Russia 0-1 Portugal

Portugal took a huge step towards the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup with a 1-0 victory over tournament hosts Russia at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow this afternoon.

An early Cristiano Ronaldo header was scant reward for the Seleção after a dominant first half, with the recalled Bernardo Silva and Adrien Silva both outstanding.

Russia started to apply increasing pressure in the second half, and with Portugal missing a host of chances it needed commanding displays by Pepe and Bruno Alves to ensure the win did not escape Fernando Santos's men.

Santos made four changes to the line-up with the three Silvas all starting; Bernardo, Adrien and André replacing Nani, Quaresma and Moutinho. Bruno Alves replaced José Fonte in central defence as Santos changed the formation to a fluid 4-4-2.

Portugal take early lead

Portugal asserted themselves early on and took the lead through Ronaldo. Bernardo Silva found Raphaël Guerreiro in space, the left back crossing to the back post where Ronaldo capitalised on a stumbling Kudryashov and indecisive Akinfeev to head in his 74th international goal.

Portugal’s personnel and formation switch was paying dividends, increasing the balance and organisation due to André Silva’s mobility, Adrien Silva’s industry, and Bernardo Silva’s trickery. Santos abandoned the lackadaisical approach to pressing we saw against Mexico, pressuring Russia in their own half which resulted in frequent turnovers and Portuguese attackers left in open space.

Ronaldo was targeting the masked Kudryashov, drawing a foul from the defender but hitting the free kick straight at Akinfeev. Portugal then had a great chance to increase their lead. A long ball was flicked on by André Silva to an open Ronaldo, who easily beat Viktor Vasin one on one but his fierce shot was too close to Akinfeev. 

Russia never looked like troubling Rui Patrício during the first half, their best chance a wayward effort from Smolov before the break. Pepe was dominant in defence alongside his colleagues, neutralising Russia’s Samedov and Smolov who were the main instigators against New Zealand.

Business as usual after the break

Erokhin replaced Shishkin at half time but it was business as usual as Portugal threatened to extend their lead. Cedric Soares’ cross found André Silva who rose above Dzhikiya, but Akinfeev got a strong hand to his header and tipped it wide. Ronaldo then had a chance on the break but produced a weak header from Bernardo Silva’s cross.

Cedric forced a good save from Akinfeev with a swerving shot from distance, but from that moment Portugal lost control as the game opened up. Russia’s best chance came when Samedov’s cross went just over the head of Smolov, the tournament hosts getting into a dangerous position soon after without fashioning a chance.

Portugal lose control

With Portugal losing their grip on the game they resorted to hitting Russia on the break. André Gomes crossed to Ronaldo with Akinfeev well out of position, but with the goal at his mercy Ronaldo was unable to get any power or accuracy on his header.

Eliseu replaced the injured Guerreiro in the 65th minute, Bernardo Silva setting up Ronaldo after another fast break with the Portugal captain blazing over the bar. The trend continued as André Silva shot powerfully but his effort was straight at Akinfeev.

Portugal were unable to regain control of the match as Russia frequently got into dangerous positions. Dmitriy Poloz replaced Kombarov to add more firepower up front as Fernando Santos made two quick changes to try and stop the home team’s momentum, Gelson Martins on for André Silva and Danilo Pereira replacing Adrien Silva.

Russian manager Cherchesov went for broke with 10 minutes remaining, introducing a third striker onto the pitch as Alexander Bukharov replaced Kudryashov. Seleção supporters were on the edge of their seats during the final minutes, Patricio spilling a cross to gift Russia a corner as Mexico’s stoppage time equaliser on Sunday came flashing back.

Fortunately Dzhikiya headed Samedov’s corner over the bar, Smolov wasting Russia’s final chance as Portugal held on. It is difficult to ascertain how Portugal completely lost control in the final half hour, but with minnows New Zealand offering a gift three points in the final group stage game, Portugal can begin to think ahead to the semi-finals.

Pepe back to his best

Pepe was imperious throughout, looking confident, leading by example and imposing himself on the game from the start. With a comfortable victory against New Zealand likely, Pepe has a great chance to ease into the semi-finals after his injury layoff and recapture the form that was so important to Portugal’s Euro 2016 success.

Those calling for Bernardo Silva to start were vindicated, his invention and imagination a welcome addition to the Portugal midfield while Cedric was busy, continuing to drift infield to add numbers to Portuguese attacks. It was essentially a cohesive team effort that secured the victory, and most would agree that Santos made positive changes.

Portugal’s inability to score a second goal was frustrating, but for all of Russia’s chances in the final half hour they failed to register a single shot on target all game. Portugal reaffirmed their status as tournament favourites but the manner in which they lost control in the latter stages is a concern.

By Matthew Marshall (Twitter @noobzcorp)

Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cédric Soares, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Raphaël Guerreiro (Eliseu 66’), William Carvalho, Adrien Silva (Danilo Pereira 82’), André Gomes, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva (Gelson Martins 78’)

Goal:

[0-1] Ronaldo, 8'

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Overall Rating (6)

5 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - Hareesh,Kerala/India

    Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars

    Great display.The much needed flow was there.Keep it up!Viva Portugal!!!

