Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FC Porto had a second chance in the Cup tournament – they reached the final, after having easy opponent at the ½ finals: an away fixture, but against lowly Famalicao. FC Porto won 2-0. Meantime the foes from Lisbon fought each other – Sporting was losing ground in the championship, but as every club on downhill, but still strong, the Cup became the place for brief excellence. A derby with local enemy was highly motivating too – Sporting trashed Benfica 3-1, the only match Benfica lost this season.
The final was dramatic as well – the regular match ended in 1-1 tie. In the replay Sporting triumphed, however minimally – 2-1.

The 'new' FC Porto came very close to a double. The lost final only showed that the team was still unripe for true dominance. They needed polishing, a few new players, little things. This was still a squad of 'second-bests' in the general Portuguese scheme. Fernando Gomes was sill too young – 21 years old – and not in full bloom yet. FC Porto had to wait for a double.
Tough, dramatic, but well deserved Cup for Sporting Lisbon. 14th Cup for them – big numbers historically, but the recent years showed clearly this was the most Sporting was able to reach now. Still, enjoyable and not just a consolation. For the moment, Sporting saved otherwise disappointing season.

Perhaps the trophy was to be cherished more – victories were increasingly harder for Sporting in the changing reality of Portuguese football. They were no longer able to build a great squad – the most famous players were in Benfica and the brightest younger talent in FC Porto. Sporting was becoming just 'solid'... it was quite telling that they depended on aging star like Salif Keita, well beyond his prime and nearing retirement. Similar was Artur, spending his best years with the arch-enemy, Benfica. Because of that perhaps Sporting's victory was to be appreciated more – it was a great success of spirit, against the odds, and brave attempt of disadvantaged club to stay among the best.