Portugal 1-0 Armenia

The Seleção were forced to work hard for victory tonight at the Estadio Algarve by a stubborn Armenia side that had their chances to steal a share of the spoils. In the end, Cristiano Ronaldo settled matters and became the European Championships' all-time leading goalscorer in the process (finals and qualifying included).

Fernando Santos again showed his dissimilarity to former coach Paulo Bento by making several changes to the side that faced Denmark. Hélder Postiga returned as the number nine, and José Bosingwa was given the start at right back for the first time in almost four years since his infamous fallout with Bento. Raphael Guerreiro, having made a decent start to the Ligue 1 season with Lorient, started at left back in his very first cap for Portugal.

The Seleção started slowly as Armenia were content to play physical, defensive-minded football from the opening whistle. A 10th minute corner from Danny created some confusion in the penalty area, but the danger was cleared after Carvalho's header was deflected off several players.

Ronaldo scampered into the box in the 13th minute but just lost control at the vital moment. Play quickly transitioned to the other end with Mkhitaryan making a brilliant run through the heart of the Portuguese defence. The Borussia Dortmund playmaker was fouled by Carvalho just outside the box, and fired the ensuing free kick on target bringing a good save from Rui Patrício.

Danny had a decent look at goal in the 19th minute after a deflected clearance fell to him about 20 yards out, but his curled effort was straight at Berezovsky. Moutinho then stole onto a loose pass in midfield and found Ronaldo, who warmed Berezovsky's mitts with a stinging drive. 

Level terms

In a very equal match, Armenia countered, and when Mkhitaryan played in Hovhannisyan, Rui Patrício was again called upon to parry his fierce strike. Minutes later, Danny's goal-bound effort was deflected out for a corner as Portugal continued to press Armenia back. 

But Portugal were unable to find a way past the dogged play of Armenia, and instead went into the halftime break with multiple players on yellow cards.

Santos had seen enough from Postiga 10 minutes into the second half, and Éder entered the fray. Armenia gave away the ball repeatedly deep inside their own half, but Portugal were still unable to create clear opportunities until Danny crashed a header against the woodwork in the 59th minute after Bosingwa found him with a cross from the right.

The more Portugal tried to control the game, it seemed, the more Armenia resisted. Danny was the next player to go into the referee's book for a cynical foul on Mkhitaryan as Quaresma made ready to enter the match.

Cristiano Ronaldo to the rescue

The breakthrough did come, however, and it was every bit as scrappy as the game itself. Quaresma, having been on the field for less than a minute, fired in a shot that should have been easily cleared. But when the Armenian defence hesitated, the ball was deflected by Nani into the path of the most dangerous man on the pitch, who bundled the ball over the line for his 52nd international goal.

The game opened up dramatically in the last ten minutes, and Éder really should have scored when Ronaldo found him with a cross inside the 6 yard box, but the lanky striker could only brush the ball as it passed by. Pepe then committed what could have been a very costly mistake when he gave the ball away inside his own half, but Sarkisov wasted the chance for Armenia shooting straight at Rui Patrício.

Éder nearly scored again when he struck the base of the post with a header following a corner kick. Marcos Pirelli fired in another shot at Patrício in stoppage time, but the Sporting keeper was well positioned to make the save.

Despite being given some difficulty by the visitors, Portugal walked away with all three points in a performance that is perhaps more reminiscent of Fernando Santos' Greece squads than vintage Portugal. Once again, Cristiano Ronaldo did the business in a match where the opposition did reasonably well in limiting his opportunities on the ball. Portugal's defence managed to keep their second clean sheet in a row, and newcomer Raphael Guerreiro certainly showed some promise at left back.

The win takes Portugal into 2nd place in Group I behind Denmark, who have played one game more. The Seleção will be in action next Tuesday when they take on Argentina in a high profile friendly at Old Trafford.

Portugal:

Rui Patricio, Bosingwa, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho, Guerreiro, Tiago, Joao Moutinho, Danny (Quaresma, 70'), Nani (William Carvalho, 88'), Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Eder, 56')

Armenia:

Roman Berezovsky, Varazdat Haroyan, Taron Voskanyan, Robert Arzumanyan, Kamo Hovhannisyan, Levron Havrapetyan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Marcos Pizzelli, 83'), Artur Yedigaryan (Artur Sarkisov, 77'), Gevorg Ghazaryan (Edgar Manucharyan, 62'), Karlen Mkrtchain, Yura Movsisyan

Goals:

[1-0] Ronaldo, 71'

 

by Nathan Motz

Overall Rating (1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - Nelson Oliveira

    Another classic Santos 1-0 victory. Ill take it even though it wasnt as satisfying.

