‘Dragon Slayer’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - – REUTERSPIX

an in­te­gral cog in the Sport­ing ma­chine and by the time he left the club, he had scored 48 goals in 82 Por­tuguese league ap­pear­ances.

He also starred in their tri­umphant Por­tuguese Cup cam­paign in 2014-15, scor­ing in nor­mal time and a penalty shootout as Sport­ing over­came Braga to win their first tro­phy since 2008.

His time at the Es­ta­dio Jose Al­valade co­in­cided with a power shift in Por­tuguese foot­ball.

Porto had won nine of the 11 league ti­tles prior to Sli­mani’s ar­rival, but as Ben­fica re-emerged as Por­tu­gal’s dom­i­nant power, so their Lis­bon ri­vals Sport­ing be­gan to sur­pass Porto, too.

Sport­ing fin­ished above Porto in two of Sli­mani’s three sea­sons at the club and he fit­tingly signed off with a goal in a 2-1 win over the Dragons in his fi­nal ap­pear­ance be­fore join­ing Le­ices­ter.

Sli­mani’s rep­u­ta­tion as a bruiser is an­other rea­son why Porto’s cen­tre­backs will be ap­pre­hen­sive about cross­ing swords with him again.

In an ill-tem­pered Por­tuguese Cup tie against Ben­fica last sea­son, he was caught on cam­era lash­ing out at Greek mid­fielder An­dreas Sa­maris.

Porto, mean­while, ac­cused him of lib­eral use of his el­bows fol­low­ing his farewell ap­pear­ance last month.

In a sar­cas­tic Twit­ter post, the club shared a pic­ture of Sli­mani ac­com­pa­nied by the cap­tion: “They won, but were left with el­bow pain due to the num­ber of times they used them to at­tack our play­ers.”

Nev­er­the­less, Sli­mani’s will­ing­ness to get his hands dirty ap­pealed to Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri, whose team’s 5,000-1 ti­tle win was built on hard Char­lie Austin (2nd from left) scores Southamp­ton’s first goal against West Ham in their Pre­mier League match at the Lon­don Sta­dium in Lon­don yes­ter­day. graft and de­fen­sive rig­or­ous­ness.

Sli­mani scored two headed goals – his trade­mark – in a 3-0 win over Burn­ley on his league de­but, but Ranieri chose to high­light his de­fen­sive con­tri­bu­tion.

“It’s the first time the fans have watched him and they saw strong he is and how well he de­fends,” said the Ital­ian, whose side won 3-0 at Club Brugge in their open­ing Group G fix­ture.

“He can press, press, press, all around the pitch.”

Team­mate Danny Simp­son said: “He works his socks off and that’s what we’re about. That’s why it’s been easy for him to slot in.”

Be­ly­ing his tough-guy im­age, Sli­mani wept as he left the pitch fol­low­ing his fi­nal Sport­ing game against Porto.

But it could be Porto’s de­fend­ers who have tears in their eyes come to­day. – AFP

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