Portugal took a big step towards the UEFA U19 European Championship semi-finals after a 1-1 draw against Spain at Banants Stadion in Yerevan. Spain took the lead through Juan Miranda before half-time, Fábio Vieira’s free kick after the break earning the Seleção a share of the spoils.

Manager Filipe Ramos made one change to the side that defeated Italy 3-0, Sporting CP striker Tiago Rodrigues replacing Gonçalo Ramos. Spain manager Santi brought in Sergio Gomez and captain Abel Ruiz for Jandro Orellana and Alejandro Marqués, two goalscorers from their 4-1 win against host nation Armenia.

Spain start strong

Spain were expected to present a sterner challenge than Italy and so it proved in the opening exchanges, winger Ferrán Torres throwing down the gauntlet to Portuguese left-back Tiago Lopes. Abel Ruiz saw a difficult chance go across the face of goal but clear-cut chances were few and far between.

Both teams were attempting a high press with most of the action taking place in midfield. Gonçalo Cardoso cleared a dangerous cross over Portugal’s goal and Fábio Vieira shot over the bar at the other end.

Bryan Gil’s cross found Ferrán Torres in the box, his header towards goal appearing to hit the arm of Tiago Lopes but Spain’s handball claims went unanswered. With half-time approaching Spain took the lead through a combination of silky skills and sloppy Portuguese defence.

Goals either side of half time

Juan Miranda played a 1-2 with Gil on the touchline, Spain’s left-back taking advantage of Portugal’s lackadaisical defence to charge towards the box. His right-footed effort hit the post and rebounded straight back into his path and he made no mistake the second attempt with goalkeeper Celton Biai scrambling to get back into position.

A frustrated Félix Correia earned himself a booking for repeated fouls, while Portugal’s only shot on target in the first half was a longe-range effort from Fábio Vieira that was comfortably saved by Arnau Tenas.

Portugal were given a golden opportunity to equalise shortly after the break and made it count. Antonio Blanco pushed Fábio Vieira on the edge of the box, Vieira stepping up and curling the free kick over the wall leaving with Tenas no chance.

Spain resume control

A loose clearing header from Gonçalo Loureiro saw Gil race behind Portugal’s defence with forced Biai to race off his line. Gil’s cross found Abel Ruiz who headed towards goal, but this time Biai recovered in time to prevent an embarrassing goal.

Ferrán Torres had looked dangerous from the outset and was beginning to impose himself on the game. His cutback found Abel Ruiz who had a shot blocked, Torres then beating Tiago Lopes before shooting narrowly wide.

Antonio Blanco shot over the bar after collecting Biai’s clearance with Spain dominating the game once again. Filipe Ramos reacted by making a double substitution, Tiago Gouveia replacing the ineffective Tiago Rodrigues and Costinha coming on for Tiago Lopes at right-back with Tomas Tavares switching flanks.

Fabio Vieira picked up a yellow card for a foul on Moha as the game started to get stretched. Portugal wasted a counter attacking chance before Spain squandered a fast break opportunity of their own.

Portugal waste late chances

Samuel Costa replaced Vitor Ferreira in the 76th minute before Portugal created a presentable chance to take the lead. Tavares charged forward and found Vieira, the attacking midfielder beating a man but dragging his shot wide from the edge of the area.

The substitutions started to flow on both sides in the final 10 minutes. Portugal had another presentable chance in added time but António Gomes decided to pass rather than shoot on his left foot. It was a positive end to the match from Portugal who had been on the back foot for much of the game.

The point will be welcomed by Portugal who know a win against host nation Armenia in their final group match will guarantee a spot in the semi-finals. It’s becoming clearer that the key players for Portugal are central defender Gonçalo Cardoso, midfielder Fabio Vieira and attacker Félix Correia.

It will be interesting to see what manager Filipe Ramos does against an inferior opponent in Armenia on Saturday. With five substitutions at his disposal there is little need to make many changes, but the the Seleção appear stronger with striker Gonçalo Ramos on the pitch and his return would be a boost.

Portugal U19 starting formation and line up: 4-3-3

Celton Biai (SL Benfica) - Tomás Tavares (SL Benfica), Gonçalo Loureiro (SL Benfica), Gonçalo Cardoso (Boavista FC), Tiago Lopes (FC Porto) - Fábio Vieira (FC Porto), Diogo Capitão (SL Benfica), Vítor Ferreira (FC Porto) - João Mário (FC Porto), Tiago Rodrigues (Sporting CP), Félix Correia (Sporting CP).

By Matthew Marshall

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“It’s a group with the three winners of the last three major tournaments. But we believe in our possibilities and we believe we can win.”

Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach reacts to tough Euro 2020 draw for the Seleção)