Nacional 2-2 Sporting
A terrific Portuguese Cup semi-final 1st leg in Madeira last night ended all square as Nacional and Sporting played out an exciting 2-2 draw.
The result gives Sporting the advantage (on away goals) going into the second leg at the Alvalade on 8 April. But on this showing, Nacional proved they are still in with a chance of making their first ever final.
The home side came into the game in excellent form having won six of their previous eight games, a run that has seen them fly up the table since the turn of the year.
In stark contrast, Sporting's season deflated alarmingly from the moment Benfica centre-back Jardel scored a dramatic last-gasp equaliser in the Lisbon derby in early February. Since that moment, the Lions have managed just one win in seven matches in all competitions.
And it was Manuel Machado's men who had the better of the first half, Luís Aurélio heading inches wide and Tiago Rodrigues thudding an effort against the post, while for Sporting Carrillo was denied by a spectacular headed clearance off the line by defender Rui Correia.
The only thing lacking in an entertaining first half was goals, but after the break three came in quick succession. Rui Patrício gifted the hosts the lead with a terrible piece of handling to allow Luís Aurélio an easy tap-in, but almost immediately Sporting equalised with Tobias Figueiredo doing well to head in Jefferson's superb delivery of a free kick.
Back came Nacional and Lucas João continued his goal-scoring streak with an equally fine header from a pinpoint Marçal cross to put the Alvinegros back in front on the hour mark. Things went from bad to worse for Sporting when right-back Miguel Lopes was harshly sent off for a second yellow card on 71 minutes.
Marco Silva's men showed great determination, however, and deservedly equalised in the 81st minute as Carlos Mané finished a swift passing move with a lovely curling finish into the corner of the net from the edge of the box. Despite playing with ten men, the visitors ended the match on top, but a draw was the right result after an excellent tussle.
The two legs of the other semi-final between Braga and Rio Ave are scheduled for April.
by Tom Kundert
Nacional: Gottardi, Marçal, Aurélio, Zainedine, Correia, Ghazal, Gomaa (Soares, 84), Tiago Rodrigues (Christian, 72), Lucas João, Luis Aurélio (Wagner, 84), Marco Matias
Sporting: Patrício, Miguel Lopes, Paulo Oliveira, Tobias, Jefferson, William, João Mário (Cédric, 73) André Martins (Adrien, 63), Mané, Carrillo, Tanaka (Slimani, 80)
[1-0] Luís Aurélio, 49'
[1-1] Tobias Figueiredo, 56'
[2-1] Lucas João, 59'
[2-2] Carlos Mané, 81'