Portugal looked impressive at home and could not have wished for a better start to their UEFA Nations League campaign. Despite the fact playing Italy could have been a tough assignment, the reigning European champions evidenced they can win even if they don’t have Cristiano Ronaldo available. Thanks to a convincing display, Portugal secured a huge 1-0 win at home against the Azzurri side following an early second-half goal from Andre Silva.
Portugal looked on top despite not scoring in the first half
The match got off to a sluggish start and neither looked on top through the first 20 minutes or so; in fact, the lone scoring chance during that span was a header from William Carvalho that went wide on a play where the Betis midfielder was ruled off side in the first place. However, Portugal began to take control of the match midway into the first 45 minutes. Whether it was Bruma, Bernardo Silva or Pizzi, Portugal were often on an attacking stance and generated the best chances to score.
First it was Bernardo, who took advantage of a mistake when Italy tried to pass the ball out of back line, but he couldn’t connect with Andre Silva. Then it was Bruma, whose shot went wide off Gianluigi Donnarumma’s left post. Andre Silva had an attempt that went straight to Donnarumma, and in another sequence, Bernardo Silva shot from close range but his effort was cleared right off the line. But Portugal’s clearer chance came around the 30th minute mark, when a cross from the left deflected off Bryan Cristante and hit the crossbar when Donnarumma was helpless. William Carvalho also tested his luck with an outside-of-the-box shot that went wide.
Italy didn’t have many chances. Aside from a few attacking runs from Simone Zaza and a header from Ciro Immobile in the 37th minute, Gli Azzurri did not threaten Rui Patricio’s goal at all. The first half ended scoreless, but it was clear that Portugal were completely on top after the initial 45 minutes.
Andre Silva puts Portugal on top right after the break
Portugal continued displaying supremacy in the second half. But unlike it happened in the first half, Portugal only needed three minutes to open the score. Bruma stole the ball, charged down the left wing and crossed it towards Andre Silva, who placed it out of Donnarumma’s reach. It was Silva’s 13th goal with Portugal, but it also represented a fair advantage for the home side. Italy looked absolutely clueless.
One would have thought that Portugal would try to slow things down after scoring the opener. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Bernando Silva tested Donnarumma once again with a long-range shot, but the AC Milan shot-stopper took advantage of his length to deny a ball that looked all but certain to go into the upper-right corner. Meanwhile, Italy tried to spark things up with the entrance of Domenico Berardi, who replaced Ciro Immobile. But the Sassuolo forward struggled to make an impact.
Portugal closed the down with absolute ease
The final 25 minutes saw Portugal closing things down rather easily. The hosts continued creating the best chances but also looked happy to sat a bit deeper, perhaps knowing that Italy could adopt a more attacking stance. The entrances of both Renato Sanches and Gelson Martins added pace in the final third, while Italy struggled to create anything that could even threaten Rui Patricio just a bit. Zaza’s header in the 80th minute was decent, but his effort went sailing over the bar. Overall, though, Italy’s lack of ideas on the attacking third was alarming, and this game showed Roberto Mancini still has a lot of work to do with The Azzurri.
On the other hand, Portugal came close to add another goal until it was late in the second half thanks to Renato Sanches, but Portugal chose to end things without taking too many risks and added some much-needed three points in the UEFA Nations League. Meanwhile, Italy have clinched just one out of six points available, and there is already a bit of pressure on Mancini’s seat following two unconvincing displays.
Portugal: Rui Patricio (6); Joao Cancelo (5), Pepe (6), Ruben Dias (5), Mario Rui (6); Ruben Neves (6), Pizzi (6) (Renato Sanches (-), 74′), William Carvalho (7) (Sergio Oliveira (-), 86′); Bruma (7) (Gelson Martins (-), 77′), Andre Silva (7), Bernardo Silva (6)
Bench: Beto (GK), Ramos (GK), Bruno Fernandes, Gedson Fernandes, Goncalo Guedes, Neto, Pedro Mendes, Cedric
Italy: Donnarumma (6); Lazzari (4), Caldara (5), Romagnoli (5), Criscito (4) (Emerson (-), 74′); Cristante (5) (Belotti (-), 79′), Jorginho (6), Bonaventura (5); Zaza (6), Immobile (6) (Berardi (5), 59′), Chiesa (5)
Bench: Perin (GK), Sirigu (GK), Bonucci, Chiellini, Barella, Benassi, Gagliardini, Bernardeschi, Insigne
Goals: Andre Silva (1-0, 48′)
Referee: William Collum (SCO)
Yellow Cards: Pepe (POR), Criscito, Chiesa, Berardi (ITA)
Red Cards: None
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