Sporting Clube de Portugal have never lost a two-legged tie against English opposition and they will return to Lisbon for the second instalment of this UEFA Europa League last-32 contest with their hopes alive after a Miguel Veloso's late penalty in a narrow defeat at Everton.
The home team looked to have put themselves in a strong position through goals from Steven Pienaar and Sylvain Distin but the latter's slip opened the door for Sporting to halve the deficit with three minutes remaining. After miscontrolling Jack Rodwell's pass and losing the ball to Liedson, Distin brought the striker down in the box to hand Sporting their lifeline – and earn himself a red card.
Everton lost by a 7-0 aggregate to Sporting's city rivals, SL Benfica, in the group stage but they are a stronger proposition now and almost made an early breakthrough in the 12th minute when Louis Saha got clear after a headed one-two with Tim Cahill but Rui Patrício was equal to his shot and then stopped Leon Osman's follow-up.
Just after the half-hour Donovan sprang the offside trap but failed to get his lob on target. Everton's next foray provided the breakthrough, however. Phil Neville slipped a pass through to Cahill who, breaking inside the area, back-heeled the ball for Pienaar to drive high into the roof of the net.
Sporting have endured a miserable run in Portugal recently – with four defeats in five – but had their own chances before the break. Pedro Mendes forced two saves from Tim Howard before Marat Izmailov drove a shot against the near post.
Instead Everton doubled their lead four minutes after the restart as Rui Patrício, under pressure from Cahill, missed Leighton Baines' corner and the ball rolled in off Distin's knee. It took a fine Leon Osman interception to deny Carlos Saleiro a clear chance as Sporting pressed for a way back into the tie but after Rui Patrício had kept out Everton substitute Ayegbeni Yakubu's shot, Distin's mistake presented the visitors with the goal that gives them hope.