Portugal 2-1 Mexico (a.e.t.)
Portugal have clinched a third-place finish in the 2017 Confederations Cup after defeating Mexico 2-1 in extra-time, courtesy of an Adrien Silva winner from the penalty spot.
After the heartache against Chile from the 12-yard-mark this Wednesday, Fernando Santos’ men continued to find difficulties in converting penalties before an own goal gave the Gold Cup winners the lead in the second half.
Late heroics from Pepe would offer Portugal the chance of retribution, with Adrien’s composure from the spot completing the mission to propel the national team onto the podium, amidst an ill-tempered finish to the game that saw the referee brandish one red card to each side.
As Nani led the Seleção out in the hunt for bronze, authorised absences for Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva and Raphaël Guerreiro meant there’d be first starts in the tournament handed to Gelson Martins, Pizzi, Danilo Pereira and Luis Neto, while Nélson Semedo was also recalled. It was the chance for this quintet to stake a claim for a place in the team ahead of next year’s World Cup. Before choosing a bookmaker to bet on who will lift the most coveted trophy in Russia next summer, the football predictions and tips at Bethut are well worth a read.
Mexico’s 4-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-finals served up a real inquest into the future of El Tri’s boss Juan Carlos Osorio, with the Colombian calling on the experience of Rafael Márquez, as well as greater firepower in Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta, to attempt to provide a strong final outing in Russia.
The anticipated reaction didn’t quite manifest itself as the Mexicans had hoped in the early exchanges, with Gelson instead being the player with the bit between his teeth. The Sporting winger, with five minutes on the clock, was able to expose space down the right flank and create the game’s first opportunity with a calculated cut-back, only for the emerging Nani to volley the ball back in the same direction.
Javier Hernandez offered Portugal a small warning of what damage he could inflict after finding space inside the area to head towards Rui Patrício’s goal, but Fernando Santos men continued their early dominance and soon found a way to isolate Mexico’s defence, as a late challenge from Márquez on André Silva left the European champions claiming a penalty, subsequently granted by the Video Assisted Referee.
More penalty woe
André Silva himself claimed full responsibility from the 12-yard-mark in the 16th minute, but a strong save from Guillermo Ochoa prolonged Portugal’s thorny relationship with penalties after Wednesday’s shootout whitewash against Chile.
All worries would’ve been placed on the back-burner had Nani found the target with his head just a minute later, but a lagging cross saw the Valencia man struggle to keep his effort down from a sound position inside the box.
Having survived Portugal’s early stronghold, Mexico began to put the pieces together and create some problems of their own for the opposition, as a tricky free-kick from FC Porto’s Miguel Layún almost initiated a goal-mouth scramble before being collected by Rui Patrício.
The Sporting shot-stopper proved to be just as decisive in the 30th minute, as Hernandez was allowed the room to turn and fire a wicked strike on his left foot, with Patrício palming the effort over in acrobatic fashion.
Portugal’s reply came via Gelson, again motoring down the right to provide Pizzi with a cross at the far-post, but Layún was quick to deny his Primeira Liga rival from finding the target in the 33rd minute. Mexico’s Peralta then game close to deceiving his own goalkeeper with a headed clearance at his near-post, finding the side-netting instead, as the two nations drifted into half-time with a goalless draw.
A new half was introduced with the same characters rising to prominence, as the Seleção almost broke the deadlock through Gelson’s right-footed volley courtesy of André Silva’s creativity in the final third, but this time Portugal would be made to pay for their wastefulness.
Mexico take lead
Working the channels, Hernandez utilised the time given to him to pick out Peralta at the near-post, but the Club América striker’s movement and non-contact with the ball would go on to deceive both Patrício and Neto, with the latter deflecting the ball into his own goal in the 54th minute.
Gelson continued to look like Portugal’s best bet in registering on the scoreboard, as the Sporting man hit the by-line before finding Pizzi unmarked and witnessing the playmaker drag his effort wide rather uncharacteristically in the 59th minute. Danger continued to orbit Ochoa’s goal, with Gelson meeting João Moutinho’s header across goal just two minutes later to nod an effort in the direction of the Malaga keeper who pulled off a tremendous save.
From the resulting corner, Nani was gifted the perfect opportunity to equalise from within the six-yard-box, but failure to make solid contact with the ball saw today’s skipper glance a header wide towards the far-post. With the game stretching, El Tri almost made full use of the gaps beginning to open up in Portugal’s defence, as Carlos Vela’s half-volley from inside the box offered a scare to Santos’ backline before crashing into the side-netting in the 64th minute.
Pepe to the rescue
Ricardo Quaresma came into the scene in the 70th minute, at the expense of Nani, in hope of turning Portugal’s fortunes around, with the tricky winger alleviating the furious nail-biting when delivering a delightful cross in the 91st minute that was stabbed in by Pepe on the volley, securing extra-time football in the third-place play-off.
The fresh legs of PSV Eindhoven’s latest acquisition, Hirving Lozano, promised to be a handful going into the latter stages of the tournament for the two nations, with the young Mexican becoming the latest to be denied by an inspired Rui Patrício after emerging all alone at the far-post from a corner.
Fatigue on both sides began to induce scrappiness into the game, but a neat attempt at a sombrero from Gelson would spring the game back to life when hitting Layún’s arm an earning a second penalty for Portugal. This time it was Adrien, a favoured taker for his club, that was trusted with bringing the penalty hoodoo to an end, as he sent Ochoa the wrong way to give the Seleção das Quinas a 2-1 advantage just before the break in extra-time.
Tempers boiled in the second period, with Nélson Semedo becoming the first to feel the force of the referee’s disciplinary powers when picking up a second yellow card for a high foot. His Benfica teammate, Raúl Jiménez, replicated the full back’s actions soon afterwards and was also red carded.
Herrera pulled yet another save out of Patrício with a sweetly-struck volley in the 117th minute before calls for a penalty on Héctor Moreno transcended into Mexican fury late on and led the game into a 2-1 victory for Portugal at full time, subsequently clinching third place prior to the Confederations Cup final later this evening.
by Patrick Ribeiro (twitter: @P_SRibeiro)
Portugal: Rui Patrício; Nélson Semedo, Pepe, Luis Neto, Eliseu; João Moutinho (Adrien Silva, 82’), Danilo Pereira (André Gomes, 82’), Pizzi (William Carvalho, 90’); Gelson Martins, André Silva, Nani (Ricardo Quaresma, 70’)
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa; Néstor Araujo, Héctor Moreno, Rafael Márquez, Miguel Layún; Luis Reyes, Andrés Guardado (Jonathan dos Santos, 80’), Héctor Herrera; Javier Hernandez (Raúl Jiménez, 85’), Oribe Peralta (Hirving Lozano, 61’), Carlos Vela
[0-1] Luis Neto (own goal), 54’
[1-1] Pepe, 90+1’
[2-1] Adrien Silva, 104’