Sporting were beaten 3-1 by José Mourinho's Chelsea in London tonight, which combined with Schalke's 1-0 victory at Maribor means the Lisbon club failed in their quest to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League for what would have been only the second time in their history. 

FC Porto ended a highly positive group stage campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk thanks to a tremendous late equaliser from Aboubakar to remain unbeaten in this season's competition. 

Benfica sent out a 2nd-string team at home to Bayer Leverkusen yesterday, and ironically put in perhaps their best performance in Group C, drawing 0-0 and missing some glaring chances to beat the Germans. 

 

Chelsea 3-1 Sporting

(match report by Richard Cole at Stamford Bridge)

Marco Silva was without 3 first team regulars; the suspended Cédric Soares and the injured Nani and Jefferson. With Miguel Lopes not registered for UEFA competition youngster Ricardo Esgaio started at right-back. Jonathan Silva was the natural replacement for Jefferson and Sporting went with a front three of André Carrillo, Diego Capel and Islam Slimani.

To his credit José Mourinho did not field a team of youngsters, clearly not wanting to lose at home to Sporting. Diego Costa, Cesc Fàbregas and Nemanja Matic all started.

On a night when Sporting knew their fate was in their own hands they could not have made a more self-destructive start. A nervous Ricardo Esgaio needlessly fouled the advancing Filipe Luís inside the box. Cesc Fàbregas stepped up to take the penalty and the Spaniard coolly sent Rui Patrício the wrong way.

Chelsea made it two after just 15 minutes when André Schürrle's sharp turn and shot beat Rui Patrício. The German was obviously keen to make up for his poor finishing at the Alvalade in the first game.

Despite that Sporting managed to settle soon after although defensive frailties threatened to open the visitors up at the back. Going into the break Chelsea were 2-0 up but meanwhile in Maribor, Schalke had failed to find a goal.

Renewed hope

It took just four minutes after the interval for Sporting to pull a goal back. Great play by Carrillo down the right led to a cross that Chelsea could not clear. Left-back Jonathan Silva struck his shot well on his weaker right foot to beat Cech and hit the net. 

Sporting could not make the most of cutting the deficit to a single goal. First, Rui Patrício was needed to prevent Mohamed Salah from getting Chelsea's third, but the Portugal goalkeeper could do nothing when the unmarked Jon Obi Mikel scored from practically on the goal-line after a Chelsea set piece.

Things got worse for Sporting as William Carvalho picked up another yellow card for a foul on Fàbregas meaning he will miss Sporting's next European game. And even worse news was to come for Marco Silva's side as whilst he was bringing on Fredy Montero and Carlos Mané for Carvalho and the ineffectual Diego Capel, Schalke took took the lead in Maribor.

Both sides had more chances to score, Slimani forcing a diving save out of Cech and Adrien's goal-bound shot brilliantly charged down by Cahill, but the upshot is Marco Silva's men will now be playing Europa League football in 2015.

No doubt Sporting will look back at the Schalke and Maribor games away from home and wonder what might have been, but they ultimately will surely take heart from their Champions League campaign.

Chelsea: Petr Cech; César Azpilicueta; Gary Cahill, Kurt Zouma, Filipe Luís; John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fàbregas (Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 83;); Mohamed Salah (Loïc Rémy, 71'), André Schürrle (Ramires, 74'), Diego Costa

Sporting: Rui Patrício; Ricardo Esgaio, Maurício, Paulo Oliveira, Jonathan Silva; William Carvalho (Fredy Montero, 60'), Adrien Silva, João Mário (André Martins, 69'); André Carrillo, Diego Capel (Carlos Mané, 60'); Islam Slimani

Goals:

[1-0] Fàbregas (pen), 8'

[2-0] Schürrle, 16'

[2-1] Jonathan Silva, 50'

[3-1] John Obi Mikel, 57'

 


 

Porto and Benfica end with home draws

FC Porto and Benfica faced a tricky decision on how to approach their final group games. For both clubs the result could not change their standing in the group, and even more significant, the eternal rivals no doubt already had with one eye on Sunday's clássico at the Estádio do Dragão, when they go head to head to fight for first place in the Primeira Liga. 

Given the backdrop, it was no surprise that Porto's game against Shakhtar Donetsk was a low-key affair (Shakhtar also would remain in the runners-up spot regardless of the result). It was the Ukrainians who took the lead in the second half, Stepanenko heading into the net.

A much-changed Porto - without the likes of Fabiano, Danilo, Brahimi, Tello and Jackson Martínez - kept their unbeaten run in the competition intact thanks to a thunderous 20-yard strike by Aboubakar in the 87th minute. 

Porto thus become the only Portuguese side to make it through to the knockout stage of the competition. On Monday they will learn which of the following seven opponents they will play in the last 16: Juventus, Basel, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, Manchester City, PSG or Schalke 04. 

