Pedro Neto and Joao Cancelo impressed as Portugal came back from behind to beat Luxembourg 3-1 in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Group A encounter.
Luxembourg made a strong start to the game, but it was Portugal who had the first couple of chances on goal, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches having their efforts saved. But, at the half-hour mark the hosts took the lead with Gerson Rodrigues diverting a fine cross from Danel Sinani into the back of the net.
This seemed to have woken Portugal up from their slumber as they looked more purposeful in attack and even managed to equalise on the stroke of half-time, when Diogo Jota headed in a peach of a cross from substitute Pedro Neto. Five minutes after the break, the Seleccao were in front as Ronaldo turned home a cross by Joao Cancelo.
Portugal could have added more to the scoreline if not for some impressive goalkeeping by the Luxembourg custodian, who denied Sanches, Nuno Mendes and Neto while Jota struck the woodwork. Luxembourg did make a push for an equaliser but it never came and Joao Palhinha put the game beyond their reach, heading in Neto’s corner in the 80th minute.
Any hopes of a late rally by Luxembourg were quickly dashed as defender Maxime Chenot received his marching orders, reducing them to ten men and Portugal held on for a much-needed win that takes them to the top of Group A. Here’s how we rated the performances of Fernando Santos’ men on the night.
Anthony Lopes: 6/10
Wasn’t called into action a great deal in the first half and there was not much he could have done to stop Gerson’s goal. Did produce a good save after the break to deny Sebastien Thill from a free-kick.
Joao Cancelo: 8/10
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) March 30, 2021
Solid defensively for the most part against a team that wasn’t afraid to take the attack to Portugal while also being a constant threat on the overlap with his forward forays. Played in a number of dangerous crosses and through-balls and got the assist for Ronaldo’s goal. Finished with two key passes on the night along with a game-high four tackles.
Jose Fonte: 6/10
Almost gifted the hosts a goal early on with a loose pass that was pounced upon by Olivier Thill. Switched off for Luxembourg’s goal allowing Gerson to run past him and get on the end of Sinani’s cross. Did make a couple of important interventions after that and ensured that his side did not concede any more goals.
Ruben Dias: 6/10
Not at his brilliant best once again, with the Manchester City ace’s positioning being questionable at times. Gave away the free-kick from which Thill almost scored in the second half and was booked. Passing was accurate as usual but not as assuring defensively as he can be.
Nuno Mendes: 7.5/10
🇵🇹 Nuno Mendes (18) vs. 🇱🇺:
☑️ 90 minutes
❌ 2 interceptions
🔀 7/8 dribbles won
🔑 2 chances created
⚔️ 10 duels won
🦶 100 touches
🙌 3-1 win
Tops on the field in 2 stats – most duels won & completed the most take-ons. 🌟
18 years old. pic.twitter.com/OAA91dkb1y
— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) March 30, 2021
Had the ball stolen off him leading to a chance for Luxembourg in the first half. Apart from that moment, he was largely assured in defence while providing a constant attacking outlet down the left flank. Completed a game-high seven dribbles and played in two key passes while also having a shot saved. Showed why some of the biggest clubs in Europe are after him.
Ruben Neves: 6.5/10
Did what was needed of him in the middle of the park, providing a screen to the defence while keeping things ticking when on the ball. Completed three tackles along with a clearance and an interception each. Made two key passes to go along with as well. Solid, if not spectacular.
Renato Sanches: 8/10
Starting his first game of the international break, the 23-year-old looked in fine touch in the box-to-box role for Portugal. Caused problems with his forward runs and had a couple of goal-bound efforts brilliantly saved by the opposition goalkeeper while he also created three chances – the most by any player on the night. Did his bit off the ball as well, making three tackles and two interceptions.
Renato Sanches vs Luxembourg:
3 key passes
98,5% passing accuracy
3/3 long balls accuracy
2/4 crossing accuracy
2/4 successful dribbles
8/15 duels won
2 shots on target
2 tackles pic.twitter.com/pPy1otynGo
— Benfica Youth 2 (@SLBenficaYouth) March 30, 2021
Bernardo Silva: 6.5/10
A rather quiet game by his usual standards. Nevertheless, the Manchester City star was precise with his distribution high up the pitch, misplacing just one of his 37 attempted passes, while making one key pass as well.
Joao Felix: 6/10
Looked lively and took the game to the home team but was on the receiving end of some rough challenges. Had to be withdrawn just 40 minutes in due to an injury.
Diogo Jota: 7/10
After a stunning display against Serbia, the Liverpool attacker continued from where he left off, producing another fine header to reinstate parity. Could have had another goal after the half-time break, but was denied by the woodwork.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 6.5/10
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 103 goals for Portugal.
Edging closer to Ali Daei’s record (109). pic.twitter.com/gRgH6dstXr
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 30, 2021
Had a shot saved in the first period which was as close as he got in the opening 45 minutes. Six minutes into the second half though, he produced a good finish to divert Cancelo’s cross to put Portugal in front. Missed a sitter not long after and would have been relieved to see the offside flag go up. Did find the net late on but once again was pulled back for offside. Not the best game but got the job done.
Pedro Neto: 8/10
Replaced the injured Felix five minutes from half-time and made an immediate contribution setting Jota up for the equaliser with a brilliant cross after showing off some lovely footwork to create space for himself. Continued to pose a threat in the final third and had a shot saved before assisting Palhinha’s goal. Impact.
Pedro Neto vs. Luxembourg:
2 duels won
2 chances created
He's just going to get better. https://t.co/eCa1sqcWