Champions League group stage recap: Sporting up for adventure
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
The Portuguese champions recovered from a slow start to make it through the group stage for only the second time.
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Competitive and confident, Sporting CP's performances in the UEFA Champions League group stage suggest they can give any side a hard fight, even Manchester City.
Campaign so far
Group C runners-up: W3 D0 L3 F14 A12
Top scorer: Pedro Gonçalves (4)
15/9: Sporting 1-5 Ajax (Paulinho 33; Haller 2 9 51 63, Berghuis 39)
28/9: Dortmund 1-0 Sporting (Malen 37)
19/10: Beşiktaş 1-4 Sporting (Larin 24; Coates 15 27, Sarabia 44pen, Paulinho 89)
03/11: Sporting 4-0 Beşiktaş (Pedro Gonçalves 3pen 38, Paulinho 41, Sarabia 56)
24/11: Sporting 3-1 Dortmund (Pedro Gonçalves 30 39, Pedro Porro 81; Malen 90+3)
07/12: Ajax 4-2 Sporting (Haller 8pen, Antony 42, Neres 58, Berghuis 62; Nuno Santos 22, Tabata 78)
Campaign in ten words: Mightily impressive recovery after September setbacks for vibrant young side.
UEFA.com reporter's view
It was some debut campaign for 37-year-old coach Rúben Amorim. The outlook was bleak after the Lions opened their first group stage in four years with back-to-back defeats but three straight wins – and substantial ones at that – saw them through to the knockouts for only the second time.
What we've learned
Sporting's nerves and inexperience were exposed by Ajax on Matchday 1, but Amorim's troops grew up in public over the course of the autumn, consistent performances in Europe and on the domestic front confirming that this Lions' line-up has something about them. Supremely competitive, the charismatic Amorim took this side, against all odds, to their first league title in 19 years last season. Adversity suits him.
Fantasy star performers
Pedro Gonçalves – 43 points
Sebastian Coates – 32 points
Paulinho – 29 points
In: Marcus Edwards, Islam Slimani
Out: Jovane Cabral, Geny Catamo
Clubs could register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.
• Prior to this season, Sporting had only made it through the group stage once in eight appearances.
• The 23-year-old Pedro Gonçalves scored four goals from midfield in four group stage games.
• Encouragingly as they prepare to meet Manchester City, Sporting have won all eight of their two-legged ties against English clubs, most recently against City in 2012.