Portugal 3-1 Azerbaijan
2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification
The Portuguese Under 21 team maintained their perfect record today, as they ran out 3-1 winners against Azerbaijan in their final 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification match. Having already qualified for the play-off, this match was more or less a formality for Portugal. Despite this, the team managed a convincing victory, with goals from Rafa, Edgar Ie, and Ricardo Esgaio all on the score-sheet for the team.
The team lined up in its usual 4-3-3 formation. Jose Sa took back his position between the sticks, after being benched in favor of Bruno Varela in the Norway game three days ago. In front of Sa, Ricardo Esgaio and Raphael Guerreiro started on the right and left of defense, respectively. In the middle was Edgar Ie (who made his debut) and Paulo Oliveira. In midfield, 17 year-old wonderkid Ruben Neves occupied the “Trinco” or defensive midfield position, making his debut also as a result. At center midfield, Rafa and Joao Mario assumed position, with Iuri Medeiros (debuting) and Ricardo Pereira. Marcos Lopes played up front, but in truth, he played as a pseudo false nine from a more withdrawn position.
The Portuguese controlled the match in its entirety, though Azerbaijan did threaten on occasions. Portugal’s first goal came through Rafa, who fired in a low shot after the Azerbaijani defenders failed to clear the ball. The goal happened early in the first half, and there wasn’t too much action in the first half. Portugal dominated, but were unable to find the breakthrough. Soon after the second half began, Azerbaijan were level through Abatsiyev, who struck a tricky, low free kick into the bottom corner past Jose Sa. Despite their dominance, Portugal remained level with Azerbaijan for almost another half-an-hour. It wasn’t until the 82nd minute that Portugal took the lead once again, and this time it was through a defender and debutant. A botched effort from Marcos Lopes bobbled around the Azerbaijani defense before falling to Edgar Ie. Ie deftly chested the ball with his back to goal, turned, and fired in a wonderful volley. It was a surprisingly skillful move from Ie, especially when one considers that such a goal came from a center-defender. By that time, the game was winding down, but Portugal had enough steam to score once more. Carlos Mane was brought down in the box, and Ricardo Esgaio dispatched the penalty calmly to make the score 3-1 in favor of Portugal. And that was how it ended: an expected and impressive 3-1 home victory for Portugal.
Jose Sa, Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Edgar Ie, Raphael Guerreiro, Ruben Neves, Joao Mario(Tomane), Rafa(Carlos Mane), Iuri Medeiros(Toze), Ricardo, Marcos Lopes