Europa League: Everton vs. Sporting Lisbon (Matchday Commentary)

Europa League: Everton vs. Sporting Lisbon (Matchday Commentary)

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Europa League: Everton vs. Sporting Lisbon (Matchday Commentary)

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The Europa League knockout round begins today in England, with Tim Howard and Landon Donovan leading Everton against Sporting Lisbon (12:45pm, DirecTV-462).

The Toffees are coming off an impressive 2-1 win vs. Chelsea and will look to post an impressive result in the first leg of this two-game series at Goodison Park today.

Sporting won't be an easy opponent. The Portuguese side is only in fourth place in its domestic league, but still boasts a ton of talent, with players such as Miguel Veloso, Liedson, Joao Moutinho and Matias Fernandez.

I will be providing live commentary on today's match so please feel free to follow along here. As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Enjoy the action (Commentary is after the jump):

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FINAL- That's all for me. Thanks for following along and please feel free to share your post-game thoughts in the comments section below.

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FINAL– Everton 2, Sporting Lisbon 1. Now these teams will play the second leg in Lisbon next week. Sporting holds the vital away goal, which will make the second leg a very dramatic match-up.

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93rd minute– Neville with a wasteful pass out of bounds.

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92nd minute– Sporting with some pressure, but no chances.

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90th minute– Four minutes of added time. Can Everton hold on here?

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88th minute– Donovan draws a foul on the run.

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87th minute– GOAL SPORTING!!! Veloso buries it to his left. Howard had no chance.

Everton 2, Sporting 1.

And just like that, things have changed completely in this series.

Distin simply got caught in possession and wound up making things worse with a clumsy challenge.

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86th minute– Veloso to take it.

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85th minute– SPORTING PENALTY!!!!!! Distin with a bad touch and turnover, winds up earning a red and drawing a penalty.

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84th minute– Donovan with a bad pass that could have led to a nice Everton break if he hit it right.

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83rd minute– Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is on for Saha.

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82nd minute– Wow, Ismailov with a dangerous run into the area but makes one too many moves.

Donovan with a great pass into the box to Saha, but Yakubu can't finish off the back-heel.

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80th minute– Ten minutes to go. Can Everton find a third?

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80th minute– Donovan applies some good pressure as Sporting began making some odd decisions in their own third.

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79th minute– Jack Rodwell comes in for Arteta.

Sporting is putting the pressure on here. They came very close to finding that precious away goal.

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77th minute– Sporting with a promising sequence, but the cross is a bit too slow and Everton recovers.

Yakubu with a GREAT chance but Patricio makes a clutch diving save.

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75th minute– Arteta hits it and sends it just over by a yard.

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74th minute– Dangerous free kick for Everton from 25 yards out, just above the arc. Will Donovan have a go? Nope, he's in the wall.

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70th minute– A better second half from Donovan. He looks more comfortable on the right flank and he deserves at least some credit for helping Moutinho be subbed out.

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67th minute– Fernandez and Moutinho come out for Sporting. In come Yanick Djalo and Saleiro. Sporting move to a 4-4-2. Djalo brings speed on the left. Donovan will need to do his share of defending now.

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65th minute– Donovan takes a shot from the top of the box but has it blocked.

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62nd minute– Donovan floats in a good free kick toward the back-post, but Yobo's header is high. Actually he was ruled offside.

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61st minute– Yakubu looks to be coming in for Cahill, who is favoring his leg. Everton would be in a world of hurt if it lost Cahill, especially given today's news that Fellaini is out for the season.

Osman draws a free kick, about 30 yards out.

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57th minute– Mati Fernandez with a weak dive attempt. This ref isn't having it.

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53rd minute– Moutinho gets a yellow card for taking down Donovan from behind. A promising run from Donovan there before he was chopped down.

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52nd minute– Baines shanks the free kick from about 30 yards out. Donovan stepped up as if he was going to take, but deferred to Baines, who wastes it.

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50th minute– Patricio came out to punch a Baines cross, but he whiffs and the ball finds Distin and hits him before going into the net. Distin had his arms close to his body, in front of his chest, so while the ball did hit his arm, his arm was against his body so I'm not sure that's a handball. Good no-call.

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49th minute- GOAL EVERTON!!!! It's Distin, who watches a missed cross carom off his arm. EVERTON 2, Sporting 0.

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47th minute– Nice build-up by Baines and Pienaar, earning a corner.

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47th minute– Donovan is back on the right, with Pienaar on the left, to start the second half.

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46th minute– We're back.

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HALFTIME– Watching first-half highlights and that really was a special save from Howard.

On the goal, Neville got forward and found Cahill with a nice pass. Pienaar had floated centrally and races in to finish off Cahill's sweet back-heel.

Donovan will need to step it up. He'll have the space to operate, but needs to go at goal. I will say this, while he's gotten more involved on the left I wouldn't say he looks more comfortable there. The space on the left comes because of Abel and Izmailov constantly pressing forward. Donovan couldn't do much on the right because there was no space. Even Pienaar, who is on the right now, is finding more of his success floating centrally rather than working the flank.

