NICK LEYDEN - Sunday, December 18, 2011
Oguchi Onyewu and Sporting could only manage a tie on the road against Académica, while a Tony Taylor goal could not prevent defeat for Atlético.
Académica de Coimbra 1 - 1 Sporting CP
Despite dominating possession and enjoying the bulk of the scoring chances Sporting were held to a disappointing draw in Coimbra.
Domingos Paciencia's men lacked precision in the attacking third throughout the game, consistently failing to connect on the final pass and missing several clear opportunities.
The inefficiency began in only the third minute, when the usually reliable Ricky van Wolfswinkel shot wide after an errant pass from Austrian defender Markus Berger left him isolated in the box, and it continued until the final whistle.
Even Onyewu, who has scored two game-winning goals on the season, missed a sitter in the 68th minute when the ball fell to him ten yards from goal and he blasted it skyward.
The hosts were only slightly more efficient, though Éderzito's 28th minute sliding finish from a Diogo Valente cross gave them a surprise lead.
Sporting eventually equalized in the 81st minute when Elias cleaned up a rebound after an Andre Carrillo cross could only be palmed away by Académica ‘keeper Romuald Peiser.
While one can be critical of Gooch's finishing he played yet another solid game in the back, overpowering Académica in the air and making a potentially goal-saving block on Éderzito.
The tie means Sporting has fallen six points behind leaders Porto and Benfica, who both secured comfortable wins this weekend.
Sporting will not play another league game until the new year, though they will take the field one more time in 2011 in the Taça de Portugal quarterfinals on Thursday.
CD Aves 3 - 1 Atlético CP
For the second time in three weeks Atlético suffered a loss on the road to a fellow promotion chaser, allowing Tony Taylor's former club, Estoril, to leap to the top of the Liga Orangina standings.
In the opening stages Atlético proved far superior to their hosts, creating multiple chances through Tiago Caiero and Zezinho before Taylor notched his second goal of the season in the 18th minute.
The Florida native, who João de Deus deploys on the right side of a three-man attack, beat four defenders on the dribble while cutting into the box before scoring with a left footed strike inside the near post.
Atlético's fortunes would change just seven minutes later, however, when Brazilian midfielder Silva was shown a questionable red card for a tackle on Pedro Cervantes.
The guests' lead lasted through the early part of the second half, but Aves eventually capitalized on the numerical advantage three times in a brief sixteen minute stretch.
Ivorian attacker Dally nodded home a corner kick in the 60th minute, giving Caleb Patterson-Sewell no chance to make a save.
Just five minutes later another dubious refereeing decision went against Atlético, as substitute defender Rolão was unfairly adjudged to have hauled down Dally in the box. Jorge Pires slotted home the subsequent spot kick, giving Aves a lead they would not relinquish.
Pedro Pereira rounded out the scoring in the 76th minute, beating Patterson-Sewell with a well placed shot across the goal from the right side of the box.
The loss drops Atlético out of the top spot for the first time since the second week of the season, as Estoril now holds a one point lead.
Atlético have one more game in 2011, at home against Freamunde on 12/28, and will hope to end the recent skid which has seen them pick up just a single point in three games.