Sporting CP head coach Jorge Jesus is already setting his sights on Europa League glory after Real Madrid ended his side’s Champions League ambitions.
Karim Benzema headed home decisively with three minutes to play in Lisbon, handing Madrid a 2-1 triumph in a Group F match their hosts needed to win.
Sporting set up a grandstand finish when Adrien Silva converted an 80th-minute penalty to cancel out Raphael Varane’s first-half opener, despite Joao Pereira having been sent off for punching Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic in the stomach.
Jesus’ men must now avoid defeat at Legia Warsaw in the final group game to secure third place – a match their opponents must approach on the back of a scarcely believable 8-4 defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
“This last match will be a decisive one in terms of qualification for the Europa League,” Jesus told reporters afterwards.
“Both teams can still qualify. It will be a difficult game in Poland. If we play like we did against Madrid, however, we will be able to get a result there.
“We want to qualify for the Europa League because I believe we have a good chance of going very far in that competition.”
Silva laid the platform for his team to aim for an unlikely victory but, having suffered a second narrow loss of the campaign to Madrid, he felt the LaLiga leaders made their big-game knowhow tell.
“In the decisive moments Real made the most of their bigger experience,” said the Portugal midfielder.
“We had several opportunities to score and to get the lead, but we didn’t. They showed more maturity.
“Besides that, we did not see much of a difference between the two teams and we proved our quality.”