Sporting win NexLions Cup; Singapore fourth

The Sporting Lisbon U-19 team won the inaugural NexLions Cup after running out 2-0 winners against the Liverpool U-19 team at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Sunday night.

Football News: Sporting Lisbon, Nexlions Cup

Sporting might have started the inaugural NexLions Cup as the underdogs, but there is no doubt that the best team won the tournament after their impressive performance in the final. 

Meanwhile, a valiant performance from the Singapore Youth Selection was not enough to prevent their second defeat in a row against English opposition as they went down 2-1 to Manchester United Under-19 in the third-place playoff match.

Sporting had earlier beaten the Manchester United Under-19 team 4-1 on Friday but were still expected to face a stiff challenge against a Liverpool side boasting four players with first-team experience. But they made a mockery of such predictions by dominating the opening half against a poor Liverpool side, carving out chance after chance particularly through the impressive trio of Carlos Mane, Luka Stojanovic and Edlino Ie.

The pacey Portuguese side squandered several guilt-edged opportunities, with the irrepressible Ie, in particular, tormenting the Liverpool backline with some effective dribbling. The young Portuguese side scored their first goal within a minute after the restart through Stojanovic and sealed the result on the stroke of full-time with a goal by Luis Cortez.

Liverpool, in contrast, could not create many clear cut openings as the front line, led by the highly-rated Adam Morgan, missed Samed Yesil's presence after the German was placed on the bench due to an injury concern.

The first real chance for Sporting arrived after just eight minutes into the game when captain Mane outpaced Niall Heaton down the right but fired past the post when he looked set to score. Mane again came to the fore after 27 minutes when he rounded Ryan Fulton and laid off for the on-rushing Stojanovic, whose shot was headed off the line by Heaton. The impressive Mane then managed to beat the offside trap down the right flank in the 43rd minute and squared a pass for Ie but the gangly forward totally miscued his attempt with only the keeper to beat

Much like in the senior side's 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa, the young Reds simply could not get into top form and were unable to play their usual high-possession tactic, relying instead on long balls over the top which were easily dealt with by a disciplined Sporting defence.

And it did not take long for the Portuguese to finally punish the English side as Stojanovic broke into the box and fired a low shot into the bottom corner just 36 seconds into the second half.

In a bid to maintain the lead, Mane was swapped with defender Wilson Janco and the substitute almost scored a goal of his own in the 65th minute after bursting into the box down the left and shooting just wide of the post. Liverpool's first chance of note came a minute later when Marc Pelosi followed up a through ball but saw his shot cleared off the line by Ricardo Ferreira Tavares.

Liverpool almost had a chance to equalise two minutes from time when substitute Kristoffer Petersson beat Sporting right-back Gelson Martins down the left flank but he opted to shoot from a narrow angle when a delivery into the box would have been more promising. Shortly afterwards, Sporting had goalkeeper Mickael Meira to thank after he smothered another shot.

Sporting weren't content with just a single goal, however, and they managed to score another after a quick counter-attack was finished off by Cortez to complete a well-deserved win.

Earlier, the Singapore Youth Selection, led by Aide Iskandar, gave a good account of themselves against Manchester United Under-19 and managed to grab the lead through a Sahil Suhaimi penalty in the 52nd minute but substitute Mats Daehli starred for the young Red Devils with a brace later on in the game.

James Weir went closest for United after hitting the post within the first minute but Singapore defended stoutly and restricted the English side to very few chances for the rest of the half.

Singapore, who were without Iqbal Hussain and midfield anchorman M Anumanthan in the starting XI, grabbed the lead as Sahil slotted the penalty awarded to his side after the forward was tripped inside the box by Declan Dalley. But 17-year-old Daehli then stole the show after he burst into the penalty box down the left and unleashed a firm shot from a narrow angle, helped by a deflection off Shakir Hamzah, to equalise the scores.

Four minutes later, Weir put Daehli down the left once more and the Dane made no mistake with just the keeper to beat, beautifully curling his shot into the top corner to complete the comeback.

United could have won by a more comprehensive scoreline but Rudy Khairullah made a couple of terrific saves to deny Jack Barmby late in the match.

Speaking after the games, Sporting coach Abel Ferreira was not surprised that his side ended the tournament as winners and promised to return next year in order to defend their title.

"It is you that is surprised, not me that my team won. I'm very proud of my players and my staff," he said.

"This tournament is fantastic and the people here are nice. For me and my players, we want to come back again next year to defend our title."

And United U-19 coach Paul McGuiness was happy with the manner of his side's comeback win as well as their second half performance.

"After the substitutions we played more quickly," he said.

"Physically it was tough and the players are not used to pushing themselves through these conditions. The biggest thing is the discomfort and the mental toughness to push yourself and play.

"This is a good simulation of first team action, playing in the different conditions. [It was] a simulation for what can happen for these boys in the future.

"We have to get used to that, being in a foreign country, with the pressure [and] uncomfortable conditions.

"It's what they need to be as a football player." 

On the other hand, Aide was gracious in defeat and confessed that the best side won out in the end. 

"The boys did their best. It is never easy to play two games in three days," he said. 

"We only had three and a half weeks to prepare for this tournament, unlike the foreign teams who train together since young. 

"We gave United a good fight but they were the better side."

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