Portugal 1-0 Armenia

The Seleção were forced to work hard for victory tonight at the Estadio Algarve by a stubborn Armenia side that had their chances to steal a share of the spoils. In the end, Cristiano Ronaldo settled matters and became the European Championships' all-time leading goalscorer in the process (finals and qualifying included).

Fernando Santos again showed his dissimilarity to former coach Paulo Bento by making several changes to the side that faced Denmark. Hélder Postiga returned as the number nine, and José Bosingwa was given the start at right back for the first time in almost four years since his infamous fallout with Bento. Raphael Guerreiro, having made a decent start to the Ligue 1 season with Lorient, started at left back in his very first cap for Portugal.

The Seleção started slowly as Armenia were content to play physical, defensive-minded football from the opening whistle. A 10th minute corner from Danny created some confusion in the penalty area, but the danger was cleared after Carvalho's header was deflected off several players.

Ronaldo scampered into the box in the 13th minute but just lost control at the vital moment. Play quickly transitioned to the other end with Mkhitaryan making a brilliant run through the heart of the Portuguese defence. The Borussia Dortmund playmaker was fouled by Carvalho just outside the box, and fired the ensuing free kick on target bringing a good save from Rui Patrício.

Danny had a decent look at goal in the 19th minute after a deflected clearance fell to him about 20 yards out, but his curled effort was straight at Berezovsky. Moutinho then stole onto a loose pass in midfield and found Ronaldo, who warmed Berezovsky's mitts with a stinging drive. 

Level terms

In a very equal match, Armenia countered, and when Mkhitaryan played in Hovhannisyan, Rui Patrício was again called upon to parry his fierce strike. Minutes later, Danny's goal-bound effort was deflected out for a corner as Portugal continued to press Armenia back. 

But Portugal were unable to find a way past the dogged play of Armenia, and instead went into the halftime break with multiple players on yellow cards.

Santos had seen enough from Postiga 10 minutes into the second half, and Éder entered the fray. Armenia gave away the ball repeatedly deep inside their own half, but Portugal were still unable to create clear opportunities until Danny crashed a header against the woodwork in the 59th minute after Bosingwa found him with a cross from the right.

The more Portugal tried to control the game, it seemed, the more Armenia resisted. Danny was the next player to go into the referee's book for a cynical foul on Mkhitaryan as Quaresma made ready to enter the match.

Cristiano Ronaldo to the rescue

The breakthrough did come, however, and it was every bit as scrappy as the game itself. Quaresma, having been on the field for less than a minute, fired in a shot that should have been easily cleared. But when the Armenian defence hesitated, the ball was deflected by Nani into the path of the most dangerous man on the pitch, who bundled the ball over the line for his 52nd international goal.

The game opened up dramatically in the last ten minutes, and Éder really should have scored when Ronaldo found him with a cross inside the 6 yard box, but the lanky striker could only brush the ball as it passed by. Pepe then committed what could have been a very costly mistake when he gave the ball away inside his own half, but Sarkisov wasted the chance for Armenia shooting straight at Rui Patrício.

Éder nearly scored again when he struck the base of the post with a header following a corner kick. Marcos Pirelli fired in another shot at Patrício in stoppage time, but the Sporting keeper was well positioned to make the save.

Despite being given some difficulty by the visitors, Portugal walked away with all three points in a performance that is perhaps more reminiscent of Fernando Santos' Greece squads than vintage Portugal. Once again, Cristiano Ronaldo did the business in a match where the opposition did reasonably well in limiting his opportunities on the ball. Portugal's defence managed to keep their second clean sheet in a row, and newcomer Raphael Guerreiro certainly showed some promise at left back.

The win takes Portugal into 2nd place in Group I behind Denmark, who have played one game more. The Seleção will be in action next Tuesday when they take on Argentina in a high profile friendly at Old Trafford.

Portugal:

Rui Patricio, Bosingwa, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Guerreiro, Tiago, Joao Moutinho, Danny (Quaresma, 70'), Nani (William Carvalho, 88'), Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Eder, 56')

Armenia:

Roman Berezovsky, Varazdat Haroyan, Taron Voskanyan, Robert Arzumanyan, Kamo Hovhannisyan, Levron Havrapetyan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Marcos Pizzelli, 83'), Artur Yedigaryan (Artur Sarkisov, 77'), Gevorg Ghazaryan (Edgar Manucharyan, 62'), Karlen Mkrtchain, Yura Movsisyan

Goals:

[1-0] Ronaldo, 71'

 

by Nathan Motz

Comments (18)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Uh oh, my client saw playing time today. Better prepare for this site to blow up with hatred.

Eder's attorney
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Pretty avg performanxe guerreiro was good nani showed why he was removed from man u carvalho is way past his prime......

steve
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Dominant possession, a lot of sterile play, missed opportunities. Aside from the solid defending, nothing too different from the Bento days. The team playing with more confidence, but against Armenia, it should be a 3-0 scoreline at least (with...

