But Poles shock Portugal in U21s
A rotated Portugal side drew their final game in the UEFA Nations League group stage in controversial circumstances at the Estádio Dom Afonso Henriques in Guimarães. Fernando Santos rang the changes with top spot in the group already secure.
The home side took the lead with just over a half an hour gone in the game when André Silva’s clever near post header beat Wojciech Szczęsny after Renato Sanches’ corner. A controversial penalty and even more dubious sending off for Danilo Pereira allowed Poland back into the game, Arkadiusz Milik finishing coolly from the spot after having to retake his initial shot to give Poland an important point.
Earlier in the afternoon, the same two nations went head to head at U21 level in the northern tip of Portugal in Chaves. And the young Poles shocked the hosts by winning 3-1 to shatter the dreams of a talented Seleção squad and claim a berth at next summer’s European Championship tournament at the expense of Rui Jorge’s team.
Nations League: Portugal 1-1 Poland
Fernando Santos was given a chance to rest some of his key players for this game against Poland. The home side may have only had pride to play for but for the visitors a point would mean they would take the final spot in EURO 2020’s qualifying pot 1 ahead of rivals Germany.
Santos’ rotation saw starts for Beto, Kévin Rodrigues, Danilo Pereira, Renato Sanches and Rafa Silva. Raphaël Guerreiro fully recovered from his knock to start on the left side of midfield. In defence Pepe returned to partner Rúben Dias once again. Bernardo Silva picked up a knock in the Italy game, whereas Rúben Neves and Mário Rui also missed out through suspension.
Despite the struggles at the San Siro last Saturday there was no shortage of confidence from the Seleção made evident by the in-form João Cancelo trying his luck from 40 yards away. Perhaps the positive mood of the nation was reflected by the fans in Guimarães enjoying a Mexican wave after barely 20 minutes of the game played.
André Silva gives Portugal the lead
Renato Sanches’ revival continues as he looked to fill the boots of Bernardo Silva. His shot 32 minutes into the game forced a corner. The Bayern man’s low delivery found André Silva to flick on from the near post past Wojciech Szczęsny to put Portugal in the lead.
Poland almost equalised from a set-piece of their own when Tomasz Kędziora headed against the bar although Kędziora almost certainly fouled Danilo in the process. Nevertheless, it was a warning against complacency for Portugal.
After the break Portugal looked to be ready to coast to a comfortable victory until William Carvalho’s header back to his defence ended up in the path of Arkadiusz Milik. Milik was through on goal but Danilo did well to get back and win the ball back from the Poland striker. However, that wasn’t how Russian referee Sergei Karasev saw it, the referee pointed to the spot and dismissed Danilo Pereira.
The replays showed that the Porto midfielder won the ball although he did have his hand on the Poland striker’s soldier. Whether or not it was a foul may divide opinion but a red card was incredibly harsh for a challenge that outside of the area would ordinarily not even warrant a yellow card.
There was still more drama to come. Milik stepped and slotted his penalty well passed Beto, who got close to it but couldn’t stretch far enough. The referee asked for a retake but unfortunately for Portugal, the Napoli striker’s gave a repeat performance in beating Beto to equalise for Poland.
To his credit Fernando Santos wasn’t satisfied with a 1-1 draw at home despite Portugal having little to play for. Instead of bringing on another midfielder Santos brought Bruma on to replace Rafa Silva as Portugal looked for a winner. Then as a last throw of the dice in the 87th minute he brought on national hero Eder to replace the goal scorer André Silva. However Portugal struggled to create against superior numbers and in truth both sides looked happy with a draw.
Portugal can take solace in the fact they are the only team of the Group A countries to have gone through this entire stage unbeaten. Had the likes of Bernardo Silva and Rúben Neves been available, of course, the result may well have been different.
Overall, the UEFA Nations League can only be called a success for Fernando Santos and his side and the finals in June await back here in the north of the country (Guimarães and Porto) against England, Netherlands and Switzerland. It will be difficult, but should Portugal play some of the football they played early on in the competition they could well become the tournament’s first ever winners.
by Richard Cole
Portugal: Beto; João Cancelo; Pepe, Rúben Dias, Kévin Rodrigues; Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho; Rafa Silva (Bruma, 70’), Renato Sanches, Raphaël Guerreiro (João Mário, 60’); André Silva (Eder, 87’)
Poland: Wojciech Szczęsny; Tomasz Kędziora, Thiago Cionek, Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszyński; Grzegorz Krychowiak, Mateusz Klich (Jacek Góralski, 75’); Kamil Grosicki (Damian Kądzior, 79', Piotr Zieliński (Damian Szymański, 90'+5), Przemysław Frankowski; Arkadiusz Milik
[1-0] André Silva (33’)
[1-1] Arkadiusz Milik (66’, Penalty)
U21s crash and burn in Euro 2019 play-off
Portugal 1-3 Poland (aggregate score: 2-3)
Portugal suffered an incomprehensible 3-1 defeat against Poland in the second leg of their UEFA European U-21 Championship play-off. After a convincing 1-0 win in Poland on Friday, Rui Jorge’s men were trailing 3-0 in the 24th minute and couldn’t convert their superiority thereafter into goals.
Sloppy defending in Chaves saw Krystian Bielik head in a corner before three defenders allowed Szymon Zurkowski to deliver a cross for Dawid Kownacki to head past Joel Castro. Poland’s third was too easy, Bartosz Kapustka with time and space to cross for Sebastian Szmaski who squeezed the ball under Castro
Rafael Leão replaced João Carvalho before the break, Portugal getting back into the game with Diogo Jota heading in a Diogo Gonçalves cross in the 52nd minute. The hosts threw everything at Poland with countless crosses, Gonçalves hitting the post, but Portugal were unable to seriously test Kamil Grabara in goal.
Portugal only have themselves to blame after requiring a home draw to qualify. João Félix tried hard but didn’t have as much impact as he had in previous games, Leão was dangerous off the bench and Gonçalves was a constant threat, but the early deficit was too large to overcome.
by Matthew Marshall