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Pinilla gives Sporting narrow lead

Pinilla celebrates the goal that gave Sporting a slender first leg lead

LISBON, Portugal -- Substitute Mauricio Pinilla scored a spectacular long-range goal 10 minutes from time to give Sporting a 2-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final.

The Chile international let fly with an unstoppable, swerving shot from more than 25 meters to send the fans in the Jose Alvalade stadium wild.

The visitors had taken the lead after 35 minutes through Denny Landzaart but Cameroon winger Rodolph Douala equalised for Sporting a minute later.

The tie is finely balanced for the return leg in the Netherlands next Thursday when injury-ravaged Alkmaar will hope to be able to field a stronger side.

Shorn of confidence as well as four first-team players, including starting centre-back partnership Barry Opdam (suspended) and Joris Mathijsen (injured), Alkmaar set their stall out to defend deep and in numbers.

Sporting dominated both territorially and in possession as midfielder Fabio Rochemback pulled the strings and Douala caused panic with his searing pace.

The first half hour was played almost exclusively in the Alkmaar half but it was the visitors who took the lead.

Mounting their first meaningful attack, Kew Jaliens worked his way to the byline and sent over a cross that Barry van Galen flicked on for Landzaat, arriving late, to clip home with a first-time shot.

Sporting's response was instant but somewhat fortunate. Despite failing with a number of long-range pot shots before falling behind, Pedro Barbosa once again tried his luck from distance.

This time, a kind ricochet fell to Douala who reacted quickly to bury a low shot past Henk Timmer.

The goals served to open up the game in the second half as chances came at both ends of the pitch.

Two minutes into the second half, Liedson raced onto a Rui Jorge through ball and brilliantly turned his marker but the normally lethal marksman fired his shot high and wide.

Goalkeeper Ricardo then came to his side's rescue, saving with his legs after Brazilian defender Andersen Polga's slip let in van Galen for a free shot at goal.

Van Gallen escaped again but with just Ricardo to beat from a narrowing angle he tried to square the ball instead of shooting and the chance went begging.

But it was Pinilla who had the last word to leave the Sporting fans dreaming of a return to their home ground for next month's final against either Parma or CSKA Moscow, who drew 0-0 in their first leg in Italy on Thursday.

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