Fernando Santos lauded midfielder Joao Moutinho after he came off the bench to score the winner in Portugal’s 2-1 triumph over Serbia.
With the Iberian side already of assured of their place at Euro 2016 following a 1-0 win over Denmark on October 8, the Monaco midfielder was not risked from the start in Belgrade.
Moutinho was introduced in the 70th minute with the game level and curled in a delightful goal to secure a historic seventh consecutive win in European Championships qualifying for Portugal, drawing praise from the coach.
“In the phase when Serbia had us under a lot of pressure, Moutinho came on and brought great perception to the team,” Santos said.
“He was not in shape to start the game. He told me he could play 20 to 25 minutes and he came on at the right time.”
The victory came a day after Santos’ 61st birthday and he described the result from a tough fixture as the perfect present.
“It’s always important to finish first and be seeded in the draw for Euro 2016. It was a gift I wanted for my birthday,” he added.
“It was a very difficult game. We started the game well, with the team pressing high, quickly stealing possession and creating chances. One of these moments led to the [opening] goal.”
Despite losing their opening fixture to Albania when Paulo Bento was at the helm, Nani – who scored the opening goal of the night with his first international strike since June 2014 – was delighted with the way in which Portugal booked their place in France.
“It’s always nice to score for our team. Once again we are all to be congratulated. We achieved another goal: we wanted to finish with seven consecutive victories,” the Fenerbahce winger said.
“The team is evolving with every day. It was hard playing away from home. Serbia showed a lot of quality in their play, but what counts is the result.
“We always enter our games very positively. The first result was not good, we gave a good response and we made history by getting qualification in this way.”