Netherlands 0-2 Portugal
2015 U-21 Euro Playoff 1st leg
The Portuguese Under-21 team claimed a potentially priceless away victory over the Netherlands, defeating them 2-0 in the Netherlands. This win puts the Portuguese in the driver’s seat ahead of the return leg, which will be played on October 14th in Portugal. Goals tonight from Sergio Oliveira and Carlos Mane, one in each half, were enough for Portugal to earn the victory.
Going into this match, the strength of the Netherlands was well-known, and Portugal knew that the two legs would be very difficult. Despite this, there was a quiet optimism with both the fans and the team. This was a Portuguese team which had completed a perfect qualification campaign up to this point, finishing with 8 wins out of 8, as well as a +16 goal difference. The Netherlands team, on the other hand, while strong, had 5 wins out of 8 and finished runners-up in Group 3 to Slovakia. Still, the Netherlands are perennial powerhouses, so they weren’t to be taken lightly.
For this match, the starting lineup was bot the usual 4-3-3, as was used when Bento was in charge of the senior team. Rui Jorge lined his team up in a 4-1-3-2 of sorts, with Jose Sa starting in goal. The team’s backline was composed of Raphael Guerreiro and Ricardo Esgaio on the left and right, respectively, and Paulo Oliveira and Ruben Vezo in the middle. 17 year-old wonderkid Ruben Neves started in the holding midfield role, while Sergio Oliveira and Rafa played ahead of him in central midfield. Bernardo Silva was positioned in his strongest position at attacking midfield, while Ricardo Pereira and Ivan Cavaleiro started ahead of him.
Portugal dominated the match overall, out-shooting the Netherlands 16-7, which justifies the 2-0 victory. The first goal came just before the half. Bernardo Silva surged forward with a trademark mazing run, only to be hacked down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and the Netherlands players didn’t even attempt to contest the decision. It was an obvious penalty. Sergio Oliveira stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty home to give Portugal a vital away goal. In the second half, a much improved Netherlands battled Portugal, and while the game was much closer, the result rarely looked in doubt. And seven minutes from time, Carlos Mane put the icing on the cake. Mane received the ball from a throw-in (after shielding his defender), took a touch, turned, and cooly dribbled past two Dutch defenders. He then composed himself and calmly slotted the ball into he bottom corner. It was a silky goal, and a great representation of Portugal’s dominance on the night.
Many are heralding this Portuguese youth team as one of the brightest in Portugal’s recent memory. With two away goals under their belt, qualification for the 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro looks likely. If they indeed qualify, it will be the first time in eight years that they’ve appeared in a European competition. But there’s still the return leg to worry about before that.
Jose Sa, Raphael Guerreiro, Ruben Vezo, Paulo Oliveira, Ricardo Esgaio, Ruben Neves, Sergio Oliveira, Rafa(Iuri Medeiros), Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro(Carlos Mane), Ricardo Pereira(Ricardo Horta)