Portugal 2-2 Mexico
Just when it looked as if Portugal might actually secure victory despite a predominantly listless display, Mexico snatched a late draw courtesy of a Hector Moreno header in stoppage time.
Cédric had given Portugal the lead with less than five minutes to play with his first ever goal for Portugal to build upon Quaresma's first half goal when set up by Ronaldo. But it wasn't enough as the defence eventually succumbed to Mexico's relentless pursuit of the game.
In keeping with his policy of squad rotation, Santos made several key changes to the side that beat Latvia 3-0 in World Cup qualifying nine days prior. Nani regained his place alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at the expense of André Silva, who had scored seven goals in his first eight caps for Portugal. Pepe also got the nod despite having not played in over 2 months due to injury while Quaresma started in a midfield quartet that again had no room for Bernardo Silva.
Mexico began well in possession while Portugal eased into a defensive posture. Nani surrendered an early free kick in a dangerous position on the right, but Guardado's effort struck the wall and went out for a goal kick. But through the first quarter hour Mexico threatened very little despite forcing Portugal to play the role of spectator.
Quaresma sent Portugal's first shot of the match well wide of Ochoa's goal, and Mexico resumed their possession dominance as the Seleção struggled to connect even the simplest of passes. But despite their poor start to the match, Portugal thought they had the opening goal in the 21st minute. A poor clearance following a Ronaldo free kick found its way back to Portugal's captain, who dispatched a thunderous effort on the half volley that required both the keeper and crossbar to keep out. The rebound was crossed back into the box and turned into the net by Pepe only to be ruled out for offside following video review.
Portugal were playing with greater confidence now and Cédric got on the end of a Quaresma throughball down the right that Ochoa did well to smother. At the other end, Layun placed a free kick wide as Mexico labored to create meaningful opportunities. A William cross towards Nani had to be tipped over by Ochoa after being inadvertently directed towards goal by a Mexican defender.
Ronaldo rights the ship
But then Portugal's captain stepped up and delivered even as the team around him struggled for a foothold in the match. Salcedo badly misjudged a cross towards Ronaldo on the left wing allowing him to bear down on goal. Just when it looked like he had lost control, Ronaldo paused and threaded a wonderful ball to an unmarked Quaresma in the right side of the penalty area. The Besiktas winger took a quintessentially cheeky touch inside to dummy Ochoa then slipped the ball into the empty net to give Portugal the lead in the 35th minute.
Portugal nearly had two minutes later after a brilliant exchange of play between Nani, Ronaldo and Quaresma. Nani's place was touched into the path of Ronaldo with the quality of backheel control that only Ronaldo can consistently perform outside the training ground, and Quaresma eventually placed his shot just the wrong side of the post.
Instead it was Mexico who equalized after a rather out of character defensive error by Raphael Guerreiro. The fullback completely whiffed on his attempt to clear a simple cross into the box allowing Vela to pass the ball directly onto the head of Chicharito and Mexico's all-time leading goalscorer made no mistake.
Minutes later Guerreiro was beaten again down the left by Vela and Portugal were lucky to see Chicharito send his shot well over the bar as the teams would go into the halftime interval with the score deadlocked at 1-1.
Mexico resumed their active pass and press routine as the second half began, and Portugal continued looking short on answers. Santos made a double change in the 58th minute withdrawing Nani for Gelson and Moutinho for Adrien Silva.
Both sides struggled to create chances although Quaresma just overhit a trivela cross for Ronaldo to head towards goal. Ronaldo won a free kick in the 72nd minute on the right but Quaresma's poor delivery about summed up Portugal's afternoon. Mexico threw on veteran striker Oribe Peralta to add more attacking momentum, but as their press faded, Portugal began to see a little more of the ball.
Portugal substitutions make their mark
Quaresma struck a half volley straight at Ochoa in the 81st minute after good work by Ronaldo and André Gomes. But it would be his last action of the match as he was substituted for André Silva. The FC Porto striker wasted little time in getting involved drawing a great save from Ochoa with a header towards the far post.
Minutes later, fellow substitute Gelson was released down the right by Ronaldo and the Sporting winger's pace allowed him to get in a cross that Cédric finished beyond Ochoa courtesy of a healthy deflection to give Portugal a crucial lead in the 85th minute. Mexico should have been level not more than a minute later but Chicharito fluffed his lines 8 yards from goal.
The excitement of the final quarter hour continued when Gelson very nearly increased the lead at the other end after being teed up by André Silva following a fast counter. But Mexico found their equalizer in stoppage time when Moreno turned in Jonathan dos Santos' corner kick.
It was a fair result in the end as Mexico simply did not take advantage of their superior possession. Portugal will feel as if they really should have won despite a disjointed performance in which Mexico's withering press stifled them for at least the first hour of the match.
Fernando Santos' starting midfield simply could not match the tempo of their Mexican counterparts but it must be said his choice of substitutions very nearly secured victory. André Gomes, who was poor in the first half, caused far more havoc in the second with direct running and several decent crosses from the left side of midfield. Even so, the mystery of Bernardo Silva's absence continues, and Portugal will certainly have to demonstrate more cohesion in midfield and more intelligent defending to survive in this tournament.
Portugal next face hosts Russia in Moscow on Wednesday needing to win to have a more realistic chance of progressing from Group A.
by Nathan Motz
Mexico: Ochoa, Salcedo (Araujo, 67'), Reyes, J. dos Santos, Layun, Jimenez (Peralta, 79'), Vela (G. dos Santos, 58'), Hernandez, Moreno, Herrera, Guardado
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cedric Soares, Fonte, Pepe, Guerreiro, William, Quaresma (Silva, 82'), Moutinho, (Adrien, 58'), André Gomes, Nani (Gelson, 58’), Ronaldo
[1-0] Quaresma, 35’
[1-1] Hernandez, 42'
[2-1] Cédric, 86'
[2-2] Moreno, 90 + 1'