Andre Silva stepped up and scored the decisive goal in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, as Portugal began their Nations League campaign with a 1-0 win over Italy to take control of League A’s Group 3.
Fernando Santos accepted Ronaldo’s request to be rested and, while there may have been some pre-match trepidation about their chances without the Juventus star, Portugal went on to dominate Italy in Lisbon.
Roberto Mancini’s men rode their luck in the first half, relying on a goal-line clearance from Andrea Romagnoli and the frame of the goal to keep them on level terms.
But Portugal found a way through just after the break – lively Sevilla striker Andre Silva producing a neat finish after a devastating Bruma-inspired counter – and that proved to be winning goal.
Italy looked every inch a team which featured nine alterations from their last outing, as Portugal looked the more coherent and carved them open in the 14th minute, only for Bernardo Silva to play a poor pass into the danger zone instead of shooting.
— UEFA Nations League (@UEFAEURO) September 10, 2018
Romagnoli then had to be alert just before the half-hour mark, clearing Bernardo Silva’s effort off the line after Andre Silva made a nuisance of himself.
Italy were fortunate again a few moments later – Mario Rui’s low cross deflecting off Bryan Cristante and coming back off the crossbar.
Portugal’s persistence finally paid off three minutes into the second half, with Andre Silva curling into the bottom corner after Bruma’s low cross was deflected into his path.
Bernardo Silva tested Gianluigi Donnarumma with a stinging drive soon after, one of few second-half opportunities, despite Portugal’s dominance.
Yet, Italy rarely threatened to restore parity and Portugal secured a deserved victory.
What does it mean: There is more to Portugal than Ronaldo
Ronaldo is one of the world’s best players and would make a difference to any side.
But, without him and against a potentially stubborn opponent, Portugal showed few signs of missing his presence.
At times they even looked to play with a little more freedom, almost unshackled from the associated pressure Ronaldo brings. The future is bright.
Pat on the back: Andre Silva leads the line
There was always likely to be a little concern among Portugal fans given the lack of Ronaldo, but Andre Silva – who endured a difficult time in Italy last season with AC Milan – got the all-important goal, looked confident on the ball and held it up well, no doubt silencing a few Italy-based critics.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) September 10, 2018
Boot up the backside: Quiet Chiesa
Mancini started the match with two strikers – Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza – who need good service. Out on the right flank, Federico Chiesa made little impact and, as such, Italy’s front line suffered.
Portugal’s next Nations League outing will be their first away from home in the competition, as they travel to Poland next month. As for Italy, the October international break will see them face Ukraine in a friendly, before they too play Jerzy Brzeczek’s men on the road.
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