Cristiano Ronaldo struggled to perform as a fortunate Portugal side sealed a narrow 1-0 win over Azerbaijan at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday.
Portugal kick-started their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign on a positive note by registering a 1-0 win over Azerbaijan on Wednesday. The victory in Turin, which served as the home venue, gives them an early headstart in Group A, although the performance was nowhere near impressive.
A Selecao did not have too many problems in dominating possession and keeping Azerbaijan out of the game for almost the entirety of the ninety minutes. However, they struggled to offer the penetration in the final third, as the opposition remarkably remained strong throughout the match despite relentless pressure from the home side.
Unfortunately, a moment of indecision from Sahruddin Mahammedeliyev, who was otherwise the best performer of the game, saw Maksim Medvedev score a horrible own goal around the 37th minute mark. It turned out to be the only goal for Portugal, who were denied by the Azerbaijani goalkeeper time and time again in the second half.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule of the Portuguese players in their narrow win over Azerbaijan this midweek.
Anthony Lopes: 6/10
Anthony Lopes had nothing to do throughout the entirety of the game as Azerbaijan failed to produce any clear-cut scoring opportunities. They only had four attempts on goal, none of which found the target. An easy clean sheet for the 30-year-old, who was filling in for the injured Rui Patricio in between the sticks.
Portugal registered 29 goal attempts and 15 shots on target against Azerbaijan…
The only goal of the game? An own goal from Azerbaijan defender Maksim Medvedev.
— bet365 (@bet365) March 24, 2021
Joao Cancelo: 6.5/10
As one of Portugal’s most in-form players at the moment, Joao Cancelo played a key role in Portugal’s build-up and approach play in the final third. The right-back, though, did not find much success in his forays down the flanks, barring the occasions chances that led to an attempt on goal. A vital cog in the build-up nonetheless.
Domingos Duarte: 6/10
Domingos Duarte was given the nod ahead of Jose Fonte at the heart of the four-man backline, perhaps in light of the upcoming game against Serbia. The Granada centre-back’s imposing presence made it difficult for the opposition attackers to thrive in Portugal’s defensive third, but the defender didn’t face much of a challenge either.
Ruben Dias: 7/10
Ruben Dias, too, had a relatively easier game up against the Azerbaijani attack. The Portuguese, though, does deserve credit for marshalling the backline with his aggression and leadership. Did not have much to do otherwise.
Nuno Mendes: 6.5/10
Nuno Mendes made his international debut with a berth in the left-back role, ahead of the injured Raphael Guerreiro. The youngster impressed with his sturdy defensive display, notably winning all of his duels in the air. However, he did not provide much penetration in his forays down the flanks.
Nuno Mendes (18) made his Portugal debut today!
1 Clean Sheet
7/10 Duels Won
3 Key Passes
It’s not everyday that a teenager plays for a national team! Absolute talent linked with the Manchester clubs! pic.twitter.com/l6Fkhe1FPH
— Football Breakdown (@FootballBreakd2) March 24, 2021
Bernardo Silva: 6/10
Operating on the right-hand side of the creative unit, Bernardo Silva lacked ideas in the final third, often failing to impose his presence against the Azerbaijani defenders. The opposition, though, does deserve credit for allowing very little spaces in between the lines, making it difficult for the Manchester City star to appear effective.
Joao Moutinho: 5/10
Joao Moutinho had a poor game in the middle of the park, where he was often dominated physically. His lack of mobility also did not bode well for the Portuguese side who were already lacking ideas and penetration. As such, Fernando Santos was quick to replace him at half-time.
Ruben Neves: 6.5/10
Ruben Neves looked frustrated at times due to the solidity of Azerbaijan’s two defensive lines. Although the midfielder didn’t have any problems with his natural game, he certainly did not provide much creativity for his teammates upfront. That said, Neves’ came very close to scoring twice with two remarkable efforts from long range.
Pedro Neto: 6.5/10
Pedro Neto was given the start ahead of other stars, also becoming the third Wolves player to feature in this game. The attack showed signs of his brilliance at certain instances, but failed to offer a sustained chain of penetration. He was replaced around the hour-mark.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 5.5/10
In a game where you would expect Cristiano Ronaldo to score, the Juventus icon, playing in his home stadium at club level, did not offer any real quality in the final third. In fact, he was one of the worst-performing Portuguese attackers, often getting frustrated due to the close attention paid to him throughout the course of the game.
An own goal sees Portugal beat Azerbaijan 1-0 ✅
5 shots, 0 goals for Cristiano Ronaldo 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/pzS12S8KG7
— Goal (@goal) March 24, 2021
Andre Silva: 6/10
Andre Silva started alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, often operating as the target man for Portugal. Unfortunately, the Eintracht Frankfurt star was bereft of consistent service, with his teammates mostly being restricted to long range attempts. Had a couple of efforts on goal, but it did not trouble Mahammedeliyev.
Bruno Fernandes: 7/10
Bruno Fernandes was brought in at the expense of Moutinho at the start of the second half. He was tasked with the responsibility of offering more creative essence in the final third, and while it did work, to an extent, the Manchester United superstar was not able to break the shackles of the Azerbaijani backline.
Bruno Fernandes has just two goals in 26 appearances for Portugal 🧐 pic.twitter.com/Juu7Aoe3QO
— Goal (@goal) March 24, 2021
Rafa Silva: 6/10
Rafa Silva was another substitute that struggled to make his presence felt, after coming on for Neto around the hour mark. Certainly needs to perform better in the upcoming matches.
Joao Felix: 6.5/10
Joao Felix replaced Andre Silva in the 75th minute to offer more dynamism, mobility and flair in the final third. He also got close to scoring Portugal’s second but was denied by Mahammedeliyev.
Sergio Oliveira: N/A
A late replacement for Bernardo Silva. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.
Joao Palhinha: N/A
A late replacement for Neves. Did not play enough to warrant a rating.