Portugal were held to a 1-1 draw by a stubborn and determined Iceland at Estádio Municipal de Portimão. The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute after Eduardo Quaresma lost his footing, but Rui Jorge’s side responded well and equalised before the break through Gonçalo Ramos.

Francisco Conceição and Gonçalo Borges tried hard to provide a spark off the bench, but Iceland’s defence remained resolute as Portugal failed to fashion enough quality chances. Portugoal's Matthew Marshall reports from the south coast.

Iceland take the lead

Portugal created the first two opportunities in Portimão, Paulo Bernardo dragging his shot wide after some nice work from Henrique Araújo and Fábio Carvalho creating a chance for Gonçalo Ramos who fired wide.

Iceland held firm and stuck to their game plan which paid dividends in the 17th minute.

Bjarki Bjarkason strolled through some feeble defence, his decision to pass instead of shoot looking like the wrong option until Eduardo Quaresma slipped, leaving Brynjolfur Andersen Willumsson with a gift from a yard out.

It was the first goal Portugal had conceded in the qualifiers and the first time they found themselves behind. Rui Jorge’s side soon took control and created chances with regularity.

Portugal respond

Paulo Bernardo’s long ball found Gonçalo Ramos, the in-form Benfica striker holding off his marker before forcing a save from Hakon Rafn Valdimarsson.

Ramos’ physicality and strength was proving a real problem for Iceland’s defence. He won a free kick on the 18-yard box but Fábio Vieira couldn’t direct it on target.

Vieira took it upon himself minutes later, winning the ball and curling his effort narrowly wide. Portugal had two chances through Vieira and Araújo before deservedly equalising in the 34th minute.

Gonçalo Ramos played a neat 1-2 with Vieira and powered through Iceland’s defence, his shot taking a deflection and rolling past Valdimarsson into the bottom corner.

Fábio Carvalho won another free kick that Tiago Dantas sent over the bar as Portugal went into half time with plenty of momentum.

Iceland has the first opportunity in the second half as Alexandre Penetra blocked a dangerous shot from First name Valgeir Fridriksson.

Portugal fail to find a breakthrough

Portugal soon regained control and won a succession of corners, Fábio Vieira narrowly missing the post after a clever free kick from Dantas. Ramos and Vieira then shot wide before Rui Jorge made his first substitution in the 60th minute, Henrique Araújo making way for Francisco Conceição.

The chances kept coming for the Esperanças, Ramos with an effort saved before delivering a cross that narrowly evaded Carvalho.

Iceland couldn’t get near Celton Biai and were resorting to hopeful punts up field.

Carvalho saw his shot blocked before he and Dantas made way for Afonso Sousa and Gonçalo Borges. Portugal kept pressing for a winner, Conceição’s cross picking out Ramos who volleyed straight at Valdimarsson.

Iceland finally made some headway in the final 10 minutes and fashioned two opprtunities to steal all three points. Agust Hlynsson sent Kristian Hlynsson through on goal but he lost his balance and fired wide, Isak Olafsson heading Hlynsson’s free kick over the bar with Celton Biai breathing a sigh of relief. 

Ramos on fire

Gonçalo Ramos has been playing with plenty of confidence for Benfica and he continually brings it into the U21 side. He is developing into a fearsome striker and has become the undisputed number one up front with Fábio Silva lacking game time at Wolves.

With Braga’s Vitinha set to return to the squad, Silva could find minutes hard to come by as Ramos and Vitinha become Jorge’s preferred partnership up front.

Portugal set for a showdown with Greece

Despite winning five of their six matches with 21 goals scored and just once conceded, Portugal find themselves two points behind Greece with a game in hand.

Two of their four remaining matches will be played against the Greeks, the first coming in Tripoli on Tuesday. The result could go a long way to deciding who finishes top of Group 4 and qualifies automatically for the 2023 U21 European Championship in Romania and Georgia.

Portugal will be hoping to book one of the slots to make it to the Euros having come so close (beaten finalists) in the previous tournament.

Line Up

With Gonçalo Inácio, Tiago Djaló and Vitinha called up to the senior squad, there were four fresh faces in Rui Jorge’s starting side with Alexandre Penetra in central defence, Fábio Carvalho and Paulo Bernardo in midfield alongside Henrique Araújo up front.

Penetra was beaten by Bjarkason for Iceland’s goal but improved from then on and provided a crucial block at the start of the second half.

Fábio Carvalho pulled on the Portugal jersey for the first time after representing England at youth level. He was impressive early on, showing his technical ability and frequently linking up with Tomás Tavares and Gonçalo Ramos.

Paulo Bernardo wasn’t at his best in Portimão in his first start for Rui Jorge’s side. He was inefficient with his movement and struggled to make an impact, but he can be forgiven for one ordinary performance against a difficult opponent.

Henrique Araújo had opportunities to get involved in the attack, but his decision making with the ball left a lot to be desired. It was no surprise when he made way for Francisco Conceição on the hour mark.

Portugal XI (4-3-1-2): Celton Biai - João Mário, Eduardo Quaresma, Alexandre Penetra, Tomás Tavares - Paulo Bernardo, Tiago Dantas (Afonso Sousa 80’), Fábio Carvalho (Gonçalo Borges 80’) - Fábio Vieira - Henrique Araújo (Francisco Conceição 60’), Gonçalo Ramos 

Unused substitutes: Samuel Soares, Tiago Araújo, Bruno Rodrigues, Zé Carlos, Bernardo Folha, Fábio Silva

Coach: Rui Jorge

Goals:

[0-1] - Willumsson 17’

[1-1] - Gonçalo Ramos 34’

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