Sporting CP earn a 2-2 draw against Porto in a thriller at Estádio do Dragão

Sporting Clube de Portugal came back from the death to earn a 2-2 draw against Porto in a sensational game of football at Estádio do Dragão.

The Dragons got off to a great start, pouncing on a loose pass from Franco Israel which saw Evanilson open the scoring in the 7th minute.

Porto doubled their lead in the 40th minute after a long run forward by 18-year-old Martim Fernandes, the debutant picking out Pepê Aquino who fired past Israel.

Viktor Gyökeres replaced Bragança at half-time, Rúben Amorim introducing Nuno Santos in the 60th minute and Marcus Edwards in the 86th. All three players would contribute to an incredible preiod of play which saw Sporting score twice in 60 seconds.

It had to be Gyökeres, the Swedish striker heading home Santos’ cross before tapping in Edwards’ cross after Porto had gifted the Lions possession from the restart.

It was an incredible end to the game, the result seeing Sporting inch closer to the Primeira Liga title, now five points clear of Benfica with three games remaining. Porto move one point ahead of Braga in the race for third spot.

Both managers make changes

Sérgio Conceição selected Zé Pedro and Otávio in central defence with Pepe out of the squad. 18-year-old Martim Fernandes made his first team debut at right-back, Evanilson returning from suspension to replace Mehdi Taremi up front.

Rúben Amorim selected Gonçalo Inácio at left wing-back with Matheus Reis out of the squad. Nuno Santos was left on the bench alongside top scorer Viktor Gyökeres. 

Porto were fired up from the first whistle, the on-field action soon accompanied by a giant banner unfurled over the Super Dragões in the southern stand. Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa was depicted sitting on a throne, less than 24 hours after being comprehensively defeated by André Villas-Boas in the Presidential election.

Israel punished

The Dragons rewarded the expectant crowd with the opening goal in the 7th minute. A loose pass from Franco Israel was pounced on by Francisco Conceição, Pepê Aquino then rolling the ball to Evanilson who made no mistake.

Israel’s nerves were on show again when he failed to come out and collect a routine long ball. Evanilson went down after Ousmane Diomande caught him with an unintentional high shot, the crowd screaming for a penalty that wasn’t awarded.

The Sporting fans were creating mayhem in the away end, mirroring much of the defending they were seeing from their team.

An inspired Evanilson then surged past Morten Hjulmand, the striker shooting into the side netting from a tight angle. Porto wouldn’t miss with their next chance which came in the 40th minute.

Pepê Aquino doubles the lead

Zé Pedro started the move from inside the Dragons’ 18-yard box, executing some nice footwork before sending Martim Fernandes into space. The 18-year-old debutant went on long run forward, stepped inside Hjulmand who slipped over, his pass intercepted by Pepê who surged into the box and beat Israel.

In the 42nd minute the crowd paid tribute to Pinto da Costa in a pre-planned demonstration of their gratitude for his 42 years of service at the helm of the club with a rousing and long-lasting round of applause, coach Sérgio Conceição enouraging and joining in with the initiative, and it seemed to inspire Porto who should have been celebrating a third goal on the stroke of half-time.

Daniel Bragança took a risk in defence and slipped over which resulted in Conceição’s shot being saved by Israel, the winger wasting an effort into the side netting with Pepê wide open six yards out.

Jeremiah St. Juste and Diomande had been getting into plenty of physical challenges, St. Juste the first player booked after bringing down Galeno.

Amorim makes his move

Viktor Gyökeres replaced Bragança at half-time which saw Pote move into midfield.

St. Juste was fortunate to remain on the pitch after catching Galeno in front of the Sporting dugout. Rúben Amorim immediately got the defender out of the firing line with Eduardo Quaresma entering the fray.

Conceição couldn’t connect cleanly with his right foot before Amorim attempted to change the momentum, get some threat down the left wing and get Pote out of midfield. He made two changes in the 60th minute, Nuno Santos and Hidemasa Morita replacing Diomande and Paulinho.

Sporting won a succession of corners before Pote fired a low drive at Diogo Costa. Santos then made a dent in the advertising screen after being closed down by Fernandes.

Sérgio Conceição went to his bench in the 80th minute when Francisco Conceição and Evanilson made way for Romário Baró and Mehdi Taremi, Amorim responding by bringing on Marcus Edwards for Pote six minutes later.

Gyökeres at the double

It took less than 60 second for Sporting to find a way back into the contest. Sebastián Coates’ long ball released Santos, the wing-back picking out Gyökeres who headed past Costa from close range.

Any questions regarding Sporting’s chances of squaring it were answered from the restart. A loose pass from Nico González was intercepted by Catamo, Gyökeres playing an 1-2 with Edwards which ended with the Swede converting Edwards’ cross from a yard out.

Edwards and Galeno then got into a heated confrontation, both players clashing heads before the Englishman raised his hand and struck Galeno in the face, Edwards shown a straight red card and Galeno earning himself a yellow.

It was the final act in an enthralling contest, Porto unable to close out a commanding lead thanks to two late goals from Primeira Liga top scorer Viktor Gyökeres.

Important day for Porto

Porto supporters are going to wonder how they are not celebrating a victory on a significant day for the club. They could have been 3-0 up at the break before paying the price for two lapses in concentration which allowed Viktor Gyökeres to do what he does best.

Martim Fernandes had a promising debut, a memorable evening for the right-back who featured for Portugal at the 2022 U17 European Championship. The 18-year-old largely held his own against Pote, Inácio, Santos and Gyökeres whilst providing an assist.

Evanilson justified Sérgio Conceição’s decision to throw him back into the firing line after his two-game suspension for a headbutt. The Brazilian tormented Sporting’s defence in the first half before fading out of the contest.

The game came less than 24 hours after André Villas-Boas replaced Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa as Porto President. The Dragons will aim to secure third spot before another clash with Sporting in the Taça de Portugal final.

Sporting substitutes get it done

The warning bells were ringing before kick-off for Sporting supporters, Gonçalo Inácio out of position at left wing-back and top scorer Viktor Gyökeres starting on the bench.

Inácio was unable to put pressure on Martim Fernandes and Paulinho was offering little up front. It was only a matter of time before Rúben Amorim restored balanced, bringing on Gyökeres at the break and Santos in the 60th minute. Marcus Edwards was offered little time to make an impact but that he did, all three substitutes playing a part in bringing the Lions back from the brink.

With two home matches against Portimonense and Chaves to come, either side of a trip to Estoril, Sporting remain in prime position to win the Primeira Liga title.

By Matthew Marshall at Estádio do Dragão