Sporting seeking European lift

Published: Monday 25 April 2005, 14.00CET
Domestic news: Opponents Sporting Clube de Portugal and AZ Alkmaar both endured disappointing weekends.
Sporting Clube de Portugal's hopes of claiming the Portuguese SuperLiga for the first time since 2002 were dealt a blow at home to A. Académica de Coimbra on Saturday.

Disappointing draw
Relegation-threatened Académica held Sporting to a 0-0 draw which left them three points behind leaders Benfica SL with four games remaining. With Sá Pinto and Rui Jorge suspended, coach José Peseiro welcomed Beto back from his ban and started with a three-pronged attack. But Roudolphe Douala, Liedson and Marius Niculae found Académica goalkeeper Pedro Roma in inspired form.

Douala doubt
There was further disappointment for Peseiro when Douala limped off injured, but the Cameroonian striker is expected to be fit for Thursday's semi-final first leg against AZ Alkmaar in Lisbon, alongside Carlos Martins who also has a slight knock.

Kromkamp woe
Sporting's injury worries pale into insignificance compared to those of Alkmaar, who saw another key player, Jan Kromkamp, join an ever growing list of long-term absentees. The 24-year-old right-back has been ruled out for the rest of the season with an injured left ankle, and follows Martijn Meerdink and Joris Mathijsen to the sidelines.

Alkmaar slide
His loss is another blow to coach Co Adriaanse, who watched his side continue to slide down the Dutch Eredivisie table after their fourth defeat in five games against RKC Waalwijk on Saturday. Things had looked good for Alkmaar when Barry Opdam, who is suspended on Thursday, broke the deadlock midway through the first half. But Thomas Vermaelen soon equalised before Robert Fuchs made it 2-1 in the 87th minute to leave Alkmaar four points behind second-placed AFC Ajax and a UEFA Champions League spot.

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