Sporting had to survive 50 minutes down to 10 men as they managed a 2-1 win over Lazio to keep them top of Group D in front of an atmospheric Estádio José Alvalade.
It took Sporting longer to open the scoring than in their last games with the game going past the 3rd minute mark still without a goal.
Sporting started to grow into the game as time went on and managed to take the lead through the red-hot Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the 21st minute. A freekick fell to Diego Capel on the far left hand side who sent a ball in on his right foot. Van Wolfswinkel, no doubt high in confidence after his goalscoring run, managed to flick the ball into the corner of the net with his trailing left leg to send the Lions 1-0 up.
It forced Lazio to open up more to try and equalise which in turn meant Sporting had the opportunities to attack more. Stijn Schaars and Ânderson Polga both having shots well saved by Lazio’s Italian international goalkeeper, Federico Marchetti.
Lazio pulled one back 5 minutes before half-time Hernandes put in a freekick to the far post and Miroslav Klose, criminally unmarked, was able to slide the ball under the legs of Rui Patrício to draw the Italian side level.
Sporting though were still a threat going forward and they went ahead again just before half-time through Emiliano Insúa. The Argentinian left-back’s long range shot was enough to beat Marchetti.
Insúa, foolishly, was booked for excessive celebration after his goal, a booking that would come to haunt him just 5 minutes into the second half.
Just after the break Lazio immediately made a change, goalscorer Miroslav Klose was replaced by the dangerous Djibril Cissé.
Emiliano Insúa’s second yellow card was a harsh decision by Belgian referee Serge Gumienny. The referee perceived Insúa to have raised his arm into the face of Lazio’s Álvaro González but Insúa will have a right to be aggrieved with his hand still at a normal height to shield the ball it was an accidental contact.
Emiliano Insúa becomes the first Sporting Clube de Portugal player to be sent off in the 2011/2012 season.
Domingos Paciência reacted immediately to the sending off bringing on Evaldo to replace André Carrillo to keep back four of Sporting in tact.
The sending off opened the game further with Lazio now having the greater chances. Cissé’s low drive fizzing past Rui Patrício’s post was the first real chance for Lazio since the sending off.
Although Sporting defended well with Oguchi Onyewu and Fabian Rinaudo in particular stand outs for the Lisbon side they did also have to rely on luck to see the game out.
One chance in particular left Lazio coach Edy Reja, sitting in the stands amongst some of the Sporting supporters, in disbelief that his team failed to find the net. First Rui Patrício was forced to make a reactive save to Giuseppe Sculli’s header which fell to Abdoulay Konko. Konko had a glorious chance with Patrício out of the game but his shot could only rattle the crossbar.
This prompted another defensive change from Paciência with Daniel Carriço, playing for the first time since the end of August, to take the place of the lively Diego Capel.
The best chance of the game fell to the feet of Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi. Cissé used his pace to get by then Sporting defence before crossing into Rocchi who looked certain to score but his header somehow went wide.
There would be one final let-off for Sporting in stoppage time. Giuseppe Sculli picked up the ball in an offside position but the linesman didn’t flag, Daniel Carriço came to make the challenge and did so by grabbing Sculli’s shirt. Sculli straight away hit the deck but the Belgian referee only booked Sculli for his simulation with Carriço getting away with the possibility of conceding a penalty.
Sporting’s victory sits them comfortably at the top of their group with FC Vaslui showing they’re no pushovers in second place after two draws. Should Sporting win at home to FC Vaslui in the Verde e Branco’s next home game in the Europa League, then they will know qualification is almost fully secured.
SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; João Pereira, Ânderson Polga, Oguchi Onyewu, Emiliano Insúa (Scored 45+2, YC, YC+RC); Fabián Rinaudo (YC), Stijn Schaars, Matías Fernández (André Santos 70′); André Carrillo (Evaldo Fabiano 53′), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Scored 21′), Diego Capel (Daniel Carriço 74′)
Subs Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, André Martins, Diego Rubio, Valeri Bojinov