Sporting chance for Aberdeen rekindles memories of classic matches with Lisbon giants

The Dons face the exciting prospect of taking on the Portuguese in Europa League qualifying if they can get past Viking Stavanger

Sporting Lisbon players celebrate during their 4-0 Europa League group win over PSV last November. Picture: Filipe Amorim/AFP via Getty Images
Sporting Lisbon players celebrate during their 4-0 Europa League group win over PSV last November. Picture: Filipe Amorim/AFP via Getty Images

In normal times a trip to the Portuguese capital to see their team would rank as a must-sample experience for Aberdeen fans, who must stay at home on this occasion if their side book a mouth-watering tie against Sporting Lisbon.

It should still represent an exciting potential prospect for Derek McInnes’ in-form team ahead of their Europa League second qualifying round clash with Viking Stavanger.

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This first clash, which takes place in Norway behind closed doors a fortnight tomorrow and will be settled on the night, is a tough enough assignment in this temporary one-legged format. The Eliteserien season in Norway is already well underway and although Viking have struggled for the most part – they currently lie tenth – they are unbeaten in their last four games, winning the last two.

Both Aberdeen and Stavanger will be motivated by the thought of facing Sporting Lisbon, an enduring power in European football although one with a curiously poor record against Scottish opposition. Since Dundee overcame the Portuguese side in the second round of the European Cup in the 1962-63 season, winning 4-1 at Dens Park after a 1-0 defeat away, Sporting have prevailed only once in six further meetings against sides from Scotland.

That early chastening experience at the hands of Bob Shankly’s Dundee team, fresh from an 8-1 first leg victory over Cologne in the first round, rather set the tone for a tale of bleak fortunes extending through subsequent decades. After losing to a last-minute goal in Portugal, Dundee comprehensively outdid the visitors at Dens, with Alan Gilzean notching his second hat-trick of the tournament.

Rangers’ victory over Sporting on the way to winning the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1972 was a more fraught affair. It remains an incredible story. The Ibrox side won 3-2 in the first leg at home and then lost by the same scoreline in Portugal, with the tie going into extra-time. Willie Henderson scored to make it 3-3 and put Rangers ahead on aggregate, but Sporting scored their fourth goal of the night to make it 6-6. Fortunately for Rangers, the away goals rule had just been introduced, even if referee Laurens van Raavens seemed oblivious to this. He ordered a penalty shoot-out, which Rangers lost. But the result was later overturned and the tie awarded to the Ibrox club when Uefa learned of the mistake, which Rangers players had been trying to point out to van Raavens at the end of extra time.

Things were more clear-cut in the first round of the following season’s competition, when Sporting were once again drawn against Scottish opposition. A 2-1 victory at home for Sporting counted for little away, with Eddie Turnbull’s Hibs side running amok on a famous night at Easter Road. Drawing 1-1 at half-time, Hibs proved irresistible after the interval, scoring five times without reply.

Sporting were spared the task of sparring with Scottish teams for more than 20 years before the draw for the second round of the 1983-84 Uefa Cup paired them with Celtic. Again, Sporting – then under the charge of future Celtic manager Jozef Venglos – fell by five goals and this time they failed to score in a 5-0 drubbing at Parkhead. This scoreline emphatically overturned a 2-0 defeat for the Scots in the first leg.

Sporting’s single triumph over two legs against a Scottish club came against a less than vintage Celtic side in a Uefa Cup second round clash in 1993-94. Frank Connor was in temporary charge prior to the appointment of Lou Macari and following the sacking of Liam Brady. Celtic secured a mood-lifting 1-0 win thanks to an early Gerry Creaney goal in front of just over 30,000 at Parkhead but would rue the narrow nature of the win a fortnight later. The Scots lost 2-0 at the old Jose Alvalade stadium, with future Celtic striker Jorge Cadete scoring both goals.

Normal service resumed 15 years later when Rangers secured a 2-0 win in Portugal, with the hosts having thought they had done the hard work in Glasgow where they earned a 0-0 draw in the 2008 Uefa Cup quarter-final. The return leg is remembered for a slaloming run from Steven Whittaker which saw him score to make the tie safe and keep Rangers on course for the Uefa Cup final, which they lost to Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester.

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Times have changed markedly even since this most recent meeting between Sporting and Scottish opposition. The Portuguese club sold influential midfielder Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United for nearly £50 million earlier this year. Aberdeen’s star player, Sam Cosgrove, was recently the subject of a £2m offer from French Ligue 2 side Guingamp.

Sporting have qualified for the group stage of either the Champions League or Europa League in each of the last five seasons, with their form in the Jose Alvalade stadium offering Aberdeen little comfort should they secure a trip to Lisbon via Norway later this month. Ruben Amorim’s side have won their last four games at home in Europe, including a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven last season.

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