Daniel Podence

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Spurs blow 2-goal lead in draw at Olympiacos

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Tottenham Hotspur wasted a 2-0 lead on the road in Athens as another Premier League club came up short in its Champions League opener, drawing 2-2 with Olympiacos.

Harry Kane bagged a 26th minute penalty and Lucas Moura doubled the lead on the half-hour mark, but Daniel Podence and Mathieu Valbuena – by far the Greeks’ two most incisive players throughout the match – were on hand to erase the lead and rescue a point for the hosts.

Kane’s opening goal made him the third-fastest player to reach 15 Champions League goals, needing just 20 matches to reach the mark. He profited with a penalty blasted straight down the middle, sending a helpless Jose Sa the wrong way. Moura, last season’s Champions League hero, again came up big in European play with a right-footed rocket from just outside the top of the penalty area.

Unfortunately, it all broke down from there. Podence, who was an absolute menace down the right for Olympiacos, clawed one back just before halftime on a brilliant counter. Valbuena delivered a wonderful through-ball for a full-speed Podence and Portuguese winger’s exceptional first touch got him away from chasing defenders for a far-post finish.

Valbuena was also excellent on the ball, overloading the right flank often. He was on hand to deliver an equalizing penalty in the 54th minute after a foul by Jan Vertonghen. It is Valbuena’s first goal in Champions League play since he stunned Borussia Dortmund with an 87th minute winner that sent Lyon through to the knockout round. Questions will be asked of Olympiacos manager Pedro Martins who withdrew Valbuena with 20 minutes to go, which baffled many and left the hosts with little attacking mentality down the stretch.

Dele Alli had a chance to give Spurs the lead again past the hour mark, but his low shot from distance was fabulously saved by Sa who got big and stuck out his right boot to clip the effort wide. As Spurs poured on the pressure late, Erik Lamela forced another save by Sa with a tight-angled shot to the near post. After Chelsea and Liverpool both fell on the road in Champions League play on Tuesday, the draw felt like a defeat for the Londoners.

Almost unprecedented: Sporting Lisbon facing exodus, free agent frenzy

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There is an almost unbelievable state of play at one of the world’s most successful clubs right now.

That club is Sporting CP, the group that has been home to Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, and William Carvalho.

That last name is part of our story today.

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When last we checked in with the Lisbon club, its players had been attacked mid-training session by a mob of supposed fans following the club’s failure to land its near-annual berth in the UEFA Champions League. This came a month after the club’s entire first team was suspended after a row with its president.

Sporting had spent four seasons in the UCL, rebounding from its lone season outside Portugal’s Top Four since 1976.

Now many on its laundry list of high-priced talents could be leaving the club for free, potentially setting one of the most storied clubs in Portugal back to its very roots.

Bas Dost, William Carvalho, Gelson Martins, and Bruno Fernandes reportedly requested to break their contracts on Monday, joining goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Daniel Podence.

Dost scored 27 league goals this season, and joined Fernandes and Martins as Top 15 performers according to WhoScored. Carvalho, the big 26-year-old midfielder, was 21st.

Sporting has done a remarkable job identifying talent from without and growing talent from within, only once spending more than $14 million on a player (Dost) while selling 11 individuals for that much or more (Adrien Silva, Ruben Semedo, Joao Mario, Islam Slimani, Marcos Rojo, Bruma, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Viana, Aldo Duscher).

Only a cursory search through our pages finds several of Sporting’s want-aways in the gossip section for almost thrice that figure. Carvalho (and/or Sporting) has resisted interest of as much as $50 million, often connected with Jose Mourinho. Dost has been linked with Newcastle, and Patricio said to be making a move to PL new boys Wolves.

To lose these players for free, largely because of an attack from “supporters” is bonkers. And in your gut, you have to think the players stand a very good chance of being allowed to leave for safety reasons, making for an unexpected sort of free agent frenzy.

How long would it take for a club to rebound from that, and how far could Sporting sink on the table? Fortunately, it would have some time to rebuild for its Europa League run, but wow.