Yannick Djalo’s quick-fire double helped Sporting Lisbon overcome Academica and clamber back to third on the Liga Sagres table.
While Sporting could again slip to fourth if Braga defeat Vitoria Guimaraes on Monday, they at least snapped a three-game winless streak that had threatened to derail their quest for a Europa League spot.
Sporting’s season has lurched from one unwanted headline to the next, starting with the sale of prized assets Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho to bring much-needed funds to the club and including a bitter presidential election and the sacking of manager Paulo Sergio in February.
The on-field displays of the 22-time Portuguese champions – now led by caretaker coach Jose Couceiro – have reflected the turmoil, but a Europa League spot would go some way to improving the mood at the Estadio Jose Alvaverde.
Spurred on by a decent crowd in Lisbon, Sporting had a sight on goal within two minutes, though Alberto Zapater’s effort from outside the area was easily handled by Academica goalkeeper Romuald Peiser.
Spanish striker Enrique Carreno thought he had opened the scoring for Academica in the 13th minute only for his goal to be ruled offside, but it was to be Sporting who broke the deadlock on 32 minutes.
It came through fringe Portugal striker Djalo, who picked his spot perfectly from outside the area to leave Peiser with no chance.
And the 24-year-old striker had his eighth goal of the season – and his second brace – just two minutes later when he broke through the defence and sent a delicate chip over the onrushing Peiser.
Former Arsenal midfielder Amaury Bischoff twice brought out first-class saves from Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio before the end of the half, and Academica continued to push hard for a goal after the restart.
Substitute midfielder Diogo flashed a drive from outside the box wide in the 80th minute, while Academica got even closer seven minutes later when Modou Sougou dispossessed a flat-footed Marco Torsiglieri but could only poke his shot straight at Rui Patricio.
But Sporting held on to re-claim third on the table, while Academica stay eight points from the relegation zone in 12th.
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