    Ronaldo and Nani had muted games. Eder's holdup play made him look like a substantial upgrade over the invisible Postiga, but Armenia is not the best test.

    Quaresma is still seducing people I see. Does Quaresma belong on the team? Absolutely. Should he be handed a starting spot? Absolutely not. Keep him hungry as a wild card to switch things up off the bench.

    Moutinho is not in best form, but if people expect him to be a number 10 he will always disappoint. I thought Tiago was solid; but again dont expect him to be a 10.

    Raphael was serviceable. Good to know we have another option there. Bosingwa does what a Bosingwa does. Lots of overlapping runs and probing crosses, but leaves you exposed defensively. Pepe and RC are still excellent but can no longer cover so much ground. Santos cant repeat this defensive lineup.

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  • To many old players. The only problem I have with old players is that they want to do what they want and dont put enough effort. If u watched Armenia they ran their asses off. U ever c portugal run, nope they flop.

    from United States
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  • Guest - jon/usa

    While we certainly could have been a bit sharper in the final third, I was very pleased with the overall performance. Let's not forget that Armenia has proven to be a very difficult side to defeat in recent years (recent 2-2 draw with Italy last year). We dominated possession, limited Mkhitaryan's influence, and managed to create 5-6 quality chances.

    After viewing the starting 11 an hour before kickoff, I was assuming that Santos would line his men up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Ronaldo and Nani on the wings and Danny operating as a #10, but when the game started, it became clear that he was actually going for a Real Madrid-esque 4-4-2 with Ronaldo playing off of Postiga in a front two and Danny playing in the "Isco" role on the left. We actually looked very sharp in the opening minutes, but as Armenia's defensive lines began to drop, it became increasingly difficult to find space in between the lines. Most of our most best attacking play came down the left side with Danny and the extremely impressive Raphael Guerreiro combing really well on several occasions. The 4-4-2 with Tiago and Moutinho enabled us to monopolize possession with relative ease, but I felt that it also left us a little exposed on the counter. William may lack Tiago's passing range, but I feel he is a more natural, defense-minded number 6, and is thus better suited to playing in this particular set up.

    The second-half introductions of Eder and Quaresma gave us some much needed physicality and creativity. Eder may be lacking that finishing touch, but his work-rate, hold-up play, and sheer physicality make him a much more effective alternative to Postiga who was absolutely invisible yesterday.

    My player ratings:

    Patricio - 6.5
    Bosingwa - 6.5
    Pepe - 6
    Carvalho - 6
    Guerreiro - 7
    Tiago - 6.5
    Moutinho - 7
    Danny - 6.5
    Nani - 6
    Ronaldo - 7
    Postiga - 4

    Eder - 6.5
    Quaresma -7
    William - 6

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Good to get the win against opponents who were indeed stubborn, and by the second half were simply parking the bus in order to get the draw they hoped for. Portugal utterly dominated the second half and with better finishing should have won more like 3-0, should've had a clear penalty in that second half as well. Armenia as has been stated, are no pushovers, so I will take the important 3 points in what is looking like being a tight group.

    There are clearly still issues up front (will they ever go away?). CR7 just never looks like the same prolific Real Madrid STRIKER when he plays for the Selecao. For the NT he always looks like a winger, yes he got the goal but he wasn't exactly ripping Armenia's defense to shreds the way he does for Madrid week in week out. We still have no quality CF, simply put. Eder is not the answer, not even close imo. He just has no presence up front, poor finishing (should've scored a goal with the chances that came his way in that 2nd half), but the most frustrating is how deep he often comes to collect the ball, he often comes back into midfield to try and get the ball...what danger is he there? Our problem in attack is we often don't have enough bodies in the box, therefore our CF simply has to be making good movements into the box, not coming deep and joining the midfield. Postiga may be past his best, but I'd still prefer him over Eder, at least Postiga has proven he can get crucial goals, Eder still hasn't scored for the Selecao in almost 20 caps now.

    Quaresma looked lively and instantly made a difference after coming on. I agree his best role would probably be just that: a super sub to bring on in the second half and get at tiring opposition defenses. He's a good option to have and definitely has to be in the squad.

