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Porto showdowns await Sporting

Published: Monday 20 March 2006, 11.25CET
Sporting Clube de Portugal broke a national record with an eighth successive Liga victory on Sunday but upcoming meetings with FC Porto remain their priority.
by Hugo Pietra
from Lisbon

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Published: Monday 20 March 2006, 11.25CET

Porto showdowns await Sporting

Sporting Clube de Portugal broke a national record with an eighth successive Liga victory on Sunday but upcoming meetings with FC Porto remain their priority.

A 1-0 win at UD Leiria on Sunday night saw Sporting Clube de Portugal break a national record by recording an eighth successive Liga victory.

Own goal
A Paulo Costinha own goal handed the Lisbon side their historic success and kept them within two points of league leaders FC Porto, but coach Paulo Bento urged caution, saying: "We have had eight victories in a row but we have not won anything. We have what it takes to win the title but we have to be consistent." The game also featured a fifth consecutive clean sheet for goalkeeper Ricardo. "It is always good not concede goals but I can assure people that the victory is always the most important thing," said the Portuguese international. "That's the reason why we give our all weekend after weekend."

Cup meeting
Ricardo will be looking for another clean sheet and another victory as his side head to the Estádio do Dragão in midweek for the Portuguese Cup semi-final against Porto - a game which may give an indication of what is to come in the sides' final league meeting of the season in a month's time. "We prepared for this game without thinking about Porto," said Sporting right-back Abel. "We deserved to win because we were very solid. Now we want to win at the Dragão in order to proceed to the Portuguese Cup final."

Exciting conclusion
The Liga campaign looks set to reach an exciting conclusion with Porto and Sporting matching each other pace for pace in the title race, but Paulo Bento is adamant that third-placed SL Benfica and his side's next league opponents, SC Braga, could yet have a say in deciding the championship. "We defend well and have a good habit of scoring important goals but I don't think the title is only going to be decided between two teams," said the young coach who replaced José Peseiro last year. "It is not a two-horse race. Benfica and Braga won this weekend and they can also take the top places."

Decisive game
Should Sporting beat Braga at the weekend, they would move ten points clear of the northern side. However, with Porto also maintaining consistency in the league, it seems certain that the decisive fixture will come when Sporting make their second trip to the Dragão in the space of a month in April.

Last updated: 20/03/06 20.53CET

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