Sporting Clube de Portugal are through to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup and a showdown with competition debutants Middlesbrough FC after a deserved win in Rotterdam matched their first-leg triumph against Feyenoord.
A cagey start saw neither team establish any real dominance and it was not until the eleventh minute when the first opportunity arose. Rogerio found himself with time and space inside the Feyenoord half of the pitch, and his delightful through ball for Sá Pinto breached the offside trap. However, he shot straight at goalkeeper Patrick Lodewijks with the goal beckoning.
Feyenoord's main hope of finding the net lay at the feet and head of top scorer Dirk Kuijt, and the prolific striker nearly gave the hosts a 16th-minute lead. The 24-year-old ran on to a long ball, shrugging off defender Hugo in the process, only for Sporting goalkeeper Ricardo to dive bravely at his feet and deflect the ball away.
Patrick Paauwe began taking more of an influence in the Feyenoord midfield and he created the next opportunity for the home side on the half-hour mark. His raking long ball was perfect for Salomon Kalou, but the Ivory Coast striker shot over the bar whilst under pressure.
With the score deadlocked at half-time, Feyenoord knew they would have to come out with more attacking belief in the second half, but as they pressed forward they were hit by a Sporting breakaway goal.
Liedson broke clear from the halfway line with the Feyenoord defence appealing for offside. As Lodewijks came out to narrow the angle, the Brazilian forward expertly chipped a superb goal over the onrushing keeper to increase Sporting's advantage.
A break in play followed, after the referee led both teams off after what appeared to be some objects thrown from the crowd on to the pitch, and on their return Sporting continued to catch Feyenoord on the break.
The decisive second goal came with just seven minutes remaining when Brazilian playmaker Fabio Rochemback thumped in a free-kick from more than 30 metres, giving Lodewijks no chance.
That goal meant Feyenoord would need to score four times to go through and that was never likely to happen. However, the home fans did get something to cheer in the dying seconds when Nicky Hofs scored from a tight angle after a neat lay-off from Kuijt.
The goal was only a consolation though, and it is Sporting who go through to the last 16, where Middlesbrough, who eliminated Grazer AK tonight, are the latest obstacle to the Lisbon club's dreams of playing in the final at their own Estádio José Alvalade.
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