Our reign as manager of Sporting Lisbon got off to a flying start as Leões (The Lions) picked up four wins out of four in August then progressed to a strong position before the Winter break.
First up, Gil Vicente were dispatched 3-0 in the season opener, with Wendel opening the scoring on 20 minutes, Sebastian Coates adding a second 10 minutes later and striker Luiz Phellype adding another in the second half.
Then another home game saw us brush Vitoria de Guimaraes aside with a 5-1 thumping. Luiz Phelyppe opened the scoring after 12 minutes, then Luciano Vietto scored either side of half-time to have us looking comfortable. They pulled one back but then young winger Jovane Cabral came off the bench to score twice in the 86th and 93rd minute.
Our first away game saw us sneak a 1-0 win at Vitoria de Setubal thanks to midfielder Eduardo Henrique’s first-half strike. Then back on home territory we picked up another comfortable victory, defeating Moreirense FC 2-0 with goals from holding midfielder Idrissa Doumbia and Phellype, who made it 3 goals in 4 games deputising for the injured Andraz Sporar.
This was enough to win the Manager of the Month accolade – despite Benfica being top of the league on goals scored. This delighted my Director of Football Hugo Viana, who Newcastle United fans of a certain age may remember, as he made a public statement praising my early success. Holding midfielder Wendel also won Goal of the Month with his lovely long-range effort in the opening game of the season.
In terms of tactics, I’ve settled on a 4-3-3 formation that seems to be working quite nicely and fits the players at the club for now. Here’s what we’re going with and our first eleven at present:
That winning run came to an end as we struggled to a 0-0 draw, but we bounced back with a 2-0 away success over FC Famalicao.
That was followed by a whole month without playing a league game, thanks to two Europa League group games, two league cup group games – in which we threw in the reserves – and a Taca de Portugal clash with Armacenses.
A return to the league saw a 2-1 win at Boavista with goals from midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia and centre-back Luis Neto, which was followed up with a 2-0 win over top of the league SC Braga. That said, they had played four more games than us and were only 7 points clear, so that win put us right in the mix for the title.
We breezed through our Europa League group, which contained KAA Gent, FC Lugano and Getafe. However, 2019 came to somewhat of a sour ending as we were knocked out of the Taca de Portugal with a 2-1 defeat at FC Porto – who annoyingly scored in the last few minutes of both halves – and the Taca de Liga, which I wasn’t overly fussed about.
But we are in good shape in the league, still unbeaten in 12 games and sitting 7 points behind leaders CD Maritimo – with a ridiculous 5 games in hand. I don’t really know how that’s been able to happen, but I suspect we’ll get landed with a fixture overload at some point. Importantly, we are just 1 point behind Porto with 2 games in hand.
We also remain in the Europa League and will face Ajax in the first knockout round, which could be tough but do play at home in the second leg.
Our two strikers, Sporar and Phelyppe, lead the way with 8 goals apiece, while Vietto had 7 and holding midfielder Doumbia has popped up with 5. We’ve already had an impressive 16 players score goals by January.
Left winger Marcus Acuna has racked up 13 assists in 18 matches, some way ahead of Phelyppe with 5 then Wendel and Vietto with 4 apiece. Vietto leads the way with an average rating of 7.50 from 16 appearances, followed by central midfielder Eduardo Henrique on 7.47 and Doumbia on 7.36.
A couple of young players have emerged as exciting hopes for the future in 19-year-old winger Rafael Camacho and 18-year-old central midfielder Rodrigo Fernandes, who’s now wanted by Chelsea and Tottenham so isn’t currently interested in a new contract. And we’ll be looking to give both more playing team in the second half of the season.
Join us next time as we play catch-up on league games in Liga NOS and see how far we can get in the Europa League.