Cristiano Ronaldo went off injured as Portugal were held to a 1-1 draw by Serbia in a frantic Euro 2020 qualifier in Lisbon.
A goalless draw with Ukraine in their opening Group B fixture on Friday put the pressure on Portugal heading into Monday’s encounter, and their task was made more difficult when Ronaldo appeared to suffer a hamstring injury before the half-hour mark.
Dusan Tadic’s penalty had put Serbia ahead early on, though Portugal overcame Ronaldo’s injury to level through Danilo Pereira’s rasping 42nd-minute strike.
Portugal were awarded a spot-kick with 17 minutes remaining only for referee Szymon Marciniak to change his mind after consultation with his assistant and Serbia held firm to frustrate their hosts.
William Carvalho had a goal disallowed against Ukraine and should have put Portugal ahead inside four minutes here, but he failed to apply a finish from point-blank range.
Portugal were made to pay for Carvalho’s miss three minutes later, Tadic making no mistake from the spot after Rui Patricio barged into Mijat Gacinovic, though Serbia’s lead would have been short lived if not for a pair of superb saves from Marko Dmitrovic.
: LUSA pic.twitter.com/g7eTcZc652
— Fudbalski savez Srbije | FA Serbia (@FSSrbije) March 25, 2019
Ronaldo’s injury looked to have knocked the wind out of Portugal’s sails, but the hosts drew level when Danilo picked out the top-right corner with an outstanding strike from 30 yards.
The reigning European champions failed to recapture the same intensity after the restart and were fortunate that Adem Ljajic blazed over in the 56th minute, while Nemanja Maksimovic made a vital block to deny Andre Silva at the other end.
Portugal looked to have been handed a lifeline when Marciniak initially deemed Antonio Rukavina handled in the area, but the assistant referee came to Serbia’s rescue when he instructed the official to change his decision.
The hosts’ frustrations only grew in stoppage time when Bernardo Silva and Pepe squandered chances to secure a dramatic win.
What does it mean? Euro 2016 winners off to a sluggish start
Fernando Santos’ side came under fire for a lacklustre display against Ukraine, and although Monday’s performance was much improved, with Ronaldo’s injury they lacked the quality to make the momentum given to them by Danilo’s equaliser count.
Portugal now sit in third with two points from their two home fixtures, and given they are not in qualification action until September, they could be left with a lot of ground to make up.
Tadic’s sensational run rolls on
Ajax maestro Tadic has been in scintillating form this season, and his penalty – which he set up with a neat throughball into Gacinovic – brought up a 31st goal for club and country in 2018-19.
Ronaldo takes no risks
As soon as he pulled up with what seemed to be a hamstring strain, Ronaldo signalled to the bench that he needed to be replaced. With Juventus’ Champions League and Serie A campaigns to focus on, Portugal’s star man can only hope the injury is not too serious.
Portugal host the Nations League finals in June and face Switzerland in that competition in their next outing. Serbia will continue their qualification campaign against Ukraine.
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