The second round of the NextGen Semi Finals tonight brought together Aston Villa and Sporting Clube de Portugal. Both teams had already played each other in the group stages, with Aston Villa beating Sporting away 5-1 and then losing at home 3-1. Sporting had had the better run in the later stages of the tournament but with both playing away at Calcio Como which team would prevail and meet Chelsea in the final?
The game started off stronger for Sporting, possibly due to the dedicated singing supporters, but the first 15 minutes consisted of scrappy play with punts up and down the pitch. Eventually, Sporting began to slowly take control of the game with some good upfront linking between Farley Rosa and Ricardo Esgaio. When Villa did get a touch on the ball it was half hearted, with a free kick from Burke on the edge of the box practically passing the ball to the keeper.
Towards the end of the first half, Sporting Clube de Portugal took advantage of the gaps in Villa's defence and were getting closer to scoring with each effort. Iuri Medeiros had a good attempt from the corner of the box, just skimming past the post, but the closest and best play of the first half was a disallowed goal from a corner set play as Palhinha was offside.
The second half started in Sporting's favour as Rosa once again took a long shot on target and forced the keeper to push for a corner. But against the play the Captain was fouled in the box and Burke redeemed his earlier poor free kick by slotting the ball into the bottom right corner. 1-0 to Villa.
This seemed to light a fire under Sporting who went on a fierce attack and within minutes had scored another well conceived, set play goal, but again it was deemed offside. This was followed by a fortunate let off by Villa as Medeiros hit the crossbar from outside the box. Sporting seemed to have total control of the game but the equaliser still eluded them as shots from Rosa and Fokobo were saved from a concession of corners.
Medeiros' 65th minute free kick was perfectly placed and allowed Stojanovic to head the ball hard and low past the keeper to level the scores 1-1. The game was back in play with both teams stepping up their efforts as the 90 minutes drew closer. Sporting had the last chance in the 90th minute to seal the deal but shot wide which pushed the game into extra-time.
Extra time and Villa took the lead in the 3rd minute due to a lazy Sporting defence. The pass from Robinson took them by surprise and Jack Grealish punished Sporting by knocking the ball past the keeper's left side into the corner. Once again Villa were ahead 2-1, but with more sloppy defending from Sporting it took a couple of great saves from Meira to deny Villa a third and fourth. Meira could only do so much though as Villa captain Samir Carruthers capitalised on another defensive error and smashed the ball into the net giving Villa the two goal advantage just on the half time whistle.
Start of the second half of extra time was fiery to say the least as Sporting went for a death or glory approach but were foiled by some solid Villa defending. Heavy tackles came in from both sides but Villa stood strong - a total transformation from the first half of the game. Villa have secured their place in the all England final against Chelsea on Monday.