LISBON (Reuters) - Gonzalo Higuain scored a typically clinical goal to earn Juventus a 1-1 draw at Sporting after the Serie A side had been rattled by their opponents in a lively Champions League clash on Tuesday.
Sporting, the better side in the first half, took a deserved lead through Brazilian midfielder Bruno Cesar in the 20th minute.
As Juve crept back into the game, Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio made a brilliant save to deny Higuain in the 69th minute but was powerless to stop the Argentine forward equalising 10 minutes later.
The win kept Juventus second in Group D with seven points from four games, three ahead of their opponents, and on course for a place in the last 16. Barcelona lead with 10 after their 0-0 draw away to Olympiakos.
“It’s disappointing because we had the possibility of sealing our qualification,” said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. “We played a really poor first half, we got ourselves into too much confusion.”
Sporting, unbeaten in the league, had to field a makeshift defence as Jonathan Silva replaced Fabio Coentrao at left back, Andre Pinto stepped for Jeremy Mathieu at centre back and Stefan Ristovski was brought in at right back for Cristiano Piccini.
But they went ahead when livewire winger Gelson Martins slipped past Giorgio Chiellini, fired in a shot which Gianlugi Buffon parried and Bruno Cesar followed up to slot in the rebound from just inside the area.
Sporting cut off the supply line to Higuain and Mario Mandzukic as they refused to allow Juve playmaker Paulo Dybala get into his stride.
Mandzukic had Juve’s first effort on target two minutes into the second half although his header from a corner was comfortably saved by Patricio.
Dangerous on the break, Sporting missed chances to wrap up the game and paid the price.
Juve thought they had equalised in the 69th minute but Patricio did superbly well to recover his ground and make a brilliant reflex stop to keep out Higuain’s header.
But there was no let-off when Juan Cuadrado threaded the ball through to Higuain who clipped the ball past Patricio as the Sporting defence claimed offside.
“There were moments in the match when we showed some inexperience,” said Sporting coach Jorge Jesus. “The positive side is the great performance we put in against a team which does not need any adjectives.”
Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Ian Chadband