Spain 1-1 Portugal
Portugal once again flattered to deceive for long stretches, but they held on, reconstituted themselves in the second half and bagged a well-earned point at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Braga's Ricardo Horta was the difference-maker, cancelling Alvaro Morata's opener after Leão missed a couple of decent opportunities earlier on.
O Engenheiro selected another provocative starting XI with Cristiano Ronaldo rested in favor of André Silva and Danilo partnering Pepe in defence. Four regular defensive midfielders notwithstanding, Santos started João Moutinho at the base of Portugal's 4-3-3. Rafael Leão was rewarded with his first start for the senior side following his breakout Serie A campaign with champions AC Milan.
The match almost immediately settled into a predictable pattern with Spain on the ball and Portugal compact and looking for opportunities on the counter. Gavira fired a warning shot off-target early on, but neither side threatened in the opening quarter hour.
Suddenly Portugal broke into the Spanish penalty area on 17 minutes when Guerreiro burst past his marker and squared for Leão, but young winger put far too much power behind his shot and lifted it well over the bar, a let-off for the hosts.
Portugal were reasonably composed and began launching passes over the Spanish defence to get Leão and Bernardo more into the match. But then, against expected proceedings, Spain hit Portugal on the counterttack. Bruno Fernandes missed a challenge on Gavira, allowing the 17-yr-old to play through Sarabia down the right. The Sporting winger's square pass found Morata completely unmarked, an easy finish for the Juventus forward.
Gavi opened up Portugal again minutes later, playing a cross to Carlos Soler, but Diogo Costa denied his effort and Soler sent the rebound over the bar. Cancelo played a neat ball into André Silva in the 35th minute, and the Leipzig striker's swivel created enough space to get a shot off, but it sailed yards wide of the left upright.
Moutinho hacked down Morata in a dangerous position and Sarabia very nearly made the visitors pay with a free kick sent narrowly wide of Costa's goal.
Santos wisely replaced João Moutinho with Rúben Neves to start the second half. Portugal pressed the hosts up the pitch and forced several corners, but still could not create meaningful threat. Otávio cleared a wonderful cross from the right before it found Morata.
Leão then missed another glorious chance to score after great work by André Silva. The AC Milan starlet received Silva's pas and took a smart touch to step inside his marker, but Unai Simon spread himself well and deflected the shot wide of the left upright.
Ronaldo and Guedes entered the fray with slightly less than a half hour to play. Gavi continued to cause Portugal problems with his throughball setting up Morata to shoot wide. But Spain were in fairly assured control at this point, and Portugal's possession was unproductive.
Ricardo Horta then came on and the match changed. Cancelo burst down the right wing, got his head up and played an inch-perfect cross to Horta, who made no mistake to draw Portugal level with his first ever senior side goal.
Spain were up for the challenge though and Jordi Alba missed an absolute sitter after Costa's poor clearance. But Costa darted off his line to clear a dangerous cross moments later. Olmo had the final opportunity, but his shot sailed wide and Portugal had sealed a crucial point.
Called up for the first time since 2014, Ricardo Horta proved his merit within ten minutes of stepping onto the pitch. Leão showed he offers something different when on the ball, but will surely be disappointed he missed both opportunities to score. Moutinho was completely overrun in holding midfield, and neither Bruno nor Otávio seemed particularly comfortable. Pepe again kick-started Portugal's forward momentum created with long passes over the defence. But Portugal again labored to create decent chances and will continue to search for some sense of identity as the Nations League progresses.
Portugal play three additional Nations League matches this month before the summer break resumes.
Portugal: Diogo Costa – Raphael Guerreiro, Danilo Pereira, Pepe, João Cancelo - João Moutinho (Neves, 46’), Bruno Fernandes, Otávio (Cristiano Ronaldo, 62') - Rafael Leão, André Silva (Guedes, 62') Bernardo Silva
Spain: Unai Simon - Azpilicueta, Llorente, Torres, Alba - Soler, Busquets, Gavira - Sarabia, Morata, Torres
[1-0] – Morata, 25’
[1-1] – Horta, 82'
by Nathan Motz