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus took an even more radical stance than his Porto counterpart Julen Lopetegui when it came to resting players ahead of Sunday's big game. Of the eleven starters against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night in the Portuguese capital, only André Almeida and Lima are likely to feature at the Dragão. 

Nevertheless, Benfica put in a positive display, especially in the first half when Lima missed two gilt-edged chances to score, both set up by the marauding Ola John. As well as the Dutch winger, centre-back Lisandro Lopez and midfielder Cristante put in impressive shifts, while Nélson Oliveira and João Teixeira also gave promising cameos as late substitutes. 

Benfica could not find a way through the German defence, however, and end their campaign last in the group on five points having scored just two goals in their six games. Coach Jorge Jesus admitted after the match that "Benfica have the capacity to do much better." 

 

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  • Way to go FCP! As usual we are the flag bearers for Portuguse football in Europe. Too bad for SCP, but in all likelihood they are better off in the Europa this year. Benfica was a major letdown that will have negative impacts. on our league ranking in Europe. Hopefully both FCP and SCP can go far in their respective tournaments.

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  • Guest - torpiano

    That bad penalty decision when Sporting lost 4-3 in Schalke proved to be a real killer in the end. Very unfortunate but Sporting done themselves proud in the Champions League and they could go far in the Europa League.

    Hopefully the draw will be kind to Porto on Monday. Basel or Schalke would be ideal.

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  • Well, the penalty at Schalke was a killer, but would not have been decisive, if Sporting's defense would not have offered this equalizer in Maribor in the last minute of the game. Sad result in the end for Sporting, but if the want to learn something they should not put the finger on the Schalke-referee. They kicked themselves out in the very first game of the CL campaign...

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Hard luck for Sporting in crashing out of the group. They deserved, more than Schalke did, to get that second place spot in the group. They were better than Schalke in the head to heads, and even in other games (the Germans lost 5-0 at home to Chelsea for instance). However, there is the counter argument also that in failing to get the point they needed against a team that was already guaranteed first place, perhaps they didn't deserve to qualify.

    Either way I thought this would be the most likely outcome the moment I saw Chelsea lost in the league on the weekend. Knowing how Mourinho is, he would have clearly demanded a reaction from his players and a win to bounce back, despite first place already secured. At the same time, as poor as Schalke have looked, i still expected them to win against Maribor. Still quite a good showing from Sporting in the CL this season and there are positives from dropping to the EL. Of course they have much more possibilities of making a deep run in it than in the CL and should really look to do so, particularly as winning the Liga looks more and more unlikely as the weeks pass.

    Well done to Porto for keeping Portuguese presence in the CL. It was a real easy group they got for the normal standards of CL opponents, but you can only play what's in front of you and they did well. How much further they reach depends entirely on the draw. They would be the favorites against Basel or Schalke, but not against any of the others imo. So it all depends on who they draw.

    As for my team SLB, I've said enough already on the disappointment of the CL exit. I do repeat though that i'm happy we haven't dropped to the EL and can now fully focus on domestic matters, which after the complete overhaul of players over this last summer and a clear drop in overall squad quality, is probably the best thing.

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  • Guest - Vitor Baia

    O Porto so teve um grupo muito fácil? Só são favoritos contra o Basel e Schalke? O André, vai ou doutor para essa dor de cotovelo.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Congrats to Porto for dominating their group with relative ease. They've got a fantastic squad and are more than capable of making the quarter finals as they will likely face a beatable opponent in the round of 16.

    As others have mentioned, Sporting were undoubtedly the second best team in their group, and were thus extremely unlucky not to have made it our of their groups. Nevertheless, while they certainly deserved a spot in the round of 16, I have a hard time believing they would have any chance of making it beyond that point. Does anyone really think their defense would be able to compete with the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, PSG, etc? Best of luck in the Europa League - Sporting is definitely good enough to make a deep run.

    Benfica simply does not have the quality or depth to compete in the champions league, which is not that surprising when you consider the amount of quality players that left us in the summer. The good news is that we can focus solely on winning another domestic treble without the distraction of European football. A club with Benfica's glorious history and enormous fan base should always strive to perform in Europe, but that was never going to be possible with this year's squad.

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  • Really disappointed with the Sporting situation. They deserved to go through, had it not been for getting man-schaafted against Schalke in the first game by the ref, they would rightfully be through.

    I was a bit disappointed by Marco Silva yesterday as well though. I know Esgaio is a prospect and those mistakes happen, but I thought Silva would have concocted a plan to stop Chelsea's offence. As soon as I saw Mauricio in the starting 11, I knew it was trouble.

    Hopefully Sporting go all the way in the EL. They have the talent to do so. Porto need to keep the ball rolling. Good display considering it was mostly a B team. Really like Aboubakar. Want to see more of this kid in the Liga. Adrien Lopez failed to impress me yet again. He needs time but he's capable of better.

    Let's hope the Portuguese teams rep in Europe in early 2015.

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