NICK LEYDEN - Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tony Taylor made a brief appearance as a substitute in Estoril's narrow defeat against traditional powerhouse Sporting in the Taça de Portugal.
Despite outplaying their more highly regarded opposition for large periods of time, Estoril crashed out of the Portuguese Cup in their home stadium on Saturday with the loss.
Sporting coach Paulo Sergio opted not to experiment a great deal against the lesser known hosts, fielding a largely first-team squad; but it was Vinícius Eutrópio's charges who began the game the better, possessing the ball for the majority of the opening half and creating the more dangerous opportunities.
Os Canarinhos' ball movement and control of the midfield, spearheaded by Brazilian bulldog Luciano Bebé, gave the appearance that Estoril was in fact the perennial title challenger with Sporting playing the part of the overmatched second division team.
The host's initiative paid off in the 36th minute when Da Cunha sent a free kick from the just in front of the corner flag across the six-yard box where fellow Brazilian Alex Afonso was able to flick a superb header past Timo Hildebrand into the far corner of the net.
The above-capacity crowd at the Estádio António Coimbra da Mota was stunned, as the vast majority of fans in attendance were "Sportinguistas" who had made the short trip from Lisbon.
Estoril took the deserved one goal lead into the break but they would be undone in the second half.
To begin the second period, Paulo Sergio introduced Portuguese World Cup striker Liedson, as well as promising winger Diogo Salomão, in an attempt to revive Sporting's attack.
The double switch proved pivotal as the two subs combined to level the game in the 63rd minute when Liedson buried a Salomão cross past Cléber with a firm header.
It was not until the 77th minute, however, that the Estoril wheels truly came off.
Eutrópio was dismissed for something he said from the technical area after the referee ignored an obvious shirt tug by Jaime Valdez, one of Sporting's Chilean internationals, and instead whistled for a foul in the other direction.
The resulting free kick was never properly cleared by the Estoril defense, and Portuguese international striker Helder Postiga buried the loose ball from 15 yards out, delighting the pro-Sporting crowd.
The Estoril bench continued to protest the initial foul call and assistant coach Luis Roquete was soon sent to the dressing room as well.
In the 85th minute, needing a late goal to avoid elimination, Estoril called on their super-sub, Taylor.
After entering for midfielder Tiago Costa,Taylor's speed and impressive dribbling ability were on display on more than one occasion.
But the Sporting defense was able to contain each of the host's final attacks and hold on to victory, clinching passage to the fourth round.
Os Canarinhos will next take the field on Wednesday in similar circumstances when they welcome yet another first division opponent, Rio Ave, to the Estádio António Coimbra da Mota.
The matchup is the first-leg of the second round of the Taça da Liga.