Tonel says Sporting Clube de Portugal are setting their sights high as they chart the next phase of their European campaign in the UEFA Cup.
Sporting signed off from the UEFA Champions League with a flourish, beating Ukrainian title-holders FC Dynamo Kyiv 3-0 at the Estádio José Alvalade to match their record points haul in the tournament of seven, also achieved in 1997/98. Centre-half Tonel says they are now excited about entering the UEFA Cup's Round of 32 in the new year: "We have the UEFA Cup, where again we'll be facing really good teams who will be strong and competitive." Indeed, the Lisbon outfit have unfinished business in Europe's second-leading club competition, having lost the 2005 final in their home stadium to PFC CSKA Moskva. "We want to go the distance, which means winning it."
According to the 27-year-old Portuguese international, however, it has been tough for Sporting to lift themselves after the disappointment of missing out on a first qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage. The team conceded costly late goals against AS Roma and Manchester United FC on Matchdays 4 and 5, leaving Tonel to say: "We felt a bit down before this match against Dynamo, knowing we couldn't get through to the next phase, but at least we managed to create a bit of happiness for our fans."
His captain, João Moutinho, ignored the personal glory of his first goal in the UEFA Champions League – a strike sandwiched by efforts from Anderson Polga and Liedson – insisting: "It was the victory that was important." For Moutinho, Sporting initially struggled to find their rhythm against Dynamo because of their indifferent recent form, which made this only their fourth win in 12 outings in all competitions. "The first goal relaxed us," the 27-year-old said.
'A bit of luck'
After Anderson Polga's first-half penalty, the hosts began to press their visitors and create chances with more regularity. Portugal midfielder Moutinho went on: "We were able to show our quality a bit more after that." And in a game where neither side had anything but pride to play for, with the final group positions already decided, Sporting also "defended well", said Moutinho, "and happily had a bit of luck too".
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