Sporting brought themselves within a point of Porto and Benfica after an edgy 3-1 over União de Leiria thanks to a brace from Matías Fernández and a Ricky van Wolfswinkel penalty.
A late injury to Alberto Rodríguez meant that Domingos Paciência was forced to field 18-year old Tiago Ilori for his full competitive debut.
Sporting took the lead after just eight minutes after Matías Fernández showed some excellent footwork in the box and drilled a shot under the legs of Eduardo Gottardi to open the scoring. The Chilean midfielder then dedicated his goal to the recently injured Fabián Rinaudo.
Sporting continued to put on the pressure after the goal with Evaldo and Diego Capel linking up well on the left hand side but the Brazilian left-back unable to convert. Matías Fernández went close again after twenty minutes with a well whipped in freekick that went just wide of Gottardi’s left-hand post.
A mistake in defence from the young Tiago Ilori meant that Djaniny went through on goal and his clever finish past Rui Patrício put Leiria back on level terms.
Elias went close almost immediately after U.D. Leiria pulled one back and Sporting tried to regain the lead. Matías Fernández went close yet against just before the half-time break and the two sides went in level.
After half-time André Carrillo came on to replace Bruno Pereirinha to add a more attacking edge to Sporting.
It took only five minutes before Matías Fernández scored again. Good play from Elias on the left squared the ball across the 6-yard box and Matígol was there to finish.
Domingos Paciência brought on André Santos in the place of Diego Capel to change the team into a more defensive change at the sacrifice of Sporting’s attacking impetus.
The change in tactics meant União de Leiria had a chance to get back into the game and Djaniny went close to scoring again but was just inches away from connecting to draw Leiria level.
In response Paciência brought on Santiago Arias for his debut in the place of the outstanding Matías Fernández to try and sure the defence up.
Still Sporting struggled to retain possession but as time began to ran out were awarded a penalty after Ivo Pinto hand-balled in the area and was sent off by referee Manuel Mota. Although the defender did handball it certainly wasn’t intentional so a red card was perhaps a harsh decision.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who had failed to get much into the game without proper service, took the penalty and once again converted emphatically to score his 7th league goal of the season and ensure the Sporting win.
A win over Benfica in the next league game would mean Sporting could leapfrog them to take 2nd place.
SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; João Pereira, Daniel Carriço, Tiago Ilori (YC), Evaldo Fabiano; Stijn Schaars (YC), Elias, Matías Fernández (Scored 8′, 50′) (Santiago Arias 80′); Bruno Pereirinha (André Carrillo 46′), Diego Capel (André Santos 63′), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Scored 90+3′)
Subs Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, André Martins, Valeri Bojinov, Diego Rubio