Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a dramatic late winner in contentious circumstances as Portugal threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Serbia in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.
Diogo Jota had seen his double cancelled out by Aleksandar Mitrovic and Filip Kostic – the former becoming Serbia’s all-time leading scorer with his 39th international goal – at the Rajko Mitic Stadium.
Portugal skipper Ronaldo was then convinced his last-gasp effort had crossed the line but the officials judged Stefan Mitrovic cleared before all of the ball had done so, with the Juventus superstar booked for his protestations before he angrily threw his captain’s armband on the floor.
It means both Portugal and Serbia, who had Nikola Milenkovic sent off prior to the late drama, each have four points – one more than Luxembourg, who sealed a remarkable 1-0 win against the Republic of Ireland.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) March 27, 2021
Fernando Santos’ side were underwhelming in their opening Group A clash against Azerbaijan on Wednesday, needing an own goal to seal a slender 1-0 win, but they started sharply and went ahead after 11 minutes.
Bernardo Silva’s cross from the right was met by Jota, who steered a deft header past Marko Dmitrovic from six yards.
The Liverpool forward then doubled Portugal’s advantage with his fifth international goal in the 36th minute, heading in off Dmitrovic’s right-hand post from eight yards after being picked out by Cedric Soares’ fine cross.
Serbia clawed one back just 27 seconds into the second half, Mitrovic – who scored twice in the 3-2 win over Ireland on Wednesday – heading in substitute Nemanja Radonjic’s cross from six yards for his landmark goal.
Anthony Lopes tipped over Dusan Tadic’s deflected volley soon after, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic heading narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
Serbia deservedly pulled level on the hour mark, Kostic clipping past Lopes after a flowing breakaway move involving Radonjic and Tadic.
Ronaldo thought he had sealed an important win for his side in the dying stages after Milenkovic’s dismissal, but referee Danny Makkelie had other ideas, much to the Juventus forward’s dismay.
What does it mean? Portugal denied at the death
Their second-half display hardly warranted a late winner, but that is exactly what Ronaldo thought – no, demanded – he had achieved.
The officials disagreed and Serbia were left to celebrate a fine second-half comeback that scarcely looked likely after a dominant opening 45 minutes from Santos’ men.
Jota keeps it simple
With Serbia’s attention focused on Ronaldo, Jota was able to steal into the box twice and give his side a two-goal lead with his only two shots on target. That is the kind of efficiency that will have been appreciated by his more illustrious team-mate.
Fernandes off the pace
He has been Manchester United’s star man this season, but Bruno Fernandes struggled to make an impact here. The midfielder had just one shot and had a pass completion rate of 73.7 per cent – the lowest of any outfield starter.
Both sides are in Group A action on Tuesday, with Portugal visiting Luxembourg and Serbia away to Azerbaijan.
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