Sporting beat Alkmaar; Parma held

Associated Press

London, April 29:

Sporting Lisbon beat visiting AZ Alkmaar 2-1, while Parma and CSKA Moscow drew 0-0 in the UEFA Cup first-leg semi-finals. Sporting substitute Mauricio Pinilla scored 11 minutes from the end to overcome Alkmaar, and made Sporting favoured to reach the May 18 final at home against Parma or CSKA Moscow. UEFA prearranged Jose Alvalade stadium for the final. Alkmaar, which sits third in the Dutch league, took the lead in Lisbon on a counterattack after spending most of the time until then in its own half. Denny Landzaat took a pass from the right by Kew Jallens and put a shot to the left of goalkeeper Ricardo. The home team made it 1-1 a minute later when Cameroonian striker Roudolphe Douala pounced on a rebound inside the area and scored with a low shot past goalkeeper Henk Timmer. Although Alkmaar enjoyed more possession after the break, with Olaf Lindenbergh and Barry van Galen spurning chances, it was Chilean striker Pinilla who made the difference. His strike from 30 meters out beat a diving Timmer.

Parma and CSKA had chances in Italy, but neither could get the crucial score. Parma, which is fighting to avoid relegation from Italy’s Serie A, enjoyed more possession than CSKA but was thwarted by its own poor finishing and CSKA’s stubborn defense. Winner of this competition in 1995 and 1999, Parma rested its first-choice attack because it has a league game against Livorno on Sunday crucial to its hopes of avoiding demotion. With attention on the league, just 7,298 fans turned up at Tardini stadium. Parma coach Pietro Carmignani left Italy striker Alberto Gilardino and midfielder Domenico Morfeo off his team. Francesco Ruopolo, who played for Cittadella in the third division last season, and 20-year-old Tonino Sorrentino made for an inexperienced Parma attack.

Fortunately, Carmignani fielded his usual defense, denying the visitor an important away goal in its first European semi-final. Its previous best performance was in the 1972 European Cup, when it made the quarter-finals. Ruopolo and Fabio Vignaroli had shots blocked on consecutive plays in the 29th minute, before Yuri Zhirkov had a low effort at Parma goalkeeper Luca Bucci. CSKA’s best chance came in the 77th when Brazilian Daniel Carvalho sent a free kick just over the crossbar, while CSKA ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev blocked Vignaroli’s long-distance drive five mintues later. If CSKA wins in Moscow, it will become the first Russian team to reach a European final. It is already only the third to make a semi-final. The return legs are on May 5.