Sporting suffered a scare in the Taça da Liga final, going down early to Vitória Setúbal in Braga, before earning a victory through sheer tenacity and coming out on top in a penalty shootout. The win avenges the loss on penalties a decade ago to the same club in the very first edition of this tournament.

With the clubs sitting at the opposite ends of the league table, one could be forgiven for thinking that this would be a comfortable victory for the Lisbon giant. It was anything but.

Fast start by Vitória

Sporting manager Jorge Jesus made two changes from the starting squad that overcame FC Porto on penalties midweek. Bryan Ruiz and Fredy Montero came in for the injured Gelson Martins and Marcos Acuña was dropped to the bench.

Vitória manager José Couceiro also made two changes from the semi-final against Oliveirense, swapping Patrick and Andre Sousa for Vasco Fernandes and Arnold Issoko. 

On Friday in Jorge Jesus’ routine news conference before a match he was asked which player from Sporting’s opponents he feared the most and he remarked Gonçalo Paciência. And it did not take the young striker too long to justify that.  

Just moments after kick-off, after Sporting failed to clear, Paciência found some room just beyond the box after a shaking off Sebastian Coates, and put one past Rui Patricio to give the Sadinos a shock lead.

Click screen below for video highlights of the match

Vitória did not sit back. Almost immediately after action resumed, Benfica loanee João Teixeira tested Patricio with a low shot, handled comfortably by the Portuguese international. In the 20th minute, off a long free-kick, Vasco Fernandes came close with a header which sailed just over the bar.

Sporting struggled to deal with the threat of Paciência who was a constant thorn in the side of the defence in the first half, winning possession several times in midfield and driving the attack forward. Just before the half-time whistle, Jorge Jesus’ club finally managed some sustained pressure, but still headed into the dressing room a goal down.

Second half changes make the difference

Jesus signalled his intent to take the game to Vitória by making two changes at half-time, pulling off Ruben Ribeiro and Bryan Ruiz, and subbing in Acuña and Rodrigo Battaglia.

But the first good opportunity of the half fell to Vitória. After Paciência forced Patricio into a save, Sporting’s defenders again failed to clear, but João Teixeira put a shot just wide of goal. But, gradually Sporting found its rhythm.

Coates, looking to redeem himself, put a header just wide. And the Leões continued to pile on the pressure.  Bas Dost forced Vitória goalkeeper Pedro Trigueira into a save just moments later. In the 63th minute came Jorge Jesus’ final roll of the dice, Seydou Doumbia replaced Montero.

In the 76th minute came a major moment in the match, amidst some frantic action in front of Trigueira’s goal, Tomás Podstawski appeared to have blocked a Bas Dost shot with his hand. After consulting VAR, match referee Rui Costa gave Sporting a penalty. Dost stepped up and converted to tie the match 1-1.

Sporting kept up the pressure, looking determined to end the match in regular time. Bruno Fernandes forced Trigueira into a save from distance. In injury time, Doumbia found Fernandes with some space to the left of Vitória’s goal but the Portuguese midfielder put it wide.

For the second time in a week, Vitória held Sporting to a 1-1 draw. This year’s Taça da Liga would be decided on penalties.

In the shootout, Podstawski completed a night to forget by putting his penalty against the crossbar. It was left to William Carvalho, who missed his attempt in the semi-final against Porto, to give Sporting the victory. He put it to the right of Trigueira with ease and the celebration was on.

By Rui Martins


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CONGRATS SPORTING! Regardless of whether its a smaller trophy or not, winning a trophy is always a great achievement and thats exactly what Sporting's ambitions have been this season to win every trophy we are competing in! To get the first one...

CONGRATS SPORTING! Regardless of whether its a smaller trophy or not, winning a trophy is always a great achievement and thats exactly what Sporting's ambitions have been this season to win every trophy we are competing in! To get the first one of the season here and become winter champions is awesome and an inspiration to the whole squad to continue their good work and hunger to win even more! Proud of my team Sporting Clube de Portugal!

With that being said, our first half was horrible lol. I was shocked to see Jesus start both Bryan Ruiz and Fredy Montero for this match especially in a final while one has barely just been reintegrated in the squad and the other just re-signed but surely not up to pace fitness wise with the rest of the squad. Whats more too both of those players lack pace, sure they're both great technically but they are both slow, so soon as I saw the lineup I was a little worried. First half reflected that Vitoria was running the show Sporting looked slow and struggled to create an attacking danger. I understand it was probably an emotional decision as Bryan Ruiz was a hero scoring the last penalty in the match vs Porto, but he isn't a starter anymore in my books, an impact substitute and thats it. Fredy is a player with great technique and skill and finishing ability but he also lacks pace and so to me I did question why we resigned him to begin with, but if its just for depth as having a third striker option then its okay, but not to start a final.

When we made the changes in the second half Sporting were a totally different machine and looked like the Sporting of this season, which has been good quick creative and potent in attack. Soon as Acuna came on and added that pace and tenacity and excellent delivery on the left flank again we were way better. All the players you could tell were more fired up and you could see the intensity in their play. The penalty we won was just as watching the VAR you could see that upon touching the players hand the ball's trajectory immediately changed while the goalkeepers hand was behind his. Bas Dost was calm and clinical as he's always been for us what a great striker!

Its a pity Bruno Fernandes' rocket from far out didn't go in that was a heck of a shot. Bruno Fernandes has been such an awesome important player for Sporting and I love his character and mentality he's got the mentality of a leader and a champion! You always see his effort and ability to change games and contribute to winning! Awesome player for us!

We did miss Gelson in this game, also Podence who had been out from before and I hope both of them recover quickly and completely healthy for the rest of the season. Ruben Ribeiro was decent and if I were coach I would have left him on moved him into the 10 role and subbed Montero. But I know Jesus may have been trying to rest some of the main first 11 stars, hence starting Bryan and Montero, but it was a risky move caused us stress and made it go to penalties lol.

Thank goodness we had the quality to convert all our penalties and show our composure there and win! Much respect to William Carvalho for not shying away from the responsibility and scoring the final one like a champion! This team has been awesome so far this season, we've strengthened in depth with good quality and are capable of fighting for the other trophies as well! So here's to this being the first of more to come this season for us! Well done and lets keep it up Sporting!

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