The magnificent Villa Park arena was bathed in evening sunshine for the fixture between Aston Villa and Sporting Club of Portugal. An excellent playing surface and an enthusiastic crowd set the scene for a much anticipated encounter involving two clubs with long standing reputations for elite player development.
Villa dominated in the early stages with Jack Grealish dictating the midfield area and Michael Drennan and Jordan Graham causing problems for the Sporting defence. Villa should have gone ahead on 15 minutes after excellent work from wide player Josh Barton resulted in a crossed delivery that was headed over with the goal beckoning. This miss was amended in the 31st minute when centre forward Drennan headed home from close range to give Villa a deserved lead, much to the delight of the home fans. However, the lead was very short lived, with the Sporting team countering almost immediately for No.6 Ecklino Le to equalise.
This goal clearly spurred on the Sporting team and they began to dominate the latter stages of the first half, with No. 11 Iuni Medeinos having an ever more dominant role. This dominance saw Sporting take the lead in the 39th minute when following some good combination work the ball was slotted home by No.7 Carlos Mane.
The start of the 2nd period saw Sporting again dominate some key areas and they extended their lead in the 58th minute when a somewhat controversial penalty was awarded for a foul on Maillmauu. Full back Manno Riquicho despatched the spot kick with a fierce drive that gave Sporting a 3-1 lead.
Substitutions in the 63rd and 75th minutes saw Luis Contex replace Mailmauu and Cristian Ponde replace Farley Rosa for Sporting. Likewise, Villa made changes with Umit Eminoglu and Bradley Lewis replacing Josh Barton and Riccardo Calder respectively. Contex had an immediate influence on the game, displaying a comfort in possession and an excellent range of passing. Indeed, one raking left foot diagonal should have resulted in a 4th goal for Sporting.
A yellow card given to Sporting’s Pinto for a harsh challenge was followed in the 81st minute by the introduction of Danny Crowley for Villa replacing Charlie Ward. Young Crowley only recently celebrated his 15th birthday and yet he showed a desire and maturity beyond his years and caught the eye with a scintillating run into the Sporting defensive area.
A bad challenge by Contex on Villa’s Lewis resulted in both a yellow card for the Portuguese midfielder and the introduction of Mason Watkins Clark to replace the unfortunate Lewis. Sporting made 3 further substitutions in the closing minutes, with Felipe Santos and Wilson Janco both being given the opportunity to sample the magnificent Villa Park playing surface.
A final booking occurred in the 89th minute for Sporting’s No. 7 Carlos Mane.
This was an excellent game of football between two teams looking to play the right way. Both sets of players looked comfortable in possession and will have undoubtedly benefitted from a fixture of this quality. We very much look forward to the next game in this group which sees Villa travel to play PSV in Eindhoven and Sporting travel to Glasgow to play Celtic.