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A stunning late strike from Mauricio Pinilla gave Sporting Clube de Portugal a narrow first-leg advantage against AZ Alkmaar as the home team came from behind at the Estádio José Alvalade in their UEFA Cup semi-final.
Reasons to believe
With ten minutes remaining the substitute fired an unstoppable drive past Henk Timmer to give Sporting a 2-1 lead ahead of next Thursday's return at the Alkmaarderhout. Sporting coach José Peseiro is "confident" his side will complete the job in the Netherlands but bemoaned the injuries that threaten to deplete his squad. His counterpart, Co Adriaanse, also has reason for optimism as Alkmaar are unbeaten in 19 European home games.
José Peseiro, Sporting coach
We didn't want to concede a goal at home but it happened. When they scored they hadn't done anything to deserve it, but these things happen. It was a very difficult match as we expected, Alkmaar showed their quality. But I am very confident going into the second leg because we haven't lost an away game in the UEFA Cup this season, and as we proved tonight, we can win. We have a few players that aren't 100 per cent fit. I had to hold João Moutinho back until the second half, while Rogerio and Fabio Rochemback both came off with minor injuries. It's not easy at this stage of the season when you're competing in two different competitions.
Co Adriaanse, Alkmaar coach
I think we gave a good account of ourselves considering so many players were absent. It was our tactic to give Sporting the ball and then keep them away from our penalty area. I think we did that, and we also created three or four good opportunities, so I have to be happy with this result. I was surprised that Mr Peseiro kept Moutinho on the bench. He's a great player, but I think the Sporting coach studied our team and wanted to put one more defensive player in that part of the pitch.
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