Veysel Cihan proved the hero for Gençlerbirligi SK, scoring with his first touch after coming on as a substitute, as the Turkish team fought back from a goal down to earn a draw against Sporting Clube De Portugal at the 19 Mayis stadium.
After a scrappy start it was Gençlerbirligi who were the first into their stride and, on 17 minutes, the raucous home crowd all rose to their feet after Serkan Balci was brought down by Custódio in the box. Their joy was short-lived as the hero of two weeks ago, Mustafa Özkan, tamely struck his penalty, allowing Sporting goalkeeper Ricardo to save to his right.
Gençlerbirligi did not get downhearted and kept driving forward, without creating many real goalscoring opportunities. However, they should have taken the lead just two minutes before the interval. Souleymane Youla was put through by a deft flick from Mustafa Özkan but saw his shot saved by the feet of Ricardo.
Sporting had been improving and continued that trend at the start of the second half. Just five minutes in they got the opening goal of the game. The lively Liedson Da Silva Muniz picked up the ball on the right and surged into the box before firing over a cross-shot which deflected off the unfortunate Erkan Õzbey into the net. It was the Brazilian's third goal of this season's UEFA Cup.
Gençlerbirligi coach Ersun Yanal made an immediate response, bringing on Veysel for what proved an inspired change. A teasing right-wing cross from Ali Tandogan was headed against the post by Josip Skoko, but fell straight into the path of Veysel, who flicked home from close range. The substitute could have had a quick second, forcing two good saves out of Portuguese international goalkeeper Ricardo.
A frantic last 30 minutes saw Sporting twice go close again. First Mario Sergio Leal Nogueira fizzed a shot just wide after a great run, then goalscorer Muniz had a close-range stabbed effort well saved at point-blank range. Gençlerbirligi's last chance was a looping header from Ali Tandogan, which dropped just over.
Gençlerbirligi coach Kazim Ersun Yanal was encouraged by his team's display, saying: "We could have won this game but an individual mistake led to a different ending. We created several opportunities in the second half and I congratulate the efforts of my players for their desire to rise to the challenge. Our display was hopeful."
Meanwhile, Sporting coach Fernando Santos said: "We faced just as tough a side as we were expecting. Gençlerbirligi like to play attacking football. This is a good score for Sporting, though we were expected to win. In the return leg, the atmosphere will be different but I must repeat: it will not be easy second."