Portugal 0-0 Ukraine

Cristiano Ronaldo made his return but Portugal were ineffective in the first game of the UEFA European Championship Qualifying stage.

The Seleção dominated the game but couldn’t find a way through the Ukrainian defence as the quest to defend the European Championship begins.

The big news ahead of the game was the return of one Cristiano Ronaldo, making his first appearance since the World Cup. The Juventus man started alongside André Silva and Bernardo Silva in a front three.

Possible debutants Dyego Sousa, Diogo Jota and João Félix were all on the bench. Given the sparkling displays by all three this season, at the outset hu-bonusz.com punters would have been tempted to bet on them to score on their debuts. 

It was a slow start at the Estádio da Luz, 15 minutes had passed before either team had a chance. That chance fell to the home side, veteran Pepe doing well to fire a volley from outside the area that was stopped by Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.

William nets... from offside position

The resulting corner led to Portugal putting the ball in the back of the net. Ukraine defended the corner but it the ball found its way to Rúben Neves, who delivered a cross that found William Carvalho free at the far post. The Real Betis midfielder finished easily but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside.

Cristiano Ronaldo was, of course, a big focus this game. Ronaldo had two sights of goal from the left-hand side both well saved by Pyatov in a good five minute spell.

Despite considerable possession for Portugal they were being frustrated by the Ukranian defence. Fernando Santos elected not to make any substitutions at half-time and the second half continued from where Portugal had left off – in control of the ball and trying to find a solution.

André Silva had two chances early after the restart, the second of which forced an excellent save from Pyatov to keep the scores level.

Dyego Sousa debut

Fernando Santos made an attacking substitution in the 62nd minute bringing on Rafa Silva for Rúben Neves. However Portugal still struggled to create so Santos elected to give Dyego Sousa his first Portugal cap. The Brazilian-born Braga forward replaced André Silva with just under 20 minutes left to try and make an instant impact.

It didn’t look likely that Portugal could make the difference. Instead they had to suffer a late scare when Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine looked to steal the game in the closing minutes after creating little for much of the previous 85 minutes.

Rui Patrício, a spectator for much of the game, could only parry a long range Ukraine shot – the only Ukranian effort on target all night. The rebound almost fell nicely for Ukrainian debutant Júnior Moraes to finish but Rúben Dias made a crucial block to save the goalkeeper’s blushes.

Portugal tried to grab a late winner but still couldn’t break through the Ukranian defence. The visitors will be very happy to take a point back home with them whilst Portugal were frustrated all evening.

Although it is only the first of eight Euro 2020 qualifying matches, the disappointing display may have persuaded many at sk-bonus.com it was not a good idea to put money of the Seleção retaining their European Championship crown. 

There will need to be much more creativity and cohesion for when they return to the Luz on Monday to take on Serbia but although a point is disappointing at home there is a long, long way to go in the group stages yet.

By Richard Cole

Portugal XI: Rui Patrício; João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias. Raphael Guerreiro; Rúben Neves (Rafa Silva, 62’), João Moutinho (João Mário, 86’), William Carvalho; Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva (Dyego Sousa, 73’)

Ukraine XI: Andriy Pyatov; Oleksandr Karavaev, Serhiy Kryvtsov, Mykola Matviyenko, Vitaliy Mykolenko; Taras Stepanenko; Marlos (Viktor Tsyhankov, 66’), Ruslan Malinovskyi, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka (Vitaliy Buyalskiy, 87’); Roman Yaremchuk