SPORTING failed to end their miserable run of form after being held to a 0-0 draw at Olhanense on Monday night and remain without a win in 2012.
In truth it was the home side who looked the stronger and having edged four points clear of the relegation zone on the back a solid performance, Olhanense coach, Sérgio Conceição will be far happier than his former team-mate and opposite number Domingos Paciência, who will be under increased pressure having delivered just three points from a possible twelve.
Prior to taking over at Sporting last May, Paciência spent the previous two seasons at Braga bridging the gap on Portuguese football’s third biggest club, capitalising on their decline. Following Monday’s stalemate, Sporting lie six points adrift of Paciência’s former side. As ambitions of securing a place in next season’s Champions League slowly dwindle away, Paciência could only painfully watch on, as Sporting played devoid of ideas.
The absence of the injured Ricky van Wolfswinkel and his goalmouth presence bore heavily on Sporting’s lack of a focal point in attack, with Jefferen largely anonymous throughout.
Sporting’s main attacking threat came from wider positions – Carrillo started lively and early indications suggested that Olhanense’s Ismally would find himself exposed against the Peruvian. His eleventh minute foul on Carrillo resulted in one of Sporting’s best opportunities of the game, when Matías Fernandez hit a devilish free-kick from twenty-yards into the side netting, momentarily deceiving many of the Olhanense supporters in the stands. Diego Capel’s pace down the left became Sporting’s main outlet but assured defending from Mexer and Mauríco, coupled with Jefferen’s inability to work himself into space, nullified the threat of the Argentine flyer.
Olhanense’s tiresome pressing high up-field continually broke Sporting’s momentum. Daniel Carriço – who found himself playing in a central-midfield holding role shortly before kick-off, following the late withdrawal of Stijin Schaars – looked uneasy out of his regular central defensive role and a string of mistimed challenges saw his side lose ground and cede possession.
Olhanense were inches away from being rewarded for their sustained pressure when Cauê fired narrowly wide, past the left post of Rui Patrício’s goal and grew in pressure as the half wore on as Salvador Agra – bound for Real Betis – cut in from the left-hand side before shooting wide and the influential Cauê headed over under pressure, from six yards, late on in the first half.
Sérgio Conceição’s side continued their good phase after the restart and Yontcha’s effort came rattled the crossbar before being flagged for offside, after Rui Duarte stretched the Sporting back four with a measured cross-field ball from the left, into the path of Cauê.
And when the chances did fall to Sporting, Jeffren’s lack of composure was evident. Poor defending from Olhanense resulted in the former Barca man snatching at the ball, leaving the home side off the hook and with twenty-five minutes remaining Paciência finally stirred the placid Sporting offense, deploying prospect Diego Rubio in favour of the Spaniard.
Despite needing a performance at the attacking end of the field, Paciência could at least take heart of an assured performance down the opposite end after Rui Patrício saved Wilson Eduardo’s attempt from point-blank, moments later, Olhanense penetrated Sporting with a confident, sweeping attack. Agra was again involved for the home side as he spread the ball across to Cauê, who in turn swept the ball low, across goal into the patch of Wilson Eduardo who was denied again by Rui Patrício, when in fact Olhanense should have indeed been a goal in front. Having weathered the storm, Sporting saw Olhanense’s mobility up-front reduced as injuries saw Wilson Eduardo and then Salvador Agra limp off, to be replaced by the more physical pairing of Toy and Dady, in the dying stages, on a night where Sporting rued the absence of their own first-choice centre-forward.