Result: Benfica 4-3 SPORTING (AET)

Match report from PortuGOAL.net:

“Sporting came back from 3-1 down after a sensational Óscar Cardozo hat-trick to take the game into extra time only for a Rui Patrício error for Luisão’s header to give Benfica the victory. The action packed game that saw goals from Diego Capel, Maurício and Islam Slimani’s dramatic equaliser to take the game to extra time will no doubt be remembered as one of the best matches of the season.

Jorge Jesus decided to go with a 3-man Benfica midfield of Nemanja Matić, Enzo Pérez and Rubén Amorim to try and take control of the game. Leonardo Jardim was forced into one change into what is, it seems, his preferred Sporting line up with Iván Piris needing to step in at right-back for the injured Cédric Soares.

It was Sporting who started off the brighter but it was the home side who took the lead. A rash tackle my Marcos Rojo on the edge of the area lead to Óscar Cardozo, a man who loves facing Sporting, to step up. Cardozo smashed his shot low and under the wall to put Benfica ahead. Cardozo had a chance to score another just minutes afterwards but Rui Patrício managed to tip his shot onto the bar.

The game slowed down after the first goal and become a midfield battle with neither side able to create many chances.

Indeed, there was little goalmouth action until Sporting got their equaliser. Good build up play saw Fredy Montero find Wilson Eduardo on their right hand side. Wilson’s long cross was emphatically finished by Diego Capel lurking at the far post.

Sporting were only on level terms for 5 minutes until Cardozo struck once more. The visitors failed to clear their lines and Nicolás Gaitán was able to float a cross to the back post for the Paraguayan forward to head home from close range.

Óscar Cardozo completed a sensational hat-trick just before the break. William Carvalho, recently called up to the Portugal squad, was guilty of losing possession in midfield that allowed Benfica to rush forward. Cardozo was found in space and curled an unstoppable finish into Patrício’s top right hand corner.

Benfica started the second-half in charge of the game as Sporting looked to try and and push further forward. The game seemed more like to got to 4-1 than 3-2 but it was Sporting who managed to get a goal back.

André Martins’ corner in the 62nd minute was met by a towering leap from centre-defender Maurício to give Leonardo Jardim’s side a big confidence boost. Jardim then followed up by bringing on Islam Slimani for André Martins in an attempt to grab an equalising goal.

Sporting though just could not break through Benfica and the Eagles were still in control of the game. Óscar Cardozo almost got his 4th goal of the game but Rui Patrício got down well to save his shot from close range.

That lucky escape seemed to wake Sporting up and they had their best chance to equalise just seconds after. Substitute Islam Slimani found himself free in space and his near post shot rattled against the post.

It seemed that Benfica were to see out the game but an Adrien Silva freekick in the 3rd minute of stoppage time found the head of Islam Slimani to send the game into extra time, despite Artur’s attempted save. Conceding again from a set-piece will no doubt give Jorge Jesus cause for concern.

Sporting looked to have gained confidence in the early stages of extra time after their equaliser but a bizarre goal saw Benfica in the lead again. Luisão’s very soft header from a freekick as he going down in the penalty area slipped through Rui Patrício’s legs when it looked like the Portugal goalkeeper had it under a control. A rare, and costly “frango” from Patrício.

In the second period of extra time Sporting had a big shout for a penalty as Carlos Mané’s attempt at a hooked cross looked to have hit André Almeida on the arm. Replays showed that although the ball did undoubtably touch the right-back’s hand it was difficult to to tell what else the defender could have done in such close proximity. Islam Slimani was booked for his protests.

The Algerian was in the thick of it again seconds late as he spurned a magnificent chance to equalise as Benfica started to look rattled. His header in front of goal from close range whistled just past the post.

Benfica then came closest as Ivan Cavaleiro’s shot was superbly saved by Rui Patrício from close range. The following rebound by André Gomes then crashed off of the woodwork.

Sporting’s hopes faded with just over 5 minutes of extra time left to go when Marcos Rojo, who had not had the best of games again, was sent off for a second yellow card for a foul on substitute Ivan Calveleiro. There was though still time for Fredy Montero to have one last last chance for Sporting but Artur was able to save and make sure it was Benfica who progressed.

The result will be a huge boost for Jorge Jesus as he looks to keep his job secure. He will though have some concerns about his sides defending once again from set-pieces.

Leonardo Jardim will be happy with the heart his team displayed, a far better performance than that against Porto. Individual errors, with Macros Rojo in particular a culprit, will be a big concern.”

SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; Iván Piris, Maurício, Marcos Rojo, Jefferson; William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, André Martins (Islam Slimani, 70′); Wilson Eduardo (André Carrillo, 60′), Diego Capel (Carlos Mané, 81′), Fredy Montero
Substitutes Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, Eric Dier, Fabián Rinaudo, Vítor Silva

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