Debutant André Martins has promised no let-up from Sporting Clube de Portugal after the Lions confirmed their place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with three group games to spare – the earliest point at which a team can progress.
The 21-year-old had dual cause for celebration in Lisbon on Thursday following the hosts' 2-0 win against ten-man FC Vaslui. Not only did Sporting seal qualification with their third straight Group D victory – establishing a seven-point lead over the Romanian outfit as well as FC Zürich and S.S. Lazio, who drew 1-1 – they did so on the midfielder's senior debut.
"We want to win every match if possible, we will not slow down," said the academy product, who entered the fray with 12 minutes remaining. "We will keep going with the same intensity. We're still in the group stage but Sporting enter every competition with the intention of winning it, so we will certainly fight to do that."
The triumph was Sporting's eighth in succession and third in a row without conceding. All in all, then, a "great day" for Martins. "Besides my performance the most important thing was the team display," he added. "We played really well again – it's easy to come into the team in this situation. I felt no pressure but of course I was a bit anxious when I came off the bench for my debut."
Winger Diego Capel, meanwhile, expects things to get harder from here on in. "We had to win in order to make things easier in the group," said the Spanish international, a summer signing from Sevilla FC. "I'm very happy with the win and with the team's overall performance. We know things will become more and more difficult in this competition.
"However, I'm delighted with recent results. The team have been playing superbly – Sporting have great players. It's great to be part of this winning group. We're on the right track and must continue like this because we can achieve great things if we stay grounded."
Sporting had taken control after Vaslui captain Wesley was sent off in the 38th minute, opening the scoring through Evaldo on the cusp of half-time and making the points safe through Matías Fernández with 20 minutes left.
Coach Domingos Paciência, who guided SC Braga to last season's UEFA Europa League final, acknowledged that the red card was the turning point. "We scored after they had a player sent off and then things changed. Sporting were deserved winners because we played very well. Qualification is very important but even more so is playing well and with confidence, as we have been doing."