NICK LEYDEN - Monday, April 30, 2012
Oguchi Onyewu played a victorious ninety minutes in the heart of Sporting's defense, while Tony Taylor and Caleb Patterson-Sewell also started in pivotal games a division below.
Sporting CP 2-1 Académica de Coimbra
Despite not enjoying one of their more impressive performances, Sporting eked out all three points against relegation threatened Académica in the Estádio José Alvalade.
An André Carrillo header off a Diego Capel cross in the 29th minute opened the scoring for Sporting before Brazilian stalwart Anderson Polga handed the visitors a lifeline by knocking in an owl goal one minute before halftime.
Carrillo proved too much for Académica to handle though as he created Sporting's second half winner late in the second half.
The Peruvian attacker beat Romuald Peiser for a second time in the 77th minute only to see his well-struck shot carom off the post. Luckily the Lions' leading scorer, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, was on hand to head the rebound into the back of the net and restore Sporting's lead.
Onyewu and crew avoided significant pressure as the clock ticked away, though Rui Patricio did have to save dangerous 25 yard free kick just seconds before the final whistle.
For Gooch it was his second consecutive league start after a long injury layoff.
With two games remaining the Lisbon giants are now within three points of Braga who currently sit in third place and hold Portugal's final Champions League spot.
Sporting's final game of the season will be a potentially mouthwatering match against Braga, though for that game to matter they will first need to go on the road and deal with likely champion Porto on 5/5.
GD Estoril Praia 0-0 CD Santa Clara
Estoril managed only a scoreless tie against Santa Clara on Saturday afternoon, allowing their fellow promotion challengers to make up vital ground with only two games remaining.
Estoril began the weekend with a five point cushion in first place, but Santa Clara held the league leaders goalless with an ultra-defensive lineup.
The visitors, who are battling to jump out of the relegation sweepstakes, exhibited no offensive ambition in a dour 90 minutes, though they were successful in limiting Taylor and his strike partner Licá to inadequate scoring chances.
Even after Márcio Piccolo was ejected for Santa Clara in the 58th minute Estoril was unable to breakdown the defensive fortifications.
Taylor was eventually removed in the 84th minute for Pedro Moreira, ending a two-game scoring streak for the US U-23 striker.
The tie gives Os Canarinhos 53 points. Victories by Moreirense and Aves moved them to within 3 and 4 points of the leaders respectively.
Estoril's penultimate game will be a difficult matchup at Leixões on 5/6. A win would guarantee promotion.
SC Freamunde 2-2 Atlético CP
A remarkable two minute spell late in the second half gave Atlético a road point which guaranteed their survival in the Liga Orangina.
Freamunde was seemingly in control with a 2-0 lead at halftime, following a ninth minute opener by Zé Alberto and a 24th minute penalty by Horácio.
But a late explosion from a typically ineffective offense bailed out Caleb Patterson-Sewell and his backline.
Barry slotted home a rebound in the 83rd minute to bring the visitors to within one, and then an André Matias header leveled the score just a minute later.
It is the second time this season that Atlético and Freamunde have played to a 2-2 tie, the first of which in December included a Tony Taylor goal before his move back to Estoril.
Patterson-Sewell and company now sit in a tie for seventh place and can at least be assured that they will remain in the second division next season, while Freamunde will rue the dropped points as they continue their battle to stay up.
Atlético next take on União on 5/6.