Sporting Lisbon ends 19-year title drought in Portuguese league

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Sporting Lisbon’s wait of nearly two decades for a Portuguese league title is finally over.

Sporting defeated relegation-threatened Boavista 1-0 on Tuesday to win the league for the first time since 2002, ending the reign of local powerhouses Porto and Benfica. Porto had won 11 titles and Benfica seven since Sporting last lifted the trophy 19 years ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who began his career with Sporting Lisbon, posted a celebratory photo of the current squad on his Instagram account, saying “Congratulations, champions.”

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Paulinho scored the title-winning goal for the Lions in the 36th minute, hitting the top of the net from close range after a low cross into the area.

The victory left Sporting eight points ahead of second-place Porto with two rounds to go. Benfica, which won 3-1 at last-place Nacional de Madeira earlier on Tuesday, was 12 points back in third place.

Sporting’s 19th league title comes three years after the club endured one of the worst crises in its history when dozens of fans with their faces covered forced their way into the team’s training complex and assaulted players and staff. The shocking attack, which attracted worldwide headlines, came after Sporting missed out on a Champions League berth, which compounded ongoing internal disputes involving players, club directors and its controversial president at the time.

No fans were allowed inside of Sporting’s Alvalade Stadium but thousands of supporters had gathered across the city of Lisbon in hopes of being able to celebrate the much-anticipated title.

Sporting could have clinched the title on Monday had Porto lost points against second-to-last-place Farense, but it won 5-1 at home.

Sporting had to play most of the match without defender Pedro Porro, who recently was called up for Spain’s national team for the first time. The right back got injured less than 20 minutes into the match.