Portugal won 1-0 in Cyprus to make it four straight wins in the 2023 UEFA European U21 Championship qualifiers. It was another tough road trip for the Esperanças, but theymade it four straight wins thanks to an early Gonçalo Ramos strike.

Rui Jorge was absent in Larnaca after testing positive for corona virus. Romeu Almeida stepped up to the plate with Gonçalo Inácio making his U21 debut, starting in central defence next to former Sporting CP teammate Eduardo Quaresma.

Portugal go ahead early

Portugal survived a scare early on as Celton Biai was forced into action, the Guimaraes goalkeeper making two rapid fire saves to deny Andreas Karamanolis and Nikolas Panagiotou.

The Esperanças steadied themselves and took the lead in the 15th minute. André Almeida won possession and drove forward, releasing Gonçalo Ramos who fired a first time finish past Stephanos Kittos.

The visitors began to threaten with regularity, Fábio Silva seeing his header cleared off the line before Ramos and Vieira tested Kittos with headed efforts. Ramos was becoming increasingly involved, heading wide before collecting a long ball from Tiago Dantas with Andreas Katsantonis producing a vital last-ditch challenge.

Cyprus started the second half well, Ioannis Kosti’s cross going close to finding Andreas Katsantonis in front of goal. Fábio Silva had a great chance to extend Portugal’s lead, collecting Almeida’s long pass before firing straight at Kittos.

The hosts went close to equalizing in the 52nd minute. A dangerous free kick saw Thomas Nicolaou shoot at Biai who spilled the ball, Dantas on hand to clear the danger.

Cruise to the finish line

Portugal soon regained control and dominated the rest of the match. Fábio Silva produced two weak shots that were comfortably saved before Fábio Vieira missed a great chance to seal the deal.

Vitinha went on a great solo run through the middle of the park, beating four players before finding Vieira who shot straight at Kittos.

Romeu Almeida started to ring the changes with Estoril winger Chiquinho making his U21 debut after replacing Fábio Silva. 10 minutes later Afonso Sousa and Paulo Bernardo came on for Fábio Vieira and André Almeida.

The final two substitutions saw Tiago Dantas and Gonçalo Ramos replaced by Tomás Händel and Henrique Araújo.

Analysis

It was another tough road trip for Portugal, but once again they passed the test and made their superiority count. Rui Jorge’s starting side basically picks itself which is a great sign so early into a long campaign.

Gonçalo Inácio finally got his chance at U21 level at the expense of Tiago Djaló who was absent. Inácio came through the Sporting CP youth academy alongside Eduardo Quaresma, and that familiarity could be an important factor for Rui Jorge moving forward.

Chiquinho made his U21 debut off the bench, was stationed on the right wing for the final 24 minutes and failed to make any real impact.

Portugal regain top spot in Group 4, overtaking Greece who have played an extra match. The Esperanças have scored 14 goals, kept four consecutive clean sheets and host Cyprus in Faro on Tuesday (19:15 GMT).

Line Up

With Tiago Djaló unavailable, Gonçalo Inácio made his U21 debut next to Eduardo Quaresma in central defence. Chiquinho made his U21 debut off the bench.

Portugal XI (4-3-1-2): Celton Biai - João Mário, Eduardo Quaresma, Gonçalo Inácio, Nuno Tavares - André Almeida (Paulo Bernardo 76’), Tiago Dantas (Tomás Händel 87’), Vitinha - Fábio Vieira (Afonso Sousa 76’) - Fábio Silva (Chiquinho 66’), Gonçalo Ramos (Henrique Araújo 87’)

Unused substitutes: João Gonçalves, Alexandre Penetra, Tomás Tavares, Gonçalo Borges

Coach: Romeu Almeida

Goals:

[1-0] - Gonçalo Ramos 15’

By Matthew Marshall

 

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“These players continue to surprise me every day.”

Rúben Amorim
(Sporting coach after 3-1 Lisbon derby victory against Benfica at the Estádio da Luz) 

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