Netherlands 0-2 Portugal
The Jong Oranje welcomed Portugal to the AFAS Stadion in Alkmaar for the first leg of the UEFA U21 play-offs. Portugal was the only nation with a perfect record in the group stage after eight consecutive victories, the Netherlands losing their final two games in their respective group to finish runners-up.
Top scorer Quincy Promes was absent for the Dutch side, leaving Luc Castaignos to carry the load alongside two players hardly featuring during the group stage, Manu and El Ghazi. Portugal’s attacking trio consisted of Bernardo Silva, Ricardo Pereira and Ivan Cavaleiro with Porto’s 17-year-old Ruben Neves given a start in midfield.
The home side were the first to pose a threat, Jetro Willems allowed time and space to cross for Manu whose effort was close, cannoning off the crossbar and away from danger.
Portugal were pressing very high allowing their opponents no time on the ball, the hosts in contrast content to wait for Portugal to enter their half before showing any concern.
Sérgio Oliveira released Ivan Cavaleiro who beat Sven van Beek with ease, but from a tight angle could not beat Zwolle’s Warner Hahn in goal. Ricardo Pereira then got past Rekik but could not find a teammate.
The Netherlands responded as El Ghazi broke free and crossed to an unmarked Manu who couldn’t get his header on target. The match was going from end to end in rapid fashion, Sérgio Oliveira putting Ivan Cavaleiro into good position with van Beek this time up to the challenge
Portugal were looking dangerous, creating numerous attacks without an end product. On the stroke of half time Portugal took a deserved lead. Bernardo Silva burst into the box, skipping around van Beek, who clumsily took him down for an obvious penalty. Sérgio Oliveira duly obliged to send the Seleção 1-0 up at the break.
Adrie Koster replaced Ruben Ligeon with Joshua Brenet at half time, but it had little effect as
Portugal began the second half in dominating fashion. Ivan Cavaleiro once again turned van Beek who simply had no chance 1 on 1, Hahn doing well to thwart the danger.
The Netherlands were unable to get anywhere near the Portuguese goal, Raphael Guerreiro capitalising on the extra space by charging forward and testing Hahn with a decent shot.
Ivan Cavaleiro gave way for Carlos Mané on the hour mark which started a flurry of substitutions, the ineffective El Ghazi was replaced by Ola John for the hosts, while Rafa Silva made way for Sporting’s Iuri Medeiros.
Portugal continued to suffocate their opponents, Mané with a good chance but unable to produce enough power to trouble Hahn. Ricardo Horta replaced Ricardo Pereira shortly before Portugal doubled their lead and took complete control of the tie.
Carlos Mané did it all himself, receiving the ball with his back to goal, holding off and turning past Sinkgraven, skipping past the helpless van Beek and producing a composed finish past Hahn to put the game out of reach.
Portugal looked likely to add to their lead with the Netherlands defence going missing in the final stages, however they will be satisfied with a job well done away from home.
Rui Jorge has a tremendously talented squad as evidenced by the quality of substitutions at his disposal. He won the battle against his Dutch counterpart as captain Sérgio Oliveira in particular looked superb in the middle of the park, dictating play and releasing his forwards at will. Portugal took advantage of the Netherlands’ attacking fullbacks as Ricardo and Cavaleiro in particular caused havoc.
In contrast Adam Maher simply could not get into the game, partly due to Nathan Aké getting too much ball in the centre of the park and unable to match his Portuguese opponents. Portugal predictably tied up Castaignos who didn’t help his cause with careless offsides, while Feyenoord’s young defender Sven van Beek had a game to forget, bamboozled by Portugal’s constant wave of attacks aimed in his direction.
It appears a formality that Portugal will advance in five days’ time at the Estádio da Capital do Móvel in Paços de Ferreira.
José Sá, Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Rúben Vezo, Raphael Guerreiro, Rúben Neves, Rafa Silva (Iuri Medeiros, 73'), Bernardo Silva, Sérgio Oliveira, Ivan Cavaleiro (Carlos Mané, 61'), Ricardo Pereira (Ricardo Horta, 78')
[0-1] Sérgio Oliveira (pen), 45'
[0-2] Carlos Mané, 82'
By Matthew Marshal