Sporting didn’t make it easy for themselves but in the end qualified for the Europa League group stages with a 2-1 win at home to Nordsjælland. André Santos and Evaldo Fabiano got the goals for the Leões before a Andreas Laudrup consolation for Nordsjælland.
There was a tense atmosphere in the José Alvalade after a few unimpressive recent displays meant it was possible that Sporting could be knocked out by Nordsjælland. Sporting’s most recent problems have come in the final third with bad decision making and even worse finishing meaning that 4 points have been dropped in the league already.
Sporting did almost scored in the first 5 minutes, with the team’s high pressure forcing goalkeeper, Jesper Hansen into a mistake, the ball came out to Izmailov who found Postiga, Postiga turned to give the ball to Stijn Schaars for a simple tap in but a last second tackle stopped the Dutchman from scoring.
The best chance of the first half though fell to Daniel Carriço, who was starting his first competitive game this season. From a Schaars corner the ball fell to Postiga who, with a kick over his head, found Daniel Carriço in front of an empty net but the central defender failed to get the right connection and the ball flew high over the net. It’s the kind of chance that summed up much of Sporting’s finishing through out the majority of the night.
Most of the Sporting attacking threat came down the wings, with Diego Capel the star of the show once more. Postiga and Yannick both should have scored from closer range headers from crosses but the impressive Hansen was able to save them.
Nordsjælland for the most part were penned in their own half, and tried to counter but the Sporting defence coped well with André Santos as the deepest midfielder as Fabián Rinaudo sat on the bench.
At half-time there was anxiety from the fans who had once again see their side with the possession but none of the finishing touche when it mattered.
Sporting were right on the attack again at the start of the second half. This time Marat Izmailov had a chance that went miles over the bar after some great work to find his own space in the box.
The pressure was beginning to build as Sporting had more and more chances with Nordsjælland unable to cope with Diego Capel in particular.
Yannick Djaló soon aimed another header towards goal but once again Hansen was able to save it, it would be Djaló’s last action of the match as he made way for Valeri Bojinov in the 62nd minute. The Bulgarian making his competitive debut for Sporting.
It wasn’t long before he too was guilty of missing a chance, another cross came in and found his head but his header went inches to the wrong side of the post.
Valeri Bojinov was soon to be in the thick of things again, in the 76th minute he was booked for diving after appearing to have been taken out by the goalkeeper, but the replays showed the Bojinov did indeed take a tumble.
A minute later though, Bojinov provided the assist for André Santos. Another Capel cross had forced Nordsjælland to head the ball away but the ball fell only to Bojinov who laid the pass off with André Santos needing only to pass the ball into the net.
There were huge celebrations for the goal, mostly from relief of having finally got the goal after, by that stage, over a staggering 27 shots.
Only 5 minutes later and Sporting had scored again. This time a corner from Capel was not dealt with by the Danish side and the ball bounced into Evaldo before going in. The Brazilian left-back didn’t know too much about it but the goal ensured in the 82nd minute that Sporting were essentially home and dry and into the group stages.
André Carrillo also made his competitive debut coming on for Marat Izmailov in the 84th minute to help provide pace in the counter as Nordsjælland now had to attack.
Nordsjælland did manage a consolation goal in the 93rd minute, a mix up in defending a corner led to Andreas Laudrup, son of the great Michael Laudrup, to grab a goal. Had the goal come minutes earlier than there would have perhaps been some moments of panic but Nordsjælland only had a minute or so left after Laudrup’s goal.
At the full time whistle there was a great relief from fans, and although it was not the greatest performance it was a big improvement on the first leg and the last game against Beira-Mar. The Europa League draw takes places tomorrow.
SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; João Pereira, Daniel Carriço, Ânderson Polga, Evaldo Fabiano (Scored 82′); André Santos (Scored 77′), Stijn Schaars (Fabián Rinaudo 70′, YC); Yannick Djaló (Valeri Bojinov 62′, YC), Marat Izmailov (André Carrillo 84′), Diego Capel; Hélder Postiga.
Subs Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, Oguchi Onyewu, Diego Rubio, Ricky van Wolfswinkel