Teams: SPORTING CP & Portugal NT
Milestone no millstone for Sporting
Tuesday 12 February 2008
by José Nuno Pimentel from Lisbon
Sporting Clube de Portugal will play their 200th UEFA club competition fixture against FC Basel 1893 and Marat Izmailov is sure his side "can win the UEFA Cup".
As long as there have been UEFA club competitions, Sporting have been involved – the Lisbon side took part in the first European Champion Clubs' Cup tie, drawing 3-3 at home against JSD Partizan – now Serbia's FK Partizan – on 4 September 1955, prior to losing the second leg in Belgrade 5-2. Their only silverware to date came in the 1963/64 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, with João Morais scoring direct from a corner to win 1-0 against MTK Budapest in a replay in Deurne, Belgium, after a 3-3 draw in the first match in Brussels.
'That's my goal'
However, 25-year-old Russia midfielder Izmailov – currently on loan at the club from FC Lokomotiv Moskva – feels that another European title might be in the offing for the famous Lisbon side. "I believe that we can win the UEFA Cup," said the midfielder, whose goal against champions FC Porto gave Sporting the Portuguese Super Cup back in August. "We have a good team so we have all the conditions to win the competition. That's my goal and the team's too."
The team have had big ambitions before. They reached the semi-finals of the 1990/91 UEFA Cup, losing out to FC Internazionale Milano and more recently got to the 2004/05 UEFA Cup final, staged at their own Estádio José Alvalade, but lost 3-1 to PFC CSKA Moskva. A bewildering result, but perhaps not as confusing as events following their exit from the 1973/74 Cup Winners' Cup semi-final.
Drawn against German side 1. FC Magdeburg, Sporting drew 1-1 in Lisbon but lost 2-1 in the return leg on 24 April 1974 to bow out of the competition. Bizarrely it then took them two days to get home again. The day after the game, the bloodless Carnation Revolution saw the overthrow of the authoritatian Portuguese government and prompted the closure of all of national airports. The Sporting players ended up having to fly to Madrid, making the final leg of their return home by coach.
'We'll be better'
Sporting's chances of deposing Porto as Liga champions look slender, but coach Paulo Bento remains optimistic of his side earning a 50th UEFA competition win against Basel and is hoping for "a victory without conceding". Liedson, one of the stars of that 2004/05 UEFA Cup campaign, hopes the weekend's 2-1 Portuguese Cup win against CS Marítimo augurs well for European tie No200. "It's important to go into a hard match like a UEFA Cup tie on the back of a victory," said the 30-year-old Brazilian. "We are not at our best yet but I am sure that we'll be better on Wednesday."
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”