NICK LEYDEN - Monday, September 12, 2011
After watching three league games from the bench to begin the Portuguese season, Oguchi Onyewu was handed his first start and helped Sporting Lisbon to a comeback victory.
Paços de Ferreira 2 - 3 Sporting Lisbon
After three disappointing results landed Sporting near the bottom of the standings, as well as a flurry of transfer deadline activity, Domingos Paciencia made almost wholesale changes to the starting lineup against Paços de Ferreira.
Among the seven changes was inserting Onyewu in the center of defense to pair with Peruvian Alberto Rodriguez, rather than veteran Anderson Polga or captain Daniel Carriço.
The new look lineup, which featured only two players who were with Sporting last year, did not immediately change Sporting's fortunes though, as a series of defensive miscues and a lack of precision in the attacking third allowed the hosts to score the game's first two goals.
In only the fourth minute Paços de Ferreira was ahead when Michel drove home a 15-yard indirect kick, awarded after Rui Patricio picked up a ball adjudged to be a backpass from Rodriguez.
The powerful Brazilian striker doubled the home team's lead in the 55th minute with an 18 yard header, once again victimizing Rodriguez who was positioned on the wrong side of his man.
For Sporting fans there was a sinking feeling that despite the big names that were brought into both the roster and coaching staff over the summer, they still could not escape such poor performances.
The despair turned to hope in the 69th minute, however, when Nuno Santos was sent off for his second yellow card.
The Lisbon giants would use the man advantage ruthlessly for the final 20 minutes.
Russian substitute Marat Izmailov, who has been Sporting's most consistent attacking threat this season, brought the guests within one in the 75th minute after a failed clearance by Cassio fell to him around the penalty spot.
Three minutes later Elias, who was making his debut after arriving from Atletico Madrid at the transfer deadline, leveled the score at two apiece.
In the 83rd minute Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, another summer signing, completed Sporting's comeback when he was left alone to volley home a free kick at the far post.
Onyewu's next opportunity to cement a spot will be in Europa League action on Thursday when Sporting visits FC Zurich.
Atletico Club de Portugal's American duo of Caleb Patterson-Sewell and Tony Taylor had the weekend off as the Liga de Honra have no matches until September 17.