Thursday, February 2, 2023

Pacey Portugal down Turkey

Portugal avoided the same fate that befell them in 2004 when getting their Euro 2008 campaign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 win over Turkey here on Saturday.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side, beaten as hosts in their opener four years ago by Greece, the gatecrashers that would go on to deny them in the final itself, took the points in this Group A tie with a second half goal from Real Madrid defender Pepe.

Late substitute Raul Meireles bagged the injury time second.

Man of the match Pepe said: “I can hardly describe the emotion I felt – but the important thing was we played like a real team and knew sooner or later we'd score a goal.”

Scolari praised his side for their impressive opening performance, their best showing since thte World Cup when they reached the semi-finals.

“They showed good technical quality and impressive form – they were dynamic and willing to win.

“We're on the right path, we won and we've got 50 percent of what we need to qualify with two more games to go.”

Turkey coach Fatih Terim said Portugal had made life difficult for his men.

“It wasn't easy to play against Portugal – they have world renowned players and are among the favourites for the tournament.

“Nevertheless we worked very hard and tried to score and attack and keep the game on an equal footing but then we conceded the goal.

“It was unfortunate as we lost the ball, conceded the goal just when we could have perhaps done something but as I say it's not easy to play against Ronaldo, Simao, and the others!”

Scolari was forced into a late change of plan when his intended starter in goal, Quim, fractured his hand in training, with Ricardo standing in for the out-of-commission Benfica keeper.

'Big Phil' deployed Nuno Gomes as a lone striker with Cristiano Ronaldo on the right wing against a Turkish side that was fielding the same 4-3-2-1 format.

Manchester United's most prized asset was, surprise surprise, the first with a shot on goal.

Pepe headed in a corner past Volkan Demirel after quarter of an hour and ran half the pitch with his arms in the air in celebration only to have his Kodak moment ruined by the linesman's flag – held aloft for offside.

With both sides in attacking mode the near 30,000 full house at the Stade de Geneve had plenty to keep them warm on a chilly summer's night by Lake Leman, not least in the 30th minute when Ronaldo scythed his way through the Turkish defence only to scuff his shot.

On 38 minutes the 23-year-old goalscoring machine drilled in a low angled freekick from 20m out on the left and only the hand of Volkan which deflected the ball onto the far post stopped Portugal going into the lead.

Besiktas back Gohkan Zan then did well to snuff out a live threat as Portugal went for broke just before the break.

Turkish fans had to wait until first half injury time before their side found the target but Ricardo comfortably coped with Mevlut Erdinc's snap shot from 20m out.

Mevlut failed to appear for the second half, coach Fatih Terim replacing him with Sabri Sanoglu.

Turkey's calls for a 47th minute penalty when Nihat Kahveci went down after a challenge by Simao fell on German referee Herbert Fandel's deaf ears.

Down at the other end in a move orchestrated by Simao, captain Nuno Gomes let fly with only Volkan to beat but the ball ricocheted off the near post.

With Ronaldo now a free agent and given licence by Scolari to roam as he pleased Portugal looked doubly dangerous and on the hour they finally got the goal they deserved.

It was the fruit of a neat three-cornered move involving Ronaldo then Gomes and finished off by Pepe's low 10m shot with the linesmen this time leaving the defender to enjoy his handywork.

Nuno Gomes, who almost doubled up with a header which hit Volkan's woodwork, was replaced by Nani with his United teammate Ronaldo inheriting the skipper's armband.

Substitute Emre Asik had a free shot late on but it didn't have enough legs to trouble Ricardo then FC Porto's Meireles popped up to leave Portugal sitting pretty to survive the opening round.

Portugal next face the Czech Republic, 1-0 winners over Switzerland earlier, on Wednesday with Turkey up against co-hosts the Swiss on the same day.


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