Arouca hold Sporting to 1-1 draw at Alvalade

It was a frustrating night for Sporting tonight in Lisbon as Arouca continued his hugely impressive season with a point at Alvalade.

Pote missed a chance to put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot and Antony gave the visitors the lead at half-time.

Sporting threw everything at the high-flying Northerners and eventually equalized when Pote atoned for his earlier miss from the penalty spot with a late penalty, but the home side were unable to find a winner despite 11 minutes of added time.

It came as no surprise that Sporting manager Rúben Amorim made a number of changes between the two games in the Europa League quarter-finals against Juventus after Thursday’s 1-0 defeat in Turin. Gonçalo Inácio, Ricardo Esgaio and Morita all started on the bench, while Marcus Edwards (stomach infection) and St Juste (injured) dropped out of the squad entirely. Ousmane Diomandé, Matheus Reis, Hector Bellerín, Manuel Ugarte and Arthur Gomes took their place in the starting XI.

Arouca came into play after a six-game unbeaten streak at the back, a form that has catapulted the Northerners to a European qualifying spot. And Armando Evangelista’s side showed early on why they had such a successful season, as the visitors were extremely organized and disciplined and not the least bit intimidated by facing their more famous opponents in Alvalade.

Chermiti heavily involved

The hosts had to wait until the 15th minute to create the first moment of danger when Pote and Chermiti attacked a cross from the left by Nuno Santos, the 18-year-old striker hit the ball but failed to make clean connection when the ball hit just missed the goal.

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Chermiti went close again shortly after. Diomandé freed Gomes with a superb pass behind the Arouca defence, the Brazilian sending in an inviting cross that the oncoming striker narrowly missed.

The lively Chermiti finally managed to miss a shot on target, but his shot from the low angle was easily blocked by Arouca goalkeeper Ignacio Arruabarrena.

The next time Chermiti played, there was a tangible reward for the hosts. Galovic was penalized for challenging the striker with the ball in the box after a VAR intervention and an on-screen review on the sidelines. Pote took the penalty to Arruabarrena’s left, but the Uruguayan keeper managed well to save.

Arouca takes her chance

Things got even better for Arouca shortly after as they took the lead with practically the only moment of danger they created in the first half.

A counterattack sent the ball into the penalty area, where Diomandé saved an attempt to clear and accidentally supported Antony behind him, who rounded Sporting goalkeeper Adán and rolled the ball into the net.

At the break, Amorim brought on Morita and took control of Bellerín, Gomes dropped to right-back and Pedro Gonçalves continued to push forward.

Highlights of the game Sporting 1-1 Arouca

Woodwork comes to Arouca’s aid – twice

The Japanese midfielder, who had impressed so much against Juventus, almost immediately scored when his header hit the crossbar from a Nuno Santos cross and rejoined a battered Arruabarrena.

Arruabarrena then made a great save against Nuno Santos as Sporting started to press hard.

It just didn’t seem to be Sporting’s night as Chermiti became the second Sporting player to see a header ricochet off the woodwork after clipping Pote’s cross.

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The crowd grew impatient as Arouca’s players spent a great deal of time on the ground as a series of injuries caused the game to go into a start-stop phase.

Nervous Pote

Sporting had the golden chance to equalize with five minutes to go. Pote sped into the box and was challenged by Arouca captain João Basso, the referee pointed to the point. Despite missing a penalty in the first half, Pote took responsibility for making amends himself, this time putting his shot comfortably to Arruabarrena’s right. 1-1

Sporting fans raised the noise level, especially shortly afterwards when the electronic board showed that 11 minutes of stoppage time had been scheduled.

By that point, Amorim had Coates up as a backup and the Sporting captain came close to scoring the winner in the 99th minute, his header from a Rochinha cross just wide.

Arouca held on to the delight of their small but rowdy legion of traveling fans and Evangelista’s men appear to have an increasingly good shot at securing fifth place and international football next season.

Conclusion – Arouca exposed Sporting’s problems

In two games this season, Arouca has taken four points from Sporting. Both games followed a similar pattern, with the Lisbon club dominating the ball, creating and spurning a plethora of chances – oddly even more so in the second leg, which Arouca won 1-0 than tonight.

And in both games, Arouca made good use of the scraps that came their way. Antonio Adán struggled to make a save in both games but when the chance arose, Sporting’s defense was breached.

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Sporting’s terrible conversion rate despite creating high chances and ability to concede from the few chances they allow is basically the story of their season. The quality of Sporting’s game may not have been significantly worse than in the last two seasons, but the lack of efficiency in both boxes has cost them dearly.

However, that is not to take away from Arouca who, as one of the clubs with the least resources in the Primeira Liga, has put in a superb season in which Evangelista squeezed every last drop of potential from a modest squad, resulting in a highly cohesive team that is where it is in the chart by merit.

From Tom Kundertat Alvalade


[0-1] Anthony, 39′

[1-1] Pote (pen), 87′

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