Sporting got off to the ideal start in their first game of the Europa League group stages with an away victory over Switzerland’s FC Zürich. Lazio could surprisingly only draw at home to FC Vaslui which means Sporting top Group D after the first round of games.
Sporting began the game in the best possible fashion, after just 3 minutes a Stijn Schaars freekick floated to an unmarked Emiliano Insúa, who cleverly turned in midair before heading to the goalkeeper’s opposite side for his first Sporting goal in just his second game. Zurich will have only themselves to blame for it, poor marking meant Insúa was left with plenty of room, though nothing can be taken away from Insúa’s great finish.
Sporting continued to press Zurich often whenever the Swiss side had possession and when in possession looked to create down wings, especially the left side through the impressive Insúa and also though Diego Capel.
FC Zürich’s first chance fell on the 16th minute. Oguchi Onyewu passed the ball back to Rui Patrício who proceeded to save the back pass. The Sporting player’s felt like Onyewu had been fouled before the pass and perhaps that explains Patrício’s decision to pick up the ball.
Freekicks inside the box are always tricky to defend and Sporting had to rely on luck to survive this one. Ricardo Rodríguez’s shot only managed to hit the outside of the post and Sporting survived a genuine moment of danger.
Sporting went back on to the attack shortly just minutes later, a Stijn Schaars freekick was well saved by Zurich goalkeeper, Johnny Leoni, who could only palm it out to Diego Capel on the outside of the box. The Spaniard shot again and Leoni once again managed an impressive save.
Leoni though could do nothing about the next Sporting chance. Once again Insúa and Capel linked up on the left hand side, and Insúa found himself in lots of space to play a square pass for Ricky van Wolfswinkel to tap home. The Dutchman now scoring his second goal after opening his Sporting account at the weekend.
Zurich failed to create much in the attacking third, the Swiss team tried to play long balls in behind the defence to catch out the centre-back partnership of Onyewu and Rodríguez but the two were capable of dealing with the runs in behind the defence.
In the 26th minute came Zurich’s second best chance of the half after their earlier freekick. A neat interchange outside the box fed in Alexandre Alphonse, but his pass to the lively Yasine Chikhaoul was well cut out by the Sporting defence.
Sporting went in to the break after a comfortable second half after a more confident half from the lions so far this season.
In the second half Zurich stepped up their game, with Sporting having taken their foot off the pedal with a 2 goal cushion. Zurich did have their chances though, the impressive Admir Mehmedi hitting the post in the 57th minute after weaving past Insúa and Alberto Rodríguez.
That scare may well have been a deciding factor in Domingos Paciência’s first substitution of the game, bringing on midfielder André Santos for the lively forward André Carrillo, which meant moving Bruno Pereirinha on to the right and Santos into the middle.
For his next move, Paciência brought on Diego Rubio for the goal scorer Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and then the final change was a far more defensive one. Evaldo came on for the very impressive Diego Capel, with Insúa moving into Capel’s former position.
76 minutes in and Ricardo Rodríguez, the man who hit the freekick onto the post in the first half, stepped up to take another one but this time the shot hit smashed the bar instead of the post with Patrício beaten.
Diego Rubio had a great chance to open his account with the club in a competitive match, after a typically battling Fabián Rinaudo found space for the Chilean forward but Rubio’s resulting shot went narrowly wide.
Zurich made it slightly worrying for Sporting in the closing stages of the game. A goalmouth scramble could so easily have ended up in a Zurich goal and in the very last seconds of the game Alexandre Alphonse headed over the bar with a free header from a corner.
In the end though a 2-0 win away from home in the Europa League is a very positive result and for the first time since the 24th January of this year have Sporting one two games on the bounce.
SPORTING XI: Rui Patrício; João Pereira, Alberto Rodríguez, Oguchi Onyewu, Emiliano Insúa (Scored 4′); Fabián Rinaudo, Stijn Schaars Bruno Pereirinha; André Carrillo (André Santos 59′), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Scored 21′, YC) (Diego Rubio 65′), Diego Capel (Evaldo Fabiano 74′)
Subs Not Used: Marcelo Boeck, Ânderson Polga, André Martins, Valeri Bojinov