NICK LEYDEN - Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tony Taylor made his second start of the season on Wednesday evening, as Estoril drew the first leg of their Taça da Liga matchup with Rio Ave.
Following the weekend's disappointing loss to Sporting, a visit from Rio Ave marked the second time in less than a week that Estoril hosted a first division opponent in a cup match.
And for the second time they were left without a win despite outplaying the visitors.
After a physical 0-0 tie in the first leg of this second round series, Rio Ave will head back to northern Portugal pleased to have avoided defeat.
But Os Canarinhos, too, will feel they are in a decent position to advance, having shutout the visitors and proving they can break down the Rio Ave defense.
With Vinícius Eutrópio and his primary assistant coach both missing through suspension, Estoril fielded a mostly first-team lineup with a few changes.
The speedy Taylor replaced Paulo Sergio up top as part of the striking duo with leading scorer Alex Afonso.
Midfielders Nelsinho and Erick were also inserted into the starting eleven, while stalwart João Coimbra missed out through injury.
Neither Bryan Arguez nor Greg Garza made the bench.
In the opening stages it looked as though Estoril were in for an emotional letdown following the intensity of the Sporting match.
The first ten minutes belonged to Rio Ave, as they took early command of the midfield. But momentum slowly changed in favor of the home team as Rio Ave's attack was shut down and Taylor and Afonso grew more involved.
The Jacksonville, Florida product and the Brazilian combined neatly on more than one occasion, but too often found themselves without sufficient support from the midfield against a compact Rio Ave defense.
Taylor also proved dangerous on the dribble after taking on numerous defenders while making impressive runs down both wings, but was never able to find a target with his crosses.
The best chance of the first half fell to Taylor in the 21st minute when he snuck behind the entire defense to receive a through ball from Da Cunha, but Mário Felgueiras made a kick save to keep the score deadlocked.
In the 30th minute Estoril appeared to take the lead after Afonso stole the ball off of the ‘keeper's feet and slid it into the net, but the referee called it back for a mysterious foul, and the teams would play out the rest of the half scoreless.
The hosts maintained the majority of possession to begin the second half but were failing to create many dangerous opportunities.
In an attempt to breathe some life into the attack, Taylor made way for Paulo Sergio in the 60th minute.
Ten minutes later Afonso found himself alone on the left side of the box and ripped a shot to the near post that appeared to beat Felgueiras.
The fans began to celebrate, and even the stadium announcer yelled goal over the loudspeaker, before everyone realized Afonso's strike had actually just missed and hit the outside netting.
As the game wore on Rio Ave began to reestablish possession and eliminate Os Canarinhos' scoring chances.
The home teams frustration with not taking advantage of earlier opportunities boiled over in the latter stages, as they earned four yellow cards in the final twenty minutes, including two for dissent and one, issued to Jefferson, for a karate kick of which even Nigel de Jong would be proud.
Rio Ave will host the second leg of this series in Vila do Conde on November 10th.
Estoril will play three league games beforehand however, the first of which will be on Sunday when they visit Fátima.