This 0-0 draw had the potential to be an interesting tactical encounter after both managers secured wins having sprung surprises in the previous round of Primeira Liga fixtures.
Marcel Keizer’s Sporting had overcome title-chasing Braga 3-0 after setting out his side in a 3-4-3 formation for the first time this season. Maritimo’s manager Petit had also surprised his opponent in abandoning his favoured 4-4-2 in favour of a more compact 4-5-1 set-up in his side’s 1-0 victory over Belenenses.
The test for Sporting would be whether they could recover from their midweek Europa League exit to Villarreal and find success with their new formation without relying on the element of surprise.
Petit named the same eleven who beat Belenenses, with 18-year-old Pedro Pelagio making only his second start in a midfield duo with the more defensive-minded Josip Vukovic. January signing Rene Santos had the role of shielding the back four.
Sporting made only two changes from Thursday’s trip to Villarreal, with Renan Ribeiro returning in goal and Marcos Acuna reclaiming the left wing-back spot. Sporting’s captain Bruno Fernandes would nominally be one of the forward three, though in reality he was given a great deal of freedom to find space wherever he could and help out in the build-up play.
Maritimo’s low block
Maritimo employed a low block and allowed Sporting’s centre-backs to bring the ball forward, but they didn’t leave sole striker Getterson to press on his own. Pelagio often stepped out of the midfield-five to support Getterson, even though this left gaps in-behind.
Although using the low block, Maritimo managed to limit Sporting to only four shots in the first half, they struggled to cope with Bruno Fernandes’ movement. The Portuguese international positioned himself in line with Maritimo’s defenders then dropped into the space left in front of them to receive passes from deep.
The captain of Sporting also managed to influence the game from deeper positions, as he roamed the pitch looking for spaces to exploit.
Keizer rings the changes
Sporting will have gone in at half-time disappointed with their performance. Despite dominating possession with 77% of the ball in the first half, they only managed two shots on target. They were not managing to get crosses into the box either, managing only one successful cross in eight attempts.
It was not surprising therefore to see Keizer change things around for the second half. January signing Idrissa Doumbia replaced Gudelj in the centre of midfield and left-sided centre back Borja was sacrificed for winger Raphinha.
This meant that Sporting shifted to their familiar 4-2-3-1 system, with Fernandes in the central attacking role flanked by Raphinha on the right and Abdoulay Diaby on the left.
The substitute Raphinha immediately started to make things happen as Sporting once again took advantage of the gaps left in the Maritimo midfield as they were drawn out this time in trying to close down Wendel in central midfield.
It was also early in the second half that Maritimo created a rare half-chance. The youngster Pelagio showed great awareness of space as he spotted the gap in between Sebastian Coates and Stefan Ristovski. His well-timed run went undetected and Coates was forced to foul him on the edge of the box to prevent a certain goalscoring opportunity. Coates picked up a yellow card here, which was to prove costly as he was sent off for a second bookable offence in the closing minutes of the game and will now miss Sporting’s next game at home to Portimonense.
Pelagio begins his run just at the same moment the nearest Sporting player to him, Wendel, takes his eyes off him.
Overall in the second half, Sporting improved. They created more chances and managed to get balls into the box, connecting with six of their 13 attempted crosses in the second half. They looked to stretch Maritimo by getting the ball into wide areas, with Raphinha in particular making an impact cutting in from the right-hand side.
In spite of this, they were still not able to effectively feed frontman Bas Dost with the Dutchman registering just one shot in the entire 90 minutes.
Last roll of the dice
In the 80th minute, Marcel Keizer made another change has he brought on striker Luiz Phellype for Wendel, with Bruno Fernandes slotting in alongside Doumbia in central-midfield. And although Sporting continued to create chances, Maritimo’s goalkeeper denied them by pulling off a string of saves that earnt him the Man-of-the-Match award.
Marcel Keizer and his men will have to think again if they thought they’d found the magic formula in changing to a back-three. Here, he was forced to abandon his new formation at half-time, with Sporting once again relying on Bruno Fernandes to make things happen for them. He will be concerned at how few chances his team managed to create for their talisman Dost as they dropped points again in the league in what has proved a very frustrating season for the lions.
Petit, on the other hand, will be relatively pleased to have got a point against one of the league’s more talented sides, particularly as they managed to keep Dost so quiet. Having kept two clean sheets since changing to a 4-5-1, you would expect Petit to continue with this set-up as they fight to stave off relegation.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.