Russia 0-1 Portugal

Portugal took a huge step towards the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup with a 1-0 victory over tournament hosts Russia at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow this afternoon.

An early Cristiano Ronaldo header was scant reward for the Seleção after a dominant first half, with the recalled Bernardo Silva and Adrien Silva both outstanding.

Russia started to apply increasing pressure in the second half, and with Portugal missing a host of chances it needed commanding displays by Pepe and Bruno Alves to ensure the win did not escape Fernando Santos's men.

Santos made four changes to the line-up with the three Silvas all starting; Bernardo, Adrien and André replacing Nani, Quaresma and Moutinho. Bruno Alves replaced José Fonte in central defence as Santos changed the formation to a fluid 4-4-2.

Portugal take early lead

Portugal asserted themselves early on and took the lead through Ronaldo. Bernardo Silva found Raphaël Guerreiro in space, the left back crossing to the back post where Ronaldo capitalised on a stumbling Kudryashov and indecisive Akinfeev to head in his 74th international goal.

Portugal’s personnel and formation switch was paying dividends, increasing the balance and organisation due to André Silva’s mobility, Adrien Silva’s industry, and Bernardo Silva’s trickery. Santos abandoned the lackadaisical approach to pressing we saw against Mexico, pressuring Russia in their own half which resulted in frequent turnovers and Portuguese attackers left in open space.

Ronaldo was targeting the masked Kudryashov, drawing a foul from the defender but hitting the free kick straight at Akinfeev. Portugal then had a great chance to increase their lead. A long ball was flicked on by André Silva to an open Ronaldo, who easily beat Viktor Vasin one on one but his fierce shot was too close to Akinfeev. 

Russia never looked like troubling Rui Patrício during the first half, their best chance a wayward effort from Smolov before the break. Pepe was dominant in defence alongside his colleagues, neutralising Russia’s Samedov and Smolov who were the main instigators against New Zealand.

Business as usual after the break

Erokhin replaced Shishkin at half time but it was business as usual as Portugal threatened to extend their lead. Cedric Soares’ cross found André Silva who rose above Dzhikiya, but Akinfeev got a strong hand to his header and tipped it wide. Ronaldo then had a chance on the break but produced a weak header from Bernardo Silva’s cross.

Cedric forced a good save from Akinfeev with a swerving shot from distance, but from that moment Portugal lost control as the game opened up. Russia’s best chance came when Samedov’s cross went just over the head of Smolov, the tournament hosts getting into a dangerous position soon after without fashioning a chance.

Portugal lose control

With Portugal losing their grip on the game they resorted to hitting Russia on the break. André Gomes crossed to Ronaldo with Akinfeev well out of position, but with the goal at his mercy Ronaldo was unable to get any power or accuracy on his header.

Eliseu replaced the injured Guerreiro in the 65th minute, Bernardo Silva setting up Ronaldo after another fast break with the Portugal captain blazing over the bar. The trend continued as André Silva shot powerfully but his effort was straight at Akinfeev.

Portugal were unable to regain control of the match as Russia frequently got into dangerous positions. Dmitriy Poloz replaced Kombarov to add more firepower up front as Fernando Santos made two quick changes to try and stop the home team’s momentum, Gelson Martins on for André Silva and Danilo Pereira replacing Adrien Silva.

Russian manager Cherchesov went for broke with 10 minutes remaining, introducing a third striker onto the pitch as Alexander Bukharov replaced Kudryashov. Seleção supporters were on the edge of their seats during the final minutes, Patricio spilling a cross to gift Russia a corner as Mexico’s stoppage time equaliser on Sunday came flashing back.

Fortunately Dzhikiya headed Samedov’s corner over the bar, Smolov wasting Russia’s final chance as Portugal held on. It is difficult to ascertain how Portugal completely lost control in the final half hour, but with minnows New Zealand offering a gift three points in the final group stage game, Portugal can begin to think ahead to the semi-finals.

Pepe back to his best

Pepe was imperious throughout, looking confident, leading by example and imposing himself on the game from the start. With a comfortable victory against New Zealand likely, Pepe has a great chance to ease into the semi-finals after his injury layoff and recapture the form that was so important to Portugal’s Euro 2016 success.

Those calling for Bernardo Silva to start were vindicated, his invention and imagination a welcome addition to the Portugal midfield while Cedric was busy, continuing to drift infield to add numbers to Portuguese attacks. It was essentially a cohesive team effort that secured the victory, and most would agree that Santos made positive changes.

Portugal’s inability to score a second goal was frustrating, but for all of Russia’s chances in the final half hour they failed to register a single shot on target all game. Portugal reaffirmed their status as tournament favourites but the manner in which they lost control in the latter stages is a concern.

By Matthew Marshall (Twitter @noobzcorp)

Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cédric Soares, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Raphaël Guerreiro (Eliseu 66’), William Carvalho, Adrien Silva (Danilo Pereira 82’), André Gomes, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva (Gelson Martins 78’)

Goal:

[0-1] Ronaldo, 8'

Comments (22)

  1. Hello

Do yellow cards get wiped out after the group stage?

