When the names of Sporting Club de Portugal and holders FC Porto are selected in Monday's Portuguese Cup quarter-final draw there will be no indication of the drama that took them there, Sporting conceding a Chengdong Zhang hat-trick against third-tier CD Mafra as Porto endured an epic 30-penalty shoot-out.
Two of the competition's three most successful clubs, Sporting and Porto were expected to make serene progress to the last eight. Yet they have had nothing their own way this season in the Liga, where SC Braga and SL Benfica lead the way, six points clear at the summit, and it was a similar story on Wednesday. Bottom of the top flight, CF Os Belenenses twice led against Porto and though Jesualdo Ferreira said he "expected to win over 90 minutes and not on penalties", his side almost did not make it there as Cristián Rodríguez only made it 2-2 five minutes from time. Rodríguez was sent off in extra time, so missed the subsequent shoot-out as Porto edged through 10-9, Ernesto Farías converting the decisive spot kick. "Belenenses were a big surprise," said Ferreira. "It was a typical cup match but our attitude saw us through."
On paper, a home tie against third-division Mafra seemed a kind draw for Sporting, but the Lisbon side did it the hard way. Cruising at 4-1 soon after half-time thanks to goals from Matías Fernández, Daniel Carriço, Carlos Saleiro and Yannick Djaló, Chinese striker Zhang struck twice to complete his hat-trick and set up a thrilling finale. "The last few minutes were weird, but we won in the end," said Sporting coach Carlos Carvalhal. His team and Porto are in League Cup action this weekend and will be desperate to find better form ahead of crucial Liga away days at the end of the month, when Sporting travel to Braga and Porto face fifth-placed CD Nacional.
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