On the eve of this Sporting-FC Porto, coach Sérgio Conceição promised a team willing to do everything to win, a statement corroborated on the day of the match by chairman Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, who pointed out that, despite the will, “no one can guarantee” a victory ahead. And what was seen in Alvalade was a FC Porto full of character, controlling the match at will in the first-half, with the best opportunities to score, and doing everything to bring the victory home, but the team ended up getting a tie and losing the first points in the championship. Despite not being able to fully deliver, the result is far from being bad for the Dragons: it allows them to maintain the lead of Liga NOS (with 22 points, two points more than the rival of this Sunday) and the undefeated status on matchday eight, on the historically hardest pitch for the blue and whites, and that has been particularly complicated in recent years.
In the starting team, the only change made by Sérgio Conceição in comparison to the match in Monaco, was Layún, replacing Ricardo Pereira, on the right of the defence. And the best word to define the first-half of FC Porto is dominance - the Dragons shot eight times against only one shot from the opponent, always dictating the pace of the match, recovering numerous balls in the midfield and not letting Sporting more than three or four consecutive passes on the ball.
The best goal chances belonged to the blue and whites, obviously, given the statistics of shots. Aboubakar shot just outside the post 18 minutes in - at a time when the Dragons had only ten players on the pitch, as Marega was being assisted - and had another chance 40 minutes in, but Rui Patrício was faster on the ball. The best opportunity came on minute 44, with Marega heading at the bar, after Marcano's cross, and Aboubakar failing to put it in from the spare ball. On the other side of the pitch, Casillas was only tested in a header from William, but the goalkeeper pushed it into a corner-kick, on minute 43.
It was very difficult to maintain the same physical display and level of pressure in the second-half, which led to Sporting building more offensive plays. Still, the only dangerous situation was created on minute 59, with Bruno Fernandes stealing the ball from Danilo, but shooting well over the bar, with only Casillas in front of him. The Spanish goalkeeper had little work to do and the other goalkeeper, Rui Patrício, ended up being the man of the match: 70 minutes in, he prevented Marega from scoring, after a quick side throw from Brahimi, which put the Malian in the face of the goal. The number one of the Lions even stopped a free-kick taken by Layún, already in stoppage time.
FC Porto will then be in the lead of the League as it pauses for national duty, retaining the best attack (19 goals scored) and defence (three conceded). The next challenge will be for the Portuguese Cup, away, against Lusitano de Évora, on a date to be scheduled.