TORONTO — It’s not the first time Yannick Djaló has scored for Sporting Clube de Portugal, and it’s not the first time he’s netted two in the first half either.
But when the 25-year-old striker — who has 23 goals in 95 league matches for the Lions — buried a double in the first half of a World Football Challenge tilt against Juventus on Saturday, they certainly did him a lot of good.
Yannick is currently in a four-way struggle for the starting spot, and a performance like the one against the Bianconeri could only help him lay claim to a spot.
“Yannick is playing really well right now, as we saw tonight in the match,” said new Sporting manager Domingos Paciência. “There are four other players at that position, though, so what he really has to do is fight for his opportunities.”
If fighting for his opportunities was Yannick’s challenge for the night, the Portugal international passed the test with flying colors.
Thirteen minutes into the match, Yannick ran into a headed pass from American defender Oguchi Onyewu and buried Sporting’s first goal of the night.
In the 36th minute, Yannick gave Sporting a two-goal cushion thanks to a stunning left-footed blast from 25 yards out that left Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with no chance to make the diving stop.
“The match went well for me, so I’m really happy,” said Yannick following the match. “I really listened to the direction my coach gave me. He really gives me the opportunity to explore space and I think I did a good job there.”
Already deep into their preseason, the Lions’ revamped squad has been a force to be reckoned with. They haven’t dropped a preparation match yet and have just allowed one goal — to Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero on Saturday.
After finishing a distant third place in the Portuguese Liga last season behind Porto and Benfinca, Yannick believes that with the new coach and the new faces that joined the team in the offseason, things are already looking up for Sporting.
“I’m very happy [with the additions],” Yannick said. “They’re really making the team a lot stronger with the quality of players we’re bringing in. This is a very important season for us.
“Last year we didn’t have quite the season we wanted to have,” he added. “We’re really happy with the results that we’ve been able to put up in the last five games, and we’re hoping to get as far as we can possibly get.”
The win over Juventus was Sporting’s only match in the World Football Challenge. They will now return home to prepare for the league and Europa League qualifers as they attempt to regain some of the glory from past years.