Luxembourg 0-2 Portugal
Portugal were made to work for their ticket to Euro 2020 against a hard-working Luxembourg side that certainly had their moments. Bruno Fernandes' sumptuous goal at the end of the first half was quite possibly the lone bright spot of a very difficult opening 45 minutes while Cristiano Ronaldo added to his international goal tally just minutes before full time.
It was at times incoherent and undisciplined from Portugal with misplaced passes and poor decisions only complicated by the abysmal pitch. Many may remember it as the worst played match of the campaign, but Portugal survived what was always going to be a challenging final game and will now have the opportunity to defend their European title.
Having swept aside Lithuania four days prior, Fernando Santos still elected to make changes to the starting XI with Danilo taking over at defensive midfield. Raphael Guerreiro assumed his usual role at left back while André Silva replaced his Eintracht Frankfurt teammate, Gonçalo Paciénicia, at the top of the formation.
Ronaldo had an early opportunity from a free kick after André Silva went down under a heavy challenge, but his effort went straight into the wall. But Luxembourg showed their mettle by carving out an opportunity of their own in the 6th minute when Deville headed over the bar following a good cross from the left.
Play broke down in midfield for Luxembourg minutes later, and André Silva found himself well-positioned to shoot but elected to pass to Ronaldo instead. Cristiano beat his marker along the left side of the penalty area and got in a near post effort which forced Moris into a decent save.
But Portugal struggled to put together passing combinations through a congested midfield, and Luxembourg very nearly opened the scoring when a cross from the right found Thill with his goal-bound effort well-blocked by José Fonte.
Luxembourg continued to threaten on the counter and Portugal's back line was forced into action again and again with the hosts focusing on the left side of Portugal's formation. Ronaldo badly mishit an attempt in the 27th minute summing up Portugal's difficulty in creating scoring chances.
André Silva teed up Pizzi to shoot in the 32nd minute, but the Benfica man fired well over the bar. Luxembourg seemed as if they would keep Portugal out with relative ease until Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes intervened. The Manchester City playmaker spied just a bit of space behind Luxembourg's backline and floated in a wonderful cross that Bruno brought down with Velcro control, and his finish at the near post was superb to fire Portugal into a crucial lead just before halftime. It was only the Sporting midfielder's second goal for the Seleção.
Os golos que nos deram o bilhete 🎫 para o @UEFAEURO! A defesa do título vai começar! 🇵🇹 #TodosPortugal— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) November 20, 2019
🎟 Prioridade nos bilhetes para o Euro 2020
👉 Regista-te em https://t.co/66knxvFYXC pic.twitter.com/t61It2Drgx
Fonte rose highest to meet an early second half corner but his effort drifted just wide of the left upright. The visitors responded as Rodrigues found just enough space to bend an attempt over the bar from the left side of the penalty area.
Rodrigues continued to be a nuisance down the left side of midfield as the match descended into a stalemate. Fernando Santos introduced João Moutinho for Pizzi just after the hour mark to reinforce Portugal's lagging midfield. Crosses from wide positions continued to torment Portugal and Deville very nearly got his foot to the ball following a delivery from the right.
Diogo Jota entered the fray in the 71st minute, replacing André Silva who had struggled to make an impact. But the hosts continued to deny Portugal's efforts to find an elusive second goal. Ronaldo struck a free kick just wide of the post after Bruno Fernandes was brought down a bit easily on the edge of the penalty area with just over ten minutes remaining.
But Portugal finally found a way in the 86th minute. Once again Bernardo Silva was involved with a teasing cross into the penalty area. Jota's acrobatic effort bounced onto the keeper's shoulder and onto the line, and Cristiano Ronaldo was on hand to help it into the back of the net, his 99th international goal for Portugal.
It was a scrappy goal that accurately reflected the match itself, but it was enough cushion for Portugal to see the result through. In difficult conditions, Portugal were not at their individual or collective best, but they exemplified the will and ability to endure nonetheless. Danilo, André Silva, Raphael Guerreiro, and Pizzi were all below their best, but José Fonte showed why even at 35 he is a crucial asset in the center of Portugal's defense. Ricardo Pereira again showed his merit with blistering recovery pace to keep Luxembourg's best player in check.
Portugal now await the official draw on November 30th to discover their group fate. It is the 11th major tournament in a row for which Portugal have qualified.
Portugal XI: Rui Patrício - Raphael Guerreiro, Rúben Dias, José Fonte, Ricardo Pereira - Danilo, Pizzi (Moutinho, 62'), Bruno Fernandes (Rúben Neves, 90'), Bernardo Silva - André Silva (Jota 71'), Cristiano Ronaldo
Luxembourg XI: Moris - Jans, Carlson, Chanot, C. Krogh Gerson - Skenderovic, Barreiro (Sinani, 74'), V. Thill (Joachim, 82'), Turpel (O. Thill, 59') - Deville, Rodrigues
[0-1] - Bruno Fernandes, 39'
[0-2] - Cristiano Ronaldo, 86'
by Nathan Motz