The third time was a charm: after two ties with no goals – for the Portuguese League and for the League Cup -, FC Porto defeated Sporting, 1-0, and won the first leg of the semi-final of the Portuguese Cup, with the second leg to be scheduled on April 18, at Estádio José de Alvalade. This Wednesday night, at Estádio do Dragão, Soares once again showed an appetite to tame lions: after scoring two against Sporting (2-1) in the last season, for the championship, the Brazilian striker - who had already scored against the Lions playing for Vitória de Guimarães - scored the goal that guaranteed a victory that could have been bigger given what happened on the pitch.
As has been tradition throughout the season, the blue and whites started in full power, applying pressure, quick reacting when losing the ball and keeping an eye on the goal. Soares, one of two news in the team led by Sérgio Conceição, made the first warning, in a header that went just over the top bar (7m); after that, Herrera didn’t give the best sequence to a great move in which Ricardo was faster than Fábio Coentrão (17m); and right after that, Brahimi, in a privileged position, allowed Rui Patrício to save the goal situation (21m).
The best opportunity of the first-half, however, came from a free-kick: Sérgio Oliveira aimed too well and hit the post (28m). But it wasn’t the last opportunity in the first-half, because three minutes later, Herrera, with just Rui Patrício in front of him, didn’t have a proper shot and wasted another good situation. FC Porto was clearly better than Sporting, who played in a 3-4-3 formation, with very low lines, waiting for the opponent to make a mistake, and was only able to balance the match in the last quarter of an hour, only once scaring Casillas. Returning to the goal for his one hundredth match with the blue and white jersey, the Spanish goalkeeper stopped Ristovski's shot with all the class the world of football sees in him (41m).
The green and whites came back for the second-half playing slightly higher on the pitch and posed danger early on, in a shot from Doumbia that just missed the post (49m). The match was more balanced, but everything changed when Sérgio Oliveira, one of the best on the pitch, crossed to Soares and the striker and headed the ball at the back of the net, bringing a long deserved justice to the scoreboard (60m).
The goal awoke FC Porto and gave the team confidence, and, five minutes later, the Dragons could have increased the advantage again in a header from Soares, but Rui Patrício denied him of the second goal with a superb save (65m). Losing, Sporting dropped the three central defenders tactic and risked everything, but only for once was able to truly scare Casillas, close to the end – Felipe was there to save the day. On the other end of the pitch, Patrício couldn’t catch a break, as FC Porto, with more space and a freshened forward line, was still looking for the 2-0. Hernâni, on two occasions, came close to offering a bigger comfort in the round, which would have been fair, as the blue and whites were the only team that really wanted to win the match.