Armenia 2-3 Portugal
Euro 2016 Qualifying
A superb hat-trick from Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to earn Portugal a 3-2 victory against Armenia in tonight’s Euro 2016 qualification match. Portugal came into this match knowing that a win would all but guarantee them a place in next summer’s tournament. Despite going behind in the first half, Portugal responded well, scoring three goals to swell the lead to 3-1. But in the 62nd minute, Tiago received his marching orders, after picking up a second yellow. Just ten minutes later, Armenia scored, narrowing Portugal’s lead to one goal. That prompted a tense end to the match, but Portugal did enough to hold on for the win.
Fernando Santos threw very few surprises in his starting eleven for Portugal. As expected, Ricardo Carvalho started in center defense, thus making him the oldest outfield player ever to appear for Portugal. Santos opted to start Vieirinha in place of Cédric at right-back, and Fábio Coentrão was once again played in midfield, with Eliseu starting at left-back. It was a noticeably aged lineup for Portugal. In fact, the youngest player on the field was 27 year-old Fábio Coentrão. Fernando Santos has promised a youthful revolution, but it has yet to happen.
Armenia started the game perhaps a bit brighter than Portugal. The Armenians were certainly more dynamic in their attacking, and were rewarded just 14 minutes in. Armenia won a free kick from some distance. Marcos Pizzelli stepped up and unleashed an excellent free kick that caught Rui Patrício completely off-guard. The kick squeezed into the upper right-hand corner of the goal, and though Patrício could be considered at fault, the quality of the kick is undeniable.
Portugal began to press, and were rewarded just before the half-hour mark. João Moutinho controlled a pass in the box and was brought down by Armenia talisman Mhikitaryan. Ronaldo calmly converted the ensuing penalty, sending Roman Berezovskiy the wrong way. Both teams went into the tunnel at halftime all even at one apiece.
Armenia started the second half the better team, but it was Portugal who scored, just ten minutes after the restart. Ronaldo took advantage of a defensive error between Robert Arzumanyan and Roman Berezovskiy and poked the ball home. Ronaldo’s goal was completely against the run of play, as Armenia was beginning to control the match. But Portugal (or Cristiano Ronaldo, rather) wasn’t done just yet. Just three minutes after his second goal of the night, Ronaldo scored again. The Real Madrid man expertly controlled a long pass, turned, took a touch, and unleashed a long-range rocket past Berezovskiy and into the upper right-hand corner of the net.
With Portugal up 3-1, the match looked to be all but over. But just minutes after Ronaldo’s goal, Tiago was shown a second yellow card, and was given his marching orders. With Portugal down to ten men, the focus of the game shifted. Whereas Portugal would have likely brought on the excellent attacking-minded Bernardo Silva, they were forced to utilize a more defensive option in William Carvalho, who replaced Danny. With Portugal putting men behind the ball, attacking took a back-seat. Despite this defensive effort, Armenia managed to score in the 72nd minute. Aras Özbiliz’s shot was parried by Rui Patricio and turned into the back of the net by Hrayr Mkoyan. It was an embarrassing blunder from the Sporting goalkeeper, who can be excused for Armenia’s excellent first goal, but can’t get off as easily for this goal.
The remainder of the match passed largely without incident, with Portugal content to draw down the clock, and Armenia not really looking threatening. This win sees Portugal consolidate their lead at the top of Group I with 12 points. A win over Albania in September could see Portugal edge closer to qualification, or even qualify outright.
Rui Patrício, Eliseu, Vieirinha, Ricardo Carvalho(José Fonte), Bruno Alves, Tiago, João Moutinho, Fábio Coentrão(Adrien Silva), Nani, Danny(William Carvalho), Ronaldo