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Advantage Sporting following late Fernández strike

Rangers FC 1-1 Sporting Clube de Portugal
Steven Whittaker looked to have given the hosts the edge but Matías Fernández struck in the penultimate minute to hand Sporting the initiative.

Advantage Sporting following late Fernández strike
Advantage Sporting following late Fernández strike ©UEFA.com

Matías Fernández's late goal secured a 1-1 draw for Sporting Clube de Portugal in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg at Rangers FC.

A second-half Steven Whittaker header put the Scottish club ahead after both sides had squandered a host of chances. However, Fernández struck with only a minute remaining to give the Portuguese side a valuable away goal.

Opportunities were scarce in a cautious opening period. Madjid Bougherra's long-range effort was easily dealt with by Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patrício, before Maniche seized on a poor clearance from Allan McGregor, only to drag his shot wide.

The vociferous Ibrox crowd were almost silenced when Hélder Postiga attempted an audacious 35-metre lob which flew just over McGregor's goal. Vladimír Weiss stirred Rangers into life midway through the first half with a darting run from the left but his intended recipient, El Hadji Diouf, failed to read the incisive pass.

Sporting, however, showed the greater poise in attack and were unfortunate not to take the lead when Postiga drilled low across McGregor's far post. Rangers began the second half with renewed vigour and ought to have taken the lead only 14 seconds after the restart when a deft Kyle Lafferty header released Whittaker, but his shot was well stopped by Rui Patrício.

Cristiano went close with an effort from distance that just evaded McGregor's near post, however the visitors were dealt a blow when captain Daniel Carriço was shown a yellow card for a foul on Weiss, ruling him out of the decider.

Rangers' pressure finally paid dividends when a Weiss corner found Whittaker, who rose above former Ibrox favourite Pedro Mendes to power in his header, but Fernández ensured Sporting go into next week's return in pole position by nodding precisely across McGregor from João Pereira's centre.

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