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    @Val I do agree that some of the criticism made about Santos is unwarranted especially if there's been comparisons with Paulo Bento but I think it's understandable to question the selection/tactics when things go wrong. It doesn't mean we doubt his ability to make adjustments. I was one of the few behind Santos when he first took the job and I do trust Santos as he's already shown to adapt previously e.g before and during the Euros when he dropped Eliseu and Vieirinha for the younger and more talented Guerreiro and Cedric. As long as he keeps making the adjustments to field the best possible team, he deserves nothing but praise and he already lead us to our first major international trophy.. that day which will live on in history forever. So it would be foolish to shoot him down so quickly. Also thank you for your kind words. We both have been here a while. Reading your posts usually crack me up, and I do appreciate your perspective. Take care.

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  • Guest - Felipe Dinis

    Much better performance today, really liked seeing bernando silva on the pitch, Ronaldo missed a few chances which he would have gobbled up normally, Andre silva could have scored. However the last 20 minutes was worrying display from Portugal. Russia could have easily scored!
    To be honest everyone saying Bruno Alves played well, Russia had no pace, any team with speed on the attack would rip Bruno Alves, and then Portugal would be in trouble. Hopefully one or two young center backs come through before the world cup!

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Yeahh thats our team Portugal! That is a top starting lineup and the players showed it! I only got to see the first half and just highlights from second, but from the first half play we completely dominated the play! Love watching these players play the ball and their interchanges and movement and combinations with Bernardo Silva Adrien Silva William in midfield and yes Andre Gomes too lol (even though he was still slightly off and needs to get sharper). And with Andre Silva up top with Ronaldo man it was beautiful watching them play! We've got such a skillful team and as Santos restored the best lineup we're seeing the chemistry and fluidity again! Also Guerreiro played great up to what I saw redeemed himself from the first game errors. Bruno Alves came in and did well too. Cedric is a boss right back plain and simple. Real proud of this team lets keep it going! Forca Portugal! :D

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  • Guest - Josh

    Great news raphael only has bruising around his ankle. Hopefully good enough for the semis.

    http://bvbbuzz.com/2017/06/22/sigh-relief-raphael-guerreiro-injury-update/

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Much better performance from the team and we got the win I expected us to. Portugal always start tournaments slowly and only seem to get going when the pressure is thoroughly on. Hats off to Fernando Santos for making the neccessary changes after the really disappointing performance against Mexico. Bento and Quieroz before him wouldn't have done the same as it would be admitting they made an error.This is what sets Santos apart from them really, much more flexible and with a willingness to give many players a chance.

    Bernardo and Adrien Silva both improved the midfield, while the third Silva, Andre, gave the attack a different dimension. The only criticism I can make is we wasted a host of scoring chances, like the Selecao of old, which is slightly concerning. We should have put this game to bed early in the second half, and against stronger teams than Rusia, like Chile or Germany for example, we will have to be more efficient in putting away our chances. Bruno Alves was excellent at the back. As I said in a recent post, Alves' vast experience is very useful for the Selecao, and without a huge selection of CBs at the moment, he has to keep being included. People keep mentioning Ruben Semedo, but he had a very shakey performance for the under 21's the other night, so clearly is not yet a solution for the senior team.

    All in all a great result that makes us firm favorites to win the group now. I'm not sure how much of an advantage that will be, depending on whether we play either Germany or Chile in the semis. I saw the second half of their game today and both will be tough prospects, but both are definitely beatable too. Lets see what happens, if Santos continues making the right selection of players, we have a big chance to win this tournament.

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  • Guest - Voice of Reason

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    After the Euro, I would hope that everyone would cut Santos a break and trust that he has a plan.

    I couldn't understand the anger directed at him after the first game - particularly in terms of selections. I have said this before - for most coaches, it is all about trust and familiarity in tournaments...especially in the opening game. His selection was all about getting a result, with the players he trusts to follow his system - it was not a slight at Bernardo or anyone else.

    He is in transition phase with this team - new talent, new formation - he has a plan and will implement it. He has been very clear that he doesn't care what anyone thinks - as long as his players are on board, he is doing things his way. Before we all lose our minds - don't be surprised if Bernardo isn't in the lineup against New Zealand - he is on a yellow, so Santos will likely want to ensure he is in the lineup for the semis.

    For all the complaining - I will say this...has anyone read/heard of any discontent amongst the players? Santos has them playing his system for him and for themselves.

    I won't complain about anything he does - he gave us the European Championship...give him some credit.

    Or will he join the list of whipping boys on this site...joining the likes of those who were deemend NOT worthy of being on the field anymore...

    Bruno Alves
    Quaresma
    EDER...EDER...EDER.

    I see in Portugal - Cedric and William are whipping boys - let's stop with the whipping and put some thought into what the end goal is.

    I have been consistent on this site over the years - I will never criticize or crap on anyone who puts on our jersey and plays for our motherland - I believe they all have a place - whether we understand/agree or not. We aren't on the training field with these guys.

    So despite what your dads...your uncles...or anyone else tell you about the Selecao - this is a new era. Let's embrace it - others are.

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  • are you the same Voice of Reason from Dailymail?

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  • Guest - Voice of Reason

    Zues

    No, I am not the voice of reason on the daily mail. Our esteemed administration - Mr. Tom Kundert - will attest to the fact that I am a long time poster here and only here. I chose the name during a fury of anger on this site when people were losing their minds about our team and how at that point, we were in one of Dante's levels of hell.

    I try...emphasize TRY...to be a calming voice, though am often accused of being a fanboy.

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  • Guest - Voice of Reason
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Welcome back Voice of Reason! It seems Portugoal is in need of your positive vibe once again! :)

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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