliser. 

Chances go begging

Nuno Santos forced Brígido into a sharp save on 50 minutes, before Viktor Gyökeres also tested the Estrela goalkeeper with a cross-shot. Moments later the Swede was clean through on goal but hit his effort onto the post. The play was flagged offside, but TV replays suggested had the ball hit the net VAR would have overturned the decision and the goal would have stood.

Gyökeres tried his luck from a free-kick on the edge of the box, but his shot was directed straight at Brígido, and Trincão struck a good chance narrowly wide after being assisted by Gyökeres.

Sporting did not come to rue the missed chances however, as they saw out the remaining minutes without alarm to seal victory and remain in the box seat in the title race, one point ahead of Benfica with a game in hand over their city rivals.

Next Saturday’s meeting between the two teams could prove decisive in deciding who are 2023/24 champions of Portugal.

By Tom Kundert


[1-0] Leonel Bucca, 17’

[1-1] Paulinho, 23’

[1-2] Nuno Santos, 41’