The Journeyman | Saving Sporting: Part 8 – Youngsters Step Up

Winter has set in and we’re pushing on towards warmer weather in Portugal, but Sporting Lisbon remain the team to beat as we head into the second half of the campaign.

After 17 matches, Sporting are sitting pretty at the top of Primeira Liga and on an incredible run of form. This has largely been thanks to some of our exciting youngsters beginning to step up to the fore. However, our previous blog post seems to have jinxed our free-scoring forward.

The good run continued with a 4-2 win at Desportivo des Aves in which centre-back Sebastian Coates scored two goals in three minutes from Marcos Acuna corners then we raced into a four-goal first-half lead through Eduardo Henrique and Acuna.

And we went one goal better as we smashed struggling FC Famalicao 5-1 away with Andraz Sporar scoring a brace and goals from Acuna, Henrique and Idrissa Doumbia.

That was followed by a very exciting 2-0 home win Vitoria de Setubal, and that was because Rodrigo Fernandes scored both goals from centre midfield. The youngster had offers of around £10 million from Chelsea and Tottenham in the summer, which I rejected and he remains unhappy for me pricing him out of a move. However, when you consider Benfica sold Florentino Luis to Liverpool for £42.5 million, I think I was well within my rights to demand more, because I think this kid could be even better.

We then dispatched Belenenses SAD 3-0 at home before defeating CS Marítimo, who at that point were second in the league, 1-0 away thanks to a Doumbia screamer.

Two more youngsters came to the fore as, after 19 days off over the Winter break, the boys were raring to go for a home game against Portimonense. We raced into a 2-0 lead through Jovane Cabral and Pedro Mendes, who replaced the virus-stricken Sporar, and added a third through a trademark Wendel screamer, before the visitors scored a late consolation.

On the same day, Porto lost 3-2 at SC Braga. We, however, have now won a ridiculous 15 league matches in a row! And we sit 11 points clear of our nearest rival.

Varying levels of cup success

For the second year in a row we didn’t even get past the group stage of the League Cup, but my board don’t care about the competition anyway so nor do I.

In the Taca de Portugal, we’ve had a much nicer draw than last year – when Porto beat us in the first round – racking up two consecutive 5-0 wins then a 7-0 smashing of Liga II side Vilafranquense. It was good to see Mendes bag a hat-trick, as Sporar has got his knickers in his twist about me refusing to give him a new contract. And, to be fair, his form has gone right off the boil, proving I was right not to give him one.

Daniel Braganca also scored twice in the cup win, and he’s developing into a very nice central midfielder, while winger Joelson Fernandes scored one and created two.

Join us next time as we have big games upcoming in our quest to defend our Primeira Liga title, with a trip to SC Braga then FC Porto visit José Alvalade Stadium. Then, the very tough task of facing Real Madrid in the Champions League first knockout round.

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