Portugal 1-0 Armenia
Euro 2016 Qualification
In a tense affair at the Estadio Algarve, Cristiano Ronaldo proved the catalyst once again netting the only goal in a 1-0 Portugal victory.
Somewhat surprising, Portuguese coach Fernando Santos made several changes to the lineup that garnered a victory against Denmark in October. Enigmatic forward Helder Postiga was brought back in the number nine role while youngster Raphael Guerreiro was given his first senior cap and start at left-back. After a four year absence from the Seleccao, Jose Bosingwa was preferred to Cedric at right-back after the Sporting youngster failed to impress at times in his previous two outings with the team and Danny took up a central role sending William Carvalho to the bench.
Portugal got off to a solid start in the half maintaining the majority of possession but failed to come up with anything of relevance in the first few minutes. Showing little nerves, Guerreiro showed fluidity at the offensive end building up a play that was nearly headed home by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 13th minute.
The Armenians were content to sit back and hit Portugal on the counter attack and the team’s main offensive threat Borussia Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan nearly broke through the Portuguese defence with a spectacular run in the 14th minute which forced Ricardo Carvalho to have no choice but to take him down at the edge of the box garnering himself a yellow card. The ensuing free kick by Mkhitaryan was a well hit effort forcing a quick parring save from Rui Patrico and a clearance from Carvalho.
Having escaped unscathed the Portuguese pressed forward and saw efforts from Danny and Ronaldo saved by Armenian keeper Berezovsky while Patricio kept Hovhannisyan out at the other end after yet another strong counter attack by the visitors. The visitors scrappy approach led to several silly fouls being committed by Portuguese players as Pepe and Tiago were given yellow cards joining they already booked Carvalho in the referee’s book
Level pegging at the half
With neither side having found the breakthrough in the first half, the second started much the same with Portugal pressuring the Armenian defence in waves. The much maligned Postiga was unable to really leave any mark during his time on the pitch and was quickly substituted out by Santos for fellow forward Eder in the 55th minute
Bosingwa who proved a competent threat down the flank time after time with his dribbling and crosses was able to find the head of Danny in the 59th minute with the Portuguese midfielder striking the crossbar.
Enter The Mustang
A cynical foul by Danny on Mkhitaryan which netted him a yellow card would proved to be his last contribution to the match as he was subbed off in the 70th minute for Ricardo Quaresma. As has been the case since his return to the national team the man dubbed “The Mustang” provided an immediate impact. With Nani taking up Danny’s role in central midfield allowing Quaresma on the wing, the two worked a marvellous passing play allowing Quaresma to get inside the Armenian defence and take a shot that was originally stopped nicely by Berezovsky, hesitation amongst the Armenian defenders however allowed Nani to pounce on the rebound and put it in the path of Cristiano Ronaldo who made no mistake and netted his 23rd goal in European Championship qualification and finals, which saw him over take a pair of former striker in Dane Jon Dahl Tomasson and Turkey’s Hakan Sukur.
Not content with the one goal lead, Portugal continued to search for a second with Eder coming close on several occasions the best being an effort off the post after a Quaresma cross. Looking for the equalizer, the Armenians were nearly handed a great opportunity by Pepe who gave away the ball needlessly at the half in the 86th minute but was let off the hook by a good save by keeper Patricio who once again proved solid in this match.
A tense last few minutes yielded a few more opportunities for Armenia but in the end Portugal rightfully earned the victory with their talisman proving to be the match winner once again while youngster Guerriero provided a formidable option at left-back.
Rui Patricio, Bosingwa, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Guerreiro, Tiago, Joao Moutinho, Danny (Quaresma, 70′), Nani (William Carvalho, 88′), Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Eder, 56′)
Roman Berezovsky, Varazdat Haroyan, Taron Voskanyan, Robert Arzumanyan, Kamo Hovhannisyan, Levron Havrapetyan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Marcos Pizzelli, 83′), Artur Yedigaryan (Artur Sarkisov, 77′), Gevorg Ghazaryan (Edgar Manucharyan, 62′), Karlen Mkrtchain, Yura Movsisyan
Cristiano Ronaldo ’71