Sporting's two-minute game

Elizabeth Nash reports on the furore over a match cut short
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The Independent Online
Portugal is in uproar after one of their leading clubs was ordered to make a round trip of more than 400 miles for the sake of two minutes of football.

Calls for the resignation of the head of the Portuguese federation, Guilherme Aguiar, have followed the bizarre decision to stage the shortest match in the history of the game following a floodlight failure during Sporting Lisbon's First Division match at Chaves on 30 December.

The lights went out in the 88th minute with the scoreline 1-1, but rather than declare a draw, or play the whole game again, second-placed Sporting must make the trip from the capital to the rural north-east to complete the remaining 120 seconds only 48 hours before Saturday's meeting with the league leaders, Porto.

Sporting, six points behind Porto, are furious at the decision, which was reached after a six-hour meeting. Santana Lopes, the club's president, said: "The referee made a mistake, it was Chaves' fault the lights failed and our players were attacked, but who is punished? Sporting."

The club claim that the referee called off the match after only 15 minutes instead of waiting the maximum 30 minutes.

Such was the tension created by the premature end that two fans suffered heart attacks and died, while Sporting's goalkeeper was allegedly attacked by home supporters taking advantage of the darkness.

Chaves, who are joint bottom, were keen to resume play the next day and showed up at the ground on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, but by that time Sporting had packed up and gone home.

Sporting are seeking clarification about Thursday's "game". Will they, for example, be able to change their team? They only had 10 players on the pitch when the match ended, as one had been sent off moments before the lights failed.

The fixture compounds a hectic period for a club who last won the title 14 years ago. Tonight they face Boavista at home in the Portuguese Cup and, to add to their problems, they have been unable to train because heavy rain has turned their pitch into a mudbath.

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