Albania 1-6 Portugal
Most of the players from Portugal’s U21 side that finished runners-up in the summer’s European Championship may have left the squad due to being over-aged, but the new crop of talent at coach Rui Jorge’s disposal looks no less exciting.
In their first qualifying match for Euro 2017, the Seleção crushed Albania 6-1 in Tirana thanks to an André Silva hat-trick and goals from Rúben Neves, Rony Lopes and Ricardo Horta.
Portugal did most of the damage in a devastating spell at the end of the first half during which they scored four goals in 14 minutes. Neves, the youngest player in the squad at 18, got the ball rolling with a fine 20-yard strike, and Lopes quickly doubled the lead, taking advantage of some fine wing play by Bruma.
Porto B striker André Silva then took centre stage, scoring two poacher’s goals, the first a header from a wonderful Lopes cross, the second a sliding finish to round off a superb counter-attack orchestrated by Bruma and captain Bruno Fernandes.
Portugal took their foot of the accelerator in the second half, but the gap in class between the teams remained evident and Silva duly completed his hat-trick with another opportunist strike before Ricardo Horta scored goal number six. Rashica hit a late consolation for the Albanians.
Silva on fire
It was a spectacular U21 debut for the highly rated André Silva, who has hit 5 goals in 5 matches for Porto B this season. Given Portugal’s traditional dearth of options at centre-forward, Silva is already seen as a huge hope for the future at senior level.
“Of course I’m really happy with my hat-trick. I work hard every day to develop and show the people in charge that I want an opportunity in the senior Seleção, when the time is right. I train every day with this in mind,” said the 19-year-old marksman.
Portugal boss Jorge was naturally delighted with what his players produced. “I’m very happy. Portugal made it look easy because we never stopped doing what we had to do: fighting for every ball, applying pressure and playing well in collective terms. It’s very important to start like this, because I don’t believe it’s going to be easy for other teams to come to Albania and win.”
by Tom Kundert
Portugal: Bruno Varela, Riquicho, Edgar Ié, Tobias Figueiredo, Rafa, Bruno Fernandes (Raphael Guzzo, 67'), Ruben Neves, Rony Lopes, Mané (Gelson Martins, 46'), Andre Silva, Bruma (Ricardo Horta, 57')
[0-1] Ruben Neves, 32’
[0-2] Marcos Lopes, 36’
[0-3] André Silva, 43’
[0-4] André Silva, 45’
[0-5] André Silva, 62’
[0-6] Ricardo Horta, 70’
[1-6] Rashica, 83’