Sporting clinch first Portuguese title since 2002

Lisbon (AFP) – Sporting Lisbon were crowned champions of Portugal for the first in almost two decades on Tuesday.

A 1-0 win over Boavista at their Jose Alvalade Stadium clinched Sporting’s 19th title with the last coming back in 2002.

Paulinho’s 36th minute goal put ‘the Lions’ out of reach of outgoing champions Porto at a game played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lisbon side’s celebrations were delayed 24 hours after Porto kept their chances alive, at least for 24 hours, with a 5-1 rout of lowly Farense on Monday.

They took the title in style, with an eight point cushion over the ‘Dragons’ from the north of the country, and boasting an unbeaten record.

Despite calls by local authorities to respect social distancing restrictions thousands of fans had begun to gather outside Sporting’s Lisbon home well before kick-off.

Celebrations outside the stadium were in full flow even before the final whistle had blown.

At half-time scuffles between supporters and police left several people injured, police reported.

Once the match ended fans flooded the streets of the capital, accompanied by fireworks, car horns blaring and chants of “We are champions”.

Sporting, where Cristiano Ronaldo began his career, rose to the top of the table at the start of November and have remained there ever since.

Their success ended the duopoly enjoyed by their arch Lisbon rivals Benfica and Porto who between them had won every title since 2003.

Sporting have already picked up silverware this season, winning the League Cup with a 1-0 win over Braga in January.

Three years ago Sporting went though the worst crisis in their 100-year history, with fans ransacking the club’s training centre and assaulting players and staff after they finished third.

The incident led to the departure of coach Jorge Jesus, several senior members of the squad and club president Bruno de Carvalho, who was accused of inflaming the fans’ anger. 

Current president Frederico Varandas decided to change tack and put the club’s youth talent at the heart of a team led by 36-year-old coach Ruben Amorim with the move paying handsome dividends.

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