Portugal registered their ninth consecutive win in the European Championship qualifiers after beating Liechtenstein 2-0 in Vaduz.
The game was goalless at half-time but that was rapidly rectified two minutes after the break, Cristiano Ronaldo racing clear and firing a powerful shot past Benjamin Büchel.
João Cancelo did it all himself to double the Seleção’s advantage in the 57th minute, José Sá making an important save four minutes later to deny Dennis Salanovic.
Gonçalo Ramos was denied a goal due to a lengthy VAR intervention, Portugal closing out a comfortable victory in front of a 5,749 capacity crowd at Rheinpark Stadion.
Dull opening 45 minutes
Portugal’s pattern of play was established early on with Rúben Neves the primary distributor, the holding midfielder situated in the middle of a back three between Toti Gomes and António Silva.
The Wolverhampton midfielder fired the first shot on target, a low swerving effort that was tipped wide by Benjamin Büchel.
Cristiano Ronaldo saw his shot blocked after Büchel spilled a cross into the box, Gonçalo Ramos then heading wide after some slick interplay between João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.
Chances were proving hard to come by, Bruno Fernandes testing his luck from long range before Ronaldo came alive in added time. The 38-year-old sent and overhead bicycle kick wide, shot shot straight at Büchel before a third effort was turned away by the goalkeeper.
Seleção step on the gas
Roberto Martínez resisted the temptation to switch things up at the break, Konrad Fünfstück making one change with the booked Simon Lüchinger making way for Livio Meier.
It took just 20 seconds for Portugal to fashion their best opportunity of the match, Cancelo’s cross met by Ronaldo who hit the post. Less than a minute later he made amends.
Diogo Jota sent the superstar clear and he obliged with aplomb, taking his time before unleashing a powerful left footed effort past Büchel.
Ronaldo met another Cancelo cross but couldn’t keep his shot down, but the Seleção's persistence paid off as they doubled their advantage in the 57th minute.
António Silva released João Cancelo who bamboozled Büchel, the keeper caught in no mans land which allowed Cancelo to step inside Lars Traber and fire into an empty net.
Ricardo Horta replaced Bernardo Silva before Liechtenstein had their only meaningful attempt of the match, Marcel Büchel sending Dennis Salanovic clear with José Sá coming off his line to make an important save.
Portugal cruise to the finish line
Martínez went to his bench again in the 67th minute when Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo made way for Vitinha and Bruma.
Bruma’s introduction immediately allowed João Félix to get closer to the action. The Barcelona forward put the ball into the net from an offside position before firing over the bar and shooting wide.
Gonçalo Ramos was on hand to poke home from close range following Vitinha’s free kick, the goal eventually ruled out after five minutes of VAR intervention found António Silva narrowly offside.
João Mário and João Neves replaced Cancelo and Félix as Portugal closed out a forgettable football match.
Roberto Martínez has made many formation and personnel alterations during the qualifiers. He unleased an ultra-attacking side against in Vaduz with Rúben Neves positioned in the middle of a back three.
Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva were attempting to assist an isolated Bruno Fernandes in midfield but there was little penetration, especially between the lines which were largely non-existent due to Liechtenstein’s midfield sitting close to a flat back five.
The second half was an improvement, due to Jota and Bernardo Silva getting more ball which saw the Seleção start to impose their authority on proceedings.
It may not have been a memorable match for a majority of the spectators, but it was certainly a special occasion for José Sá, Toti Gomes and João Mário who all made their debuts.
A 2-0 victory against Liechtenstein is unlikely to get many Seleção supporters excited, but Roberto Martínez got another opportunity to experiment and learn more about his team who conclude their qualification campaign at Estádio José Alvalade on Sunday when they host Iceland.
By Matthew Marshall at Rheinpark Stadion
Liechtenstein: Buchel, Malin, Wieser, Traber, Beck (Kranz, 64’), Luchimger (Meier, 45’), Buchel, Sele (Hofer, 77’), Goppel, Hasler (Ospelt, 64’), Salanovic (Marxer, 90’)
Portugal: José Sá, João Cancelo (João Mário, 87’), António Silva, Rúben Neves, Toti Gomes, Bruno Fernandes (Vitinha, 67’), João Félix (João Neves, 87’), Bernardo Silva (Ricardo Horta, 60’), Diogo Jota, Ronaldo (Bruma, 67’), Gonçalo Ramos
[0-1] Cristiano Ronaldo, 47’
[0-2] João Cancelo, 57’