Portugal kept on course for Russia 2018 with a 5-1 victory over the Faroe Islands in Porto tonight, in a match that at times resembled more a training ground exercise than a World Cup qualifier.
Cristiano Ronaldo showed no lack of sharpness despite being in the middle of a 5-match ban for his club side Real Madrid. The Portugal captain bagged a hat-trick, with William Carvalho and Nelson Oliveira scoring the other goals.
The Seleção now travel to Budapest where they will play Hungary on Sunday evening, with victory crucial given that Switzerland also won tonight to maintain their 100% record to stay top of Group B.
With the front two of André Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo and the back four relatively stable (Rapha Guerreiro was injured, so Eliseu continued to deputise at left-back), it is in midfield that Fernando Santos has the trickier decisions to make in his team selections, not least because of Portugal’s embarrassment of riches in that department.
The coach opted for William Carvalho and João Moutinho in the centre, with João Mário left and Bernardo Silva on the right, although both had licence to frequently cut inside.
It seemed the perfect strategy early doors as the hosts barely gave their modest opponents a sniff of the ball, taking the lead on just three minutes with a fine goal. The ball was smoothly transported across the pitch through a succession of quick accurate passes, with Cédric playing in Bernardo Silva who hit the bye-line and delivered a cross that Cristiano Ronaldo thumped into the net via a stylish scissor kick (pictured above).
The visitors were hardly able to get out of their defensive half in the opening 15 minutes, although Portugal did not turn their dominant ball possession into chances during this period. As the half hour approached William Carvalho with a long-range effort and headers by André Silva and Ronaldo came close to scoring in quick succession.
In the 28th minute João Mário was tripped in the box for a clear penalty, that Ronaldo duly dispatched into the net to double Portugal’s lead.
Faroes goalkeeper Nielson then saved well at full-stretch to deny Ronaldo, but Portugal were stunned shortly afterwards as the defence failed to deal adequately with a long throw-in and Baldvinsson powered an excellent first-time volley past Patrício.
Chances came and went for Moutinho, André Silva and Bernardo Silva as the islanders held Portugal to a one-goal lead for 20 minutes either side of half time, but the hosts restored the two-goal cushion just before the hour mark as a neat Cristiano Ronaldo cross was headed into the corner of the net by the excellent William Carvalho.
Another day, another hat-trick
Ronaldo then completed his hat-trick, making it look easy as the ball broke to him in the box and he dribbled past his man and tucked the ball into the corner of the net. There was still time for substitute Nelson Oliveira to mark his recall to the Seleção with a goal, Ronaldo’s fierce cross too hot to handle for the Faroes defence.
The captain was therefore directly involved in all five goals and showed no ill-effects of his enforced stoppage. Sunday will be a tougher test, but as Ronaldo said, “this performance boosts our morale going into the next game.”
The qualifying campaign is increasingly pointing towards a showdown against the Swiss in the final match in Lisbon.
by Tom Kundert
Portugal: Patrício, Cédric, Pepe, Fonte, Eliseu, William, João Moutinho (André Gomes, 72’), João Mário (Quaresma, 59’), Bernardo Silva, André Silva (Nelson Oliveira, 80’), Ronaldo
Faroe Islands: Nielsen, Tór Naes, Gregersen, Faerø, Davidsen, Jakobsen, Baldvinsson, Vatnhamar, Sørensen, Joensen, Edmundsson
[1-0] Ronaldo, 3’
[2-0] Ronaldo (pen), 28’
[2-1] Baldvinsson, 38’
[3-1] William Carvalho, 58’
[4-1] Ronaldo, 65’
[5-1] Nelson Oliveira, 84’