Estádio do Dragão, Porto, Portugal
35′ Herrera (P)
Sporting defeated rivals Porto 3-1 at the Estádio do Dragão to close the gap on leaders and neighbouring rivals Benfica to two points.
The scoreline didn’t reflect the complexion of the game but a brace from Islam Slimani and a late strike from substitute Bruno César ensured the Leões kept the pressure on their city rivals Benfica.
Both sides started well but it was the visitors who had the first sight at goal. After Iker Casillas’ punch fell to a Sporting player, the ball was then worked to João Mário who volleyed over the bar. However it wouldn’t have counted as the winger was offside.
A minute later the hosts nearly went ahead. A fantastic delivery from José Angel fell invitingly to Héctor Herrera whose effort on the slide struck the inside of the post with Rui Patrício beaten.
Twelve minutes later the hosts went close again. Sporting failed to deal with a Porto corner and Jesús Corona’s header fell into the path of Vincent Aboubakar who shot inches wide of the target under-pressure from Patrício.
Five minutes later the visitors took the lead. Mário fortuitously beat Angel and with Chidozie Awaziem and Bruno Martins Indi unsure of whom to mark, Mário sent in a low cross into the path of the unmarked Slimani who tapped home to put the Lions ahead.
Eight minutes later the visitors went close to getting a second. In similar fashion to the first, Martins Indi and Awaziem were nowhere to be seen and Ezequiel Matias Schelotto found the again unmarked Slimani who looked to get his second but Casillas made a great instinctive save to deny the Algerian.
A minute later the visitors had a great opportunity to draw level when the hosts were awarded a penalty. Yacine Brahimi was adjudged to have been bundled over by Sebastián Coates, though it looked as though the Algerian saw the dangling leg of the former Liverpool defender and threw himself to the floor. At first the referee didn’t award the penalty and it looked as though he was going to book Brahimi for simulation, however, he eventually pointed to the spot, giving Coates the yellow card instead. Subsequently, Herrera stepped up to send Patrício the wrong way and level the scores.
Since finding the equaliser, the hosts were in the ascendancy and went close to taking the lead when Brahimi played Herrera through on-goal, the Mexican surged forward but he could only fire wide.
However it was the visitors who took the lead, against the run of play. A minute before the break, Bryan Ruiz’s fine delivery found Slimani who headed powerfully past Casillas.
A minute into the restart, the hosts went close to finding another equaliser. After Corona was bundled to the ground, fairly according to the referee, former Benfica full-back Maxi Pereira forced Patrício into a good save at his near post.
The hosts came inches away from finding the leveller again three minutes later. After Danilo Pereira was fouled outside the area, Sergio Oliveira stepped up to curl the resulting freekick against the crossbar with Patrício well-beaten.
Two minutes later Oliveira went close again. The midfielder fired an effort from-range but this time his effort cleared the bar.
In the 56th minute the visitors went close to extending their lead when a Ruiz corner was headed wide by Slimani. A minute later they went close again. Adrien Silva dispossessed his man before dragging an effort wide.
In the 66th minute the hosts should have had another penalty. Coates who was booked for conceding an earlier penalty was the culprit again. The Uruguayan shoved Aboubakar who went to ground but the referee was somehow unmoved and opted not to award the stone-wall spot-kick. Had he given it, Coates, already on a yellow card, would have arguably received his marching orders .
Two minutes later the visitors almost rubbed salt into the wounds. Slimani met another corner with a powerful header but Casillas rolled back the years, reacting quickest to claw the effort away.
The hosts were desperate to draw level and went close in the 73rd minute. A Herrera freekick beat the wall but couldn’t beat Patrício who palmed the effort behind.
Porto knew that they had to take their chances and they paid the ultimate price. The visitors broke and Mário found substitute César, who sealed the victory when his shot, that lacked conviction, squirmed calamitously under Casillas. The former Benfica man had barely been on the pitch six minutes and forced another embarrassing error for Casillas in his first season at the Dragão.
The hosts still kept pushing and tried to reduce the deficit. In the 90th minute Aboubakar fired wide on the slide, despite being offside. Then in the first minute of injury-time, a cross-come-shot from Angel forced Patrício to awkwardly parry the ball.
That was the last action of the game as the referee blew his whistle to bring the match to an end.
Th result meant that Porto remained in third on 67 points whilst Sporting’s triump meant that they remained in second on 80 points, moving to within two points of leaders Benfica.