Portugal cruised to a 6-0 victory in Luxembourg to make it two convincing wins in the 2024 European Championship qualifiers.
The Seleção were 3-0 up after 18 minutes with all three goals the result of accurate balls into the box. Cristiano Ronaldo converted from close range before João Félix and Bernardo Silva steered headers past Anthony Moris.
Félix instigated the fourth goal in the 31st minute, Bruno Fernandes threading the ball through to Ronaldo who found the bottom corner.
Roberto Martínez’s side produced a late flourish which was instigated by the introduction of Rafael Leão.
The winger assisted Otávio before winning a penalty that he couldn’t get past Anthony Moris, but his persistence paid off as he scored Portugal’s sixth goal in the 88th minute.
Portugal ruthless in the opening 30 minutes
Luxembourg didn’t touch the ball in the opening three minutes of the match but managed to fashion the first attempt on goal. Danel Sinani played a neat 1-2 with Vincent Thill before his shot was blocked.
Portugal soon regained control and took the lead in the 9th minute. Bruno Fernandes’ cross into the 6-yard box found Nuno Mendes, the wing-back heading the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who bundled the ball across the line.
Six minutes later the Seleção doubled their advantage. This time it was Bernardo Silva’s cross into the danger area, João Félix left wide open to head the ball past Anthony Moris.
There was no letting up with Portugal making it 3-0 in the 18th minute. João Palhinha sent a perfect ball into the box, Bernardo Silva taking advantage of another defensive error to head past Moris.
Luxembourg were clearly demoralised and fearing the worst, but there was little they could do to stop the onslaught and soon found themselves 4-0 down.
Félix intercepted a loose pass and gave the ball to Bruno Fernandes, the playmaker producing a perfect pass for Ronaldo who broke clear and slotted the ball past Moris.
Ronaldo saw his shot deflected wide and Félix fired an effort narrowly over the bar as the Seleção went into the break with a healthy 4-0 advantage.
Second half slow down
Luc Holtz made three changes at the break with Lars Gerson, Marvin Martins and Danel Sinani replaced by Mathias Olesen, Florian Bohnert and Dirk Carlson.
It seemed to have the desired effect with Luxembourg showing more enterprise in the opening five minutes of the second half than the opening 45 minutes. Vincent Thill tested Rui Patrício and Maxime Chanot headed a corner wide.
Referee Radu Petrescu won’t be getting a Christmas card from Ronaldo after booking the superstar for diving, Portugal unable to maintain the momentum they established in the frist half.
Roberto Martínez went to his bench in the 64th minute, bringing on Rúben Neves and Gonçalo Ramos for Bernardo Silva and Ronaldo which saw Bruno Fernandes move into an advanced position.
Leão lights it up
It was becoming a snooze fest with Martínez making two more changes in the 75th minute, Bruno Fernandes and João Félix making way for Otávio and Rafael Leão.
It proved to be a masterstroke with both players combining to add a fifth goal within two minutes of being introduced. Nuno Mendes broke clear and released Leão, his teasing ball into the box headed home by Otávio.
Leão’s pace was proving to be a real handful for Luxembourg’s beleaguered defence. The AC Milan star went on a long run forward and was taken out by Leandro Barreiro, Rúben Neves rattling the bar from the resulting free kick.
Leão was the undisputed star of the show, streaking past Laurent Jans who took the winger down and conceded a penalty, Leão stepping up and seeing his spot kick saved by Moris.
Diogo Jota was given a few minutes to make an impact after replacing Palhinha, but Leão wasn’t going to be denied. He went on another surging run, cutting into the box and making enough space to scuff his shot into the bottom corner.
Martínez solving the Bruno and Bernardo conundrum?
Bruno Fernandes is being asked to play in a deeper role in Roberto Martínez’s 3-4-3 formation with the Manchester United playmaker adjusting his positioning accordingly.
With Bernardo Silva primarily playing on the right-wing, the early signs suggest that Martínez is finding a way to get the best out of both players, an area where Fernando Santos continually struggled.
I asked Martínez about Fernandes’ role in his system. “When I look at the profile of Bruno Fernandes and the profile of Bernardo Silva, we are very fortunate to have two players who can understand the game, who can look for the space.
“I wouldn’t say they are two players who play in systems. They play depending on where the opposition is, how they can execute their technical quality, that’s why Bruno's position depends a lot on Bernardo’s position and vice-versa.
“They don’t play in a system as such, they play in relation to each other and trying to find the space and how to utilise it.”
Martínez will have to make adjustments when Portugal face superior opposition, but the 6-0 win in Luxembourg which followed the 4-0 victory against Liechtenstein has offered some interesting insights into how he is going to use the immense talent at his disposal.
By Matthew Marshall at Stade de Luxembourg
Portugal: Rui Patrício, António Silva, Rúben Dias, Danilo, Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes (Otávio, 75’), João Palhinha (Diogo Jota, 87’), Nuno Mendes, Bernardo Silva (Rúben Neves, 64’), Cristiano Ronaldo (Gonçalo Ramos, 64’), João Félix (Rafael Leão, 75’)
[0-1] Cristiano Ronaldo, 9’
[0-2] João Félix, 15’
[0-3] Bernardo Silva, 18’
[0-4] Cristiano Ronaldo, 31’
[0-5] Otávio, 77’
[0-6] Rafael Leão, 88’