Dominant possession, a lot of sterile play, missed opportunities. Aside from the solid defending, nothing too different from the Bento days. The team playing with more confidence, but against Armenia, it should be a 3-0 scoreline at least (with all respect to Armenia).

Eder needs to start games from the beginning. Portugal looked more threatening as soon as he came on. He spread the ball beautifully, held it up and created chances for others. All he needs is to score his first Seleccao goal and he'll be flying. I really like him and he has the potential to be the 9 we need. Certainly his work ethic alone places him above Postiga in the pecking order.

People on Twitter who go on about Ronaldo being a saviour are delusional. He often goes missing in these games against smaller teams, as he did today. He scored when it mattered but to act like he is the only player on the pitch for 90 minutes is ridiculous.

Moutinho continues in a slump. I'd like to see Joao Mario, Adrien or Andre Gomes take his spot. Leaving Porto was the worst thing he could have done for his form.

Rafael Guerreiro looked excellent. So solid defensively and even bombing forward. You can tell he is not as comfortable crossing the ball from the flanks, but he still makes possession count. Great find and 3rd stringer after Coentrao and Antunes.

Bosingwa was the man of the first half. So good on defence, was the most threatening attacker as well. Made Nani look like an amateur when bombing forward. Good to know we have some quality. As long as Joao Pereira doesn't get recalled soon I'll be happy.

Carvalho and Pepe were solid at the back. Some small miscues. I'd still like to see what Jose Fonte can do next to Pepe.

Nani was mostly useless. He was back to the Manchester United Nani. I know he was involved in the goal, but Quaresma should be getting the starting RW spot.

Tiago is a great player, but he did very little today. Danny was also not great.

I like the start Santos has gotten, but we still need to make improvements.
If we win our next game, we take top spot in the group.

Forca Portugal

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Chris
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Overall a good result, but I have to wonder about the direction of this team. These qualifier games are for a tournament just under two years from now. Guerreiro was a welcome inclusion, and I'd like to see him in the future as the first choice...

Overall a good result, but I have to wonder about the direction of this team. These qualifier games are for a tournament just under two years from now. Guerreiro was a welcome inclusion, and I'd like to see him in the future as the first choice backup to Coentrao. Bosingwa played well, but Cedric really should be our undisputed starter at RB. Great to see Carvalho putting in good work but at his age, hard to see him as a factor in Euro 2016. Fonte should be starting beside Pepe. With all due respect to Carvalho (the greatest Portuguese defender of all time), look at Fonte's work at Southampton. Their success, especially considering all the players sold and their terrific goals against, Fonte is everything you want in CB, terrific defensively and a strong leader. Would also like a young CB to be called up for their 2015 fixtures, either Oliveira or Ilori (likely Ilori as he starts at Bordeaux if healthy and looks the better of the two). Postiga has to go. At this point, I'd scrap strikers altogether. Nani, Quaresma, and Ronaldo all deserve starts in the front three. William Carvalho should have started and Joao Mario should have featured. I'd like to see Bernardo Silva on the senior team in the near future as well as Bruma (who must leave Galatasaray to save his career. They are destroying him on the bench right now, so I'm glad to see those clowns' recent form has been pathetic). I'm glad that Santos has cut a sold amount of dead weight (meireles, veloso, pereira, hugo), but there should be an urge to incorporate more youngsters. The older players on the squad now have played quite well but will they be on the pitch at Euro 2016? That's my main concern. Portugal's current crop of youth is terrific and many have taken the next step in locking down key roles on senior clubs in good leagues (andre gomes, bernardo silva, ilori, carvalho, Joao Mario, marcos lopes, horta), so I think it would be a tad concerning if we went into Euro 2016 with a core of youth who are inexperienced having played minimally on an international level

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jordan - toronto
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and win is a win, even if it wasn't the greatest performance

i would like to see Nani, Quaresma & Ronaldo out there at the same time, great game by Bosginwa (finally a RB who is tall, plays D, and can cross the ball) im glad they recalled him,...

and win is a win, even if it wasn't the greatest performance

i would like to see Nani, Quaresma & Ronaldo out there at the same time, great game by Bosginwa (finally a RB who is tall, plays D, and can cross the ball) im glad they recalled him, his by far our best option at RB at this moment

Guerreiro played great, looking forward to seeing him in the future of Portugal.

Its time to move on from Postiga, put Eder up there maybe call up someone else. I feel like Danny & Moutinho need to come off the bench...there just not productive to play the majority of the game.

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Marco Forte
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That definitely wasn't the line-up I expected. Six players on the wrong side of 30 and of the remaining 5, four of them in their late 20s. A significant number of team changes will be needed if we insist on making a run in the Euros. The one guy...