    It looks like being a tight group, and although I'm very confident that we'll finish in the top 2 by the end, there's still a lot of work to be done, as we still face 3 away trips to Serbia, Albania and Armenia. None of these matches will be easy and we've still got some issues to sort out, particularly in attack. Nevertheless I'm already liking the new era of Santos a lot better than what we'd been seeing in the last few years.

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  • Guest - Csaba

    The majority of the commenters must be kidding me... This Santos team so far plays way worse football than the all-hated Bento's team. And no, I don't take disgusting matches and 1-0's over oppositions like friggin Armenia!!! This match was a disaster no matter the 3 points. We had ZERO idea how to play forward. The Armenians were playing away from home on the same level as we did. That's a disgrace. I will not pass judgements as for now, but Santos' team selection is the worst I have seen in the nearly 20 years. This team had the average of 30y!! What the **** does Santos want from 36 and 32 year old players? I mean that's mind blowing. I absolutely love Carvalho and Bosingwa, but they simply are not good enough any more. The same goes to Tiago. We had enormous talent in our U squads, yet no one gets a call up. Now, for me that is the biggest shock...it's outrageous. When Santos called up the squad against Denmark I was so happy seeing Almeida and Postiga were not included. Now Postiga is back? REALLY??? He is a disaster on 2 feet. And please...please don't kid yourselves. Éder is the same category. Every touch he has with the ball it's screaming that he is not NT quality. And for the last: after the brilliant performance Danny and Nani still picked over Quaresma? It's very sad. If not for Ronaldo and the Albania-Serbia punishment we would be sitting on the 4th position of the group. Hope Santos will step up because so far this is a big ZERO.

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  • At this point, I'm happy with a win anyway we can get it. That being said, I'm in agreement that previous concerns remain. Hard to see the influx of youth in the squad. If we can't start plugging fresh faces against Armenia, not sure when we'll see it.
    I'm curious to see the squad set up, when (if) Coentrao gets back on the field. Both him and Boswinga will be pushing forward leaving acres of space behind them. Patricio had to make six saves verse Armeina. Easy or not, six saves needed verse Armenia while at home is not acceptable.
    Good news is we're back in charge for this group. We have a game in hand while one point behind. Keep in mind that only the top two will advance out of this group. Since this group only has five teams, there won't be a third place playoff qualifier coming out of the group.

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  • Guest - Filipe

    - Portugal won the match and are now in a strong position in the group being the top placed side who has played 3 games (Only 1 point off top)

    - They have played their toughest opponent away from home and won.

    - They have also kept 2 clean sheets out of the 3 games.

    Fernando Santos was always going to play as he knows how from the start especially with Portugal losing the 1st match in the group. To me it seems that he is utilising the experience that he has at his disposal to get Portugal through these early games which if went badly would have left Portugal in an awful position in the group.

    I don’t expect that to change in competitive matches until Portugal are both in a very strong position in the group with a few games remaining and the U21 Euros have finished next summer.

    It is important for Portuguese football that the U21 squad is kept together so they can make a good run or possibly win the 2015 U21 Euro Championships and the players that Santos has been calling up for the last two games are capable of getting the team to the point where the pressure on these young guys coming in will be minimised next year.

    That said it would be good for both André Gomes and William Carvalho to start tomorrow against Argentina. Also José Fonte and Pepe should be given a trial run.

    from Dublin, Ireland
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  • Guest - johnieoooooo

    ------------------------Patricio--------------------------

    Cedric---------Pepe-------Carvalho--------Guerreiro

    -----Tiago----------William-------Moutinho-----------

    --------------------------Danny-------------------------

    ----------------Nani----------------------Ronaldo------

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  • Guest - Paulinho

    Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars

    What the hell is wrong with some of you people? Portugal have always had problems against teams that defend in numbers and defend deep. Bosingwa didn't do anything that Joao Pereira wouldn't have done, very similar players. Its called seeing what everyone has to offer instead of getting into arguments with players and than never calling them up. Experienced players are important and I don't care what anyone says, Danny is a quality player, its good to have tiago back and the team has more balance under Santos. I am in no way a big fan of his but right now he is doing well. Raphael wouldn't have seen the field with bento. Troll me all you want, it'll probably make you feel more important anyway.

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  • Mathew I don't agree with that article that says Eder did more in 5 minutes than Postiga all game, Eder is a delicate flower, not a strong tree. Bosingwa was great gong forward but a liability in defence, If William was in that would't have been an issue. This is also his second game, he is exploring all his options. Lets see next game if he Bento's i thy doing the same thing, or experiments again.

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