Let's hope Guerreiro's injury isn't too bad. We need him for the Semis

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  1. Mage

I think Santos decided to rest Quaresma before the match. Because its insane he didnt come in second half wit ability to hurt Russia defence when they have to attack

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  1. jon/usa

Apart from a few nervy moments late in the second half, this was a very comfortable victory for Portugal. I certainly would have preferred to have seen us kill the game off with a second goal, but at the end of the day Ronaldo's early strike...

Apart from a few nervy moments late in the second half, this was a very comfortable victory for Portugal. I certainly would have preferred to have seen us kill the game off with a second goal, but at the end of the day Ronaldo's early strike proved to be the difference. I criticized Santos for his player selection in the first game, so I have to give him credit for making the necessary changes for today's match. We looked far more cohesive and energetic with Andre, Bernardo, and Adrien on the pitch. Bernardo in particular was absolutely superb. He's shown plenty of flashes of quality in recent cameo appearances for the Seleccao, but this was by far his best ever performance with a Portugal shirt.

Pepe was a monster at the back and Bruno Alves (I've been a big critic of his over the years) shut me up with an dominant performance. He was an absolute beast in the air, he was rarely exposed in 1v1s or on counters, and his distribution was miles better than Fonte's. He is by no means a long term solution at the center-back position, but he did more than enough today to warrant a spot in the starting 11 against New Zealand. Guerreiro's excellent cross created the Ronaldo's goal and his performance overall was much improved. If the reports are true, he is going to miss the rest of the tournament through injury which is a huge loss when you consider that fact that our only other option is Eliseu...

Adrien and Willian were very solid in the midfield, Andre Gomes had a few powerful runs through the midfield, but his passing remains far too sloppy. Joao Mario has quietly becoming one of our most important players over the past year or so, and in Andre Gomes we have a guy who isn't anywhere near as good as an inverted left-winger. I personally would prefer Pizzi in that role as he is tactically astute, creative, and tidy in possession.

Also, I can't forget to praise Cedric. He was excellent on both sides of the ball today. Nelson Semedo undoubtedly has a higher ceiling, but Cedric's been playing way too well to get dropped.

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  1. James

So will Santos get lauded with praise for being flexible and nothing like Bento? I'm going to assume the armchair coaches will instead stroke their own ego and suggest he finally listened to their footballing genius.

Alves and Pepe were...

So will Santos get lauded with praise for being flexible and nothing like Bento? I'm going to assume the armchair coaches will instead stroke their own ego and suggest he finally listened to their footballing genius.

Alves and Pepe were spectacular. Did what they had to do: sure with their tackles, looking to find feet in possession, and doing their best to cover for their outside backs that often bombed forward. I am a fan of Raphael, but when he gets forward and they lose possession he needs to get back into position. Instead he runs around ball chasing in the middle of the park leaving Willian and Alves to try and cover out wide. Eliseu gave me more confidence defensively when he came on.

Bernardo is the only midfielder on the Portuguese team that is looking forward right away when he receives the ball. He has that feel about him when he receives the ball that he will open up the opposition at will. He has the perfect balance between taking on defenders and looking for the incisive pass. I was also impressed by his work rate to win the ball. Definitely was playing like he had something to prove.

William needs to look to play the ball forward. If he is not going to be exceptional at getting the team moving forward I don't see the point in him starting over Danilo. Sure he is calm on the ball, but Danilo isn't that far behind. Danilo is a much better ball winner all around and can cover larger amounts of space. He would do better to keep the team's shape and mitigate damage in the defensive third. I'd like to see him play against New Zealand.

Andre Silva had an off day, but I just loved his energy and work rate. It blends in nicely with Ronaldo's laziness lol. Side note: I just love when Ronaldo high presses then throws his hands up when his players aren't on the same page. Imagine how many times his teammates could do that to him during a game lol.

Andres Gomes also put in a committed performance, but with Adrien and William out their with him he has to do more offensively. He seems to be lacking confidence with his final ball.

Overall I was really impressed with the unit as a whole. They always looked in control of the game aside from a 20 minute spell in the 2nd half, but even then Russia couldn't create any real chances. It was a real total team performance. What a difference a game can make!

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  1. Val    James

Here, here, James! You just will never please some people, why even try.

Man of the Match = Fernando Santos!

Once again our coach throws cold water onto the pessimists. He never caves to the unruly and never happy crowd so easily swayed from...

Here, here, James! You just will never please some people, why even try.

Man of the Match = Fernando Santos!

Once again our coach throws cold water onto the pessimists. He never caves to the unruly and never happy crowd so easily swayed from quasi-happiness to complete misery. No knee jerk reactions.