That definitely wasn't the line-up I expected. Six players on the wrong side of 30 and of the remaining 5, four of them in their late 20s. A significant number of team changes will be needed if we insist on making a run in the Euros. The one guy who we can call upon for the long term is Raphael Guerreiro. The 20-year old was brilliant providing much needed pace down the left flank, and looked solid in defence as well.

I will never criticize a player who created good memories for Portugal in the past. Postiga is just that - a player of the past. He just isn't making runs into the passing lanes or dragging out defenders like he used to. He is too slow and I wish he would just gracefully retire. Postiga's prime years were between 2004-2012. It's time to move on.

It's easy to say Eder should start after watching this game but he still hasn't convinced me. He honestly could of scored a hat-trick today. Ronaldo played the ball in between the defence.. and he just stood there adjacent to the defender. If he was smart enough to make the run, things would be different. Eder shows potential when he gets a pass while running off the ball. When receiving the ball in crowded areas he has a heavy touch and moves like a boulder often losing it as a result. Missing a tap-in doesn't help his rep either. He can be used as a late sub for now.

I never watched Bosingwa play in his "heyday" but what is he trying to do? Be a winger? He took over Nani's position as if he wasn't even there. Nani was made to look useless because of this clown Bosingwa AND while that was going down.. Pepe and Carvalho were exposed multiple times at the back because he showed little/no regard for his defensive duties. Bosingwa can either stay in position or get off this team. We have enough wingers.

We really missed a creative spark in the midfield. Tiago and Moutinho are both box-to-box types. We badly needed Andre Gomes to step in there. I'm not sure if Danny occupied the #10 role since Santos went with Postiga, or they lined in a 442. Whatever it was, it didn't work.

Ricardo Quaresma is a problematic player, not in the way you may have envisioned.. He's made a great impact every time he's subbed on and many of us are curious to see him start. But how can he fit? CR7 and Nani are locks on either side. Out of those 3, Ronaldo is probably the best false 9 option but we've seen that before. It doesn't work.

So this is my line-up based on what we saw today.

Patricio
Cedric----Pepe----Carvalho----Guerreiro
------------Tiago----Moutinho-------------
----------------Andre Gomes----------------
--------Nani------Danny-----------Ronaldo

Subs: Quaresma, Eder, William Carvalho

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SupremoGino
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I am not impressed at all with Fernando Santos after this display. I am not usually too negative about things but I think the approach, highlighted by including Postiga and Bosingwa was a mistake: http://beautifulgame.co/?p=393

Matthew Marshall
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I dont see how you guys feel Nani is good enough to start. He is a mess out there, really doesnt seem to contribute much. I would like to see how he would perform with quaresma starting and him coming off the bench. Postiga is just not an option...

I dont see how you guys feel Nani is good enough to start. He is a mess out there, really doesnt seem to contribute much. I would like to see how he would perform with quaresma starting and him coming off the bench. Postiga is just not an option at all anymore, we do not have much in strikers, but I'd rather get bebe or even a sub21 player and try to use him instead. Eder is a better option but that is not saying much. He seems to like the finishing touch as observed in his missed chances. The defense was a bit scary at time, Carvalho was caught out a few times, forced to take the yellow early on and should of received another yellow for a tackle in the second half where he was beat again. He is great, but his lack of speed was noticeable in this game. The coach should of seen the speed we were up against and picked a defensive line accordingly.

The headlines saying ronaldo as a savior isnt fair to me. I admit, I'm a big fan of Quaresma, so maybe i'm a little biased, but Quaresma's run is what forced the goal. Ronaldo just rolled it over the line. Quaresma seems to have great chemistry with ronaldo, as seen with that cross that the won the game last time and some of the passing after the goal in this game. Santos has to start rewarding him with a start.

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Danny Costa
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Another classic Santos 1-0 victory. Ill take it even though it wasnt as satisfying.

Ronaldo and Nani had muted games. Eder's holdup play made him look like a substantial upgrade over the invisible Postiga, but Armenia is not the best test.

Quare...

Another classic Santos 1-0 victory. Ill take it even though it wasnt as satisfying.

Ronaldo and Nani had muted games. Eder's holdup play made him look like a substantial upgrade over the invisible Postiga, but Armenia is not the best test.

Quaresma is still seducing people I see. Does Quaresma belong on the team? Absolutely. Should he be handed a starting spot? Absolutely not. Keep him hungry as a wild card to switch things up off the bench.

Moutinho is not in best form, but if people expect him to be a number 10 he will always disappoint. I thought Tiago was solid; but again dont expect him to be a 10.

Raphael was serviceable. Good to know we have another option there. Bosingwa does what a Bosingwa does. Lots of overlapping runs and probing crosses, but leaves you exposed defensively. Pepe and RC are still excellent but can no longer cover so much ground. Santos cant repeat this defensive lineup.

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Nelson Oliveira
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To many old players. The only problem I have with old players is that they want to do what they want and dont put enough effort. If u watched Armenia they ran their asses off. U ever c portugal run, nope they flop.

george
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