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HALFTIME– Everton 1, Sporting Lisbon 0. A pretty even match but Everton deserves the lead courtesy of a great goal.

Donovan didn't do much in an uneventful first half, though he got more involved after switching to the left flank. Not his best day so far.

Howard made a clutch save after Everton's goal to keep the lead, and more importantly, to deny the valuable away goal. 

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45th minute– Stoppage time.

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41st minute– Baines free kick finds Saha, but his header is way over.

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41st minute– Arteta is delivering some long-range lasers today.

Everton free kick from far out.

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40th minute– Izmailov just rattled a shot off the right post.

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39th minute– Mazy run from Baines, but his shot goes wide. Nice dribbling from the fullback.

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36th minute– SAVE HOWARD!!! A great diving reaction stop to deny Izmailov. Howard saw that one late because it came through Neville's legs.

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35th minute- GOAL EVERTON!!!! And it's Pienaar, who races onto a sweet back-heel from Cahill. Pienaar finishes from about 12 yards out. Everton 1, Sporting 0.

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33rd minute– Mikel Arteta looks much sharper today. Delivering crisp passes, though his teammates aren't doing more with them.

Donovan raced onto a long pass with the keeper charging, but his chip shot attempt is way wide and stays in play. Moyes decision to move Donovan to the left is paying off. He's getting more involved.

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31st minute– Everton corner from the left is taken by Arteta, and it's a poor one. When does Donovan start demanding that he take them? Nobody else is taking them well for Everton.

Donovan takes a shot from 20, but he skies it over.

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30th minute– Looks like Donovan just switched sides with Pienaar, he's on the left flank now. He should be able to find more space. Abel is attacking from right back for Sporting while Grimi is basically just staying him, leaving Donovan no room on that side.

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28th minute– Neville-Donovan-Neville=drink

And to clarify, the sequence only counts for a drink if Donovan's immediate return pass is a back-pass.

Donovan finally sends a cross in, but he overhits it.

Now it's Sporting's Carrico who is bleeding from the head. Not sure when that happened.

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27th minute– Abel sends a long-range shot wide of Howard, Never really threatened.

Howard just blasts his goal kick out of bounds near midfield.

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25th minute– Donovan hasn't really had a chance yet to go at Grimi. Still waiting for some service in a good position.

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23rd minute– Sylvain Distin has been a beast today. He plays much bigger than he actually is.

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22nd minute– A good drinking game would be drink any time Donovan immediately sends a return pass to Phil Neville after Neville passes to him.

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21st minute– It's a packed house at Goodison as you might expect, but it doesn't sound too lively. Plenty of nerves in the stands?

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20th minute– A great pass from Cahill nearly finds Saha but he goes down in the area. Sure looked to be tripped but the ref says no.

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19th minute– Shot saved rather easily by Howard on an attempt from about 18.

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18th minute– Sporting earns a corner after a nice build-up.

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16th minute– Baines corner from the right corner finds Cahill, but his header is wide.

Why isn't Donovan taking all the right-side corners? Not really sure.

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16th minute– Saha forces a corner. Here comes Baines to take, not sure why.

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15th minute– Cahill is back on, has a small bandage on his eye.

Nothing much from Donovan early on. Hasn't had much go in his direction.

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14th minute– Arteta wastes the free kick, yanking it wide left.

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13th minute– Free kick about 32 yards out, above left corner of area.

Cahill has to come off to treat a cut above his right eye.

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12th minute– Two great saves by Rui Patricio on shots from Saha and Osman. Nice sequence to set up a Saha chance.

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10th minute– Donovan puts some good pressure on Grimi. Sporting's midfield has had some better possession early on.

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8th minute– Teams are still feeling each other out here. Not much good action early.

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6th minute– We're underway. 

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PRE-GAME– We've got some serious talent on display in midfield, with Sporting's Miguel Veloso a top target for bigger European clubs. If Moutinho is deployed on the left it should make for a great battle on that flank with Donovan to see who can have the bigger impact.

Chilean playmaker Matias Fernandez is another one to watch. The former Villarreal midfielder could cause problems for Everton today, particularly given Fellaini's absence.

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PRE-GAME– No Marouane Fellaini today. He's still injured.

Donovan is no stranger to European competition, having played in Champions League with Bayer Leverkusen.

Donovan will be matched up against Argentine left back Leandro Grimi, a former AC Milan prospect.

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PRE-GAME– Here are today's lineups:

EVERTON

——————–Saha———————–

Pienaar—————Cahill————Donovan

—————Osman——-Arteta————–

Baines——–Distin——–Yobo———Neville

———————-Howard———————-

SPORTING LISBON

———————–Liedeson————————-

Moutinho———–Fernandez—————-Izmailov

—————Mendes——-Veloso———————-

Grimi———Tonel———Carrico———–Ferreira

———————–Patricio—————————-

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