Yet, time and time again Santos makes the necessary changes. He is not perfect and makes mistakes but what separates Santos from any other coach before him is his willingness to make the necessary changes to help the team. Everyone wanted Bernardo and Adrien and Andre and you got them.

He also saw a need for physicality and aerial dominance so Bruno Alves comes in and shows how good he can be.

Cedric brilliant again. Guerreiro also outstanding, hope his injury is minor.

New Zealand beating Mexico at the 50’ mark! WHAT?

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  1. SupremoGino

Hats off to Fernando Santos for making the necessary changes. I actually think he and his coaching staff monitor the opinions we offer on this blog. Not to steal the spotlight but I specifically mentioned the exact midfield of Bernardo, Gomes,...

Hats off to Fernando Santos for making the necessary changes. I actually think he and his coaching staff monitor the opinions we offer on this blog. Not to steal the spotlight but I specifically mentioned the exact midfield of Bernardo, Gomes, and Adrien which is what we saw today. I also took a hit in his post-match conference regarding his focus on defensive solidity (I previously mentioned drop William altogether and go full on attack as it's in our "DNA") but he gave me a piece of his mind on that one.. lol. It's ok Fernando At least your line up today shows you are not near as stubborn as your predecessor Paulo Bento. I'm a proud armchair coach btw, but I haven't doubted Santos yet so someone needs to jump off their high horse.

Bernardo is a must start, Adrien put in a good shift, Gomes showed some touches although final ball was off and the service to Ronaldo was way better than last game. However.. today apart from his well executed goal.. (Guerrero's pass was sublime) Ronaldo is the flop of the match for me. His finishing was not close in particular his header off the pass from Andre Gomes, and when Bernardo tee'd him up at the edge of the penalty area. Also he made some poor passes in the final third that wasted some opportunities. If CR7 is going to be walking around all game, (I wish he was just conserving energy) but literally 90 minutes of walking because he barely can latch onto through balls anymore, then his passing needs to improve significantly so he can be a provider for someone who can speed down the pitch especially on counter-attacks.

Apart from the last 20 minutes, where Portugal were a bit exhausted.. (Moutinho could be an asset in helping us keep control of the ball in this situation) it was a solid performance.

I really hope Guerrero isn't done for the tournament and I will like our chances more if we go into the New Zealand game not thinking it's going to be a cakewalk. Mexico just got a little wake up call. Força Portugal!

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  1. Val    SupremoGino

Dude you have been here as long as anyone. We have all suffered through Quieroz and Bento. Both of those clowns never adjusted or corrected. Just stubborn mules doing the same crap over and over again.

Santos has always corrected. The criticism...

Dude you have been here as long as anyone. We have all suffered through Quieroz and Bento. Both of those clowns never adjusted or corrected. Just stubborn mules doing the same crap over and over again.

Santos has always corrected. The criticism was unfair after the Latvia win and continued into the Mexico tie. Sometimes I think some fans expect Portugal to win every game 7-0 and score all hi lite goals.

I am also an armchair coach, so are all of us but they just won the Euro. They are on their way to qualifying for the WC, hopefully with a win vs New Zealand (who actually played well against Mexico today) we advance. The kids are playing, Bernardo Silva played, Adrien and Andre Silva played, Gelson is getting play time, heck even the maligned Bruon Alves put in a great performance.

We all hammer players and coaches when they are awful but don't you think the Santos criticism was way off base and unwarranted recently? Some were comparing Santos to Bento. Its like we learned nothing after we all took a dump on Eder's head and Quaresma before him...

Anyhow, love your posts SupremoGino and your passion! Forca Portugal!

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  1. STEVE HARRISON

At last, Bruno Alves gets some praise! The guy is always dominant in the air and he always tries to marshall the defence. Unlike other more illustrious (and over-hyped team mates), he rarely lets the side down.

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  1. Jude

Bernardo silva was man of the match for me! Best performance from him in a Portugal shirt so far. He's the real deal, I can't see Santos not starting him from here on out.

Let's hope that Cedric or Semedo can play at left back. Or even Andre...

Bernardo silva was man of the match for me! Best performance from him in a Portugal shirt so far. He's the real deal, I can't see Santos not starting him from here on out.

Let's hope that Cedric or Semedo can play at left back. Or even Andre gomes who did well at Barcelona when he had to play RB. I just don't trust eliseau against germany or chili

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  1. C. D. Rocha

I agree with Steve Harrison and others. It's about time Bruno Alves gets some praise. He rarely lets our side down and is an absolute beast on defense (especially for being 35 years old!) Remember, he, as Pepe, can also score!

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  1. Danny DaSilva

We could really use Fabio Coentrao right about now, even if it's just for one game.

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  1. Michael Luis

I wish antunes or Mario rui would of been called up their a better back up replacement than eliseu

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Is this squad stronger than the Euro 2016 squad? That's impossible to say. What I can say is that I'm as confident in this squad as I was for the Euro."

Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach after announcing the Seleção squad for World Cup 2018)

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