Simon Vukčević scored a 69th-minute equaliser at Bolton Wanderers FC to wrest the initiative for Sporting Club de Portugal in this UEFA Cup Round of 16 meeting.
Bolton, who had opened the scoring through Gavin McCann after 25 minutes, remain unbeaten at home in European competition but will have to conjure another of their away-day specials to avoid elimination. The English club have already beaten FK Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade and drawn at FC Bayern München and Club Atlético de Madrid, while Sporting's lone European reverse in Lisbon this term was at the hands of an English club – Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League back in September.
Bolton suffered a blow before the match started when No1 goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen suffered an injury in the warm-up. That handed Oman international Ali Al-Habsi only his fifth appearance since joining in January 2006. Gary Megson's side shook off that setback, though, to take the lead in the 25th minute. Having collected a flick-on from a long free-kick, Heidar Helguson picked out Matt Taylor with a lay-off to his right, and after the former Portsmouth FC man's shot was blocked, McCann side-footed in.
In a half short of opportunities, João Moutinho curled Sporting's best opening on to the roof of the net, while Taylor later fizzed a right-foot shot narrowly wide after Tonel had blocked an attempted through ball from Nicky Hunt. The woodwork then prevented Bolton from doubling their advantage seven minutes into the second half, Helguson denied having got his head to a Kevin Davies flick-on. But Bolton then began to sit back as they looked to protect their lead and they paid the price in the 69th minute. With substitute Leandro Romagnoli having just fired against the bar, Vukčević beat Al-Habsi with a neat finish – meaning advantage Sporting with next Thursday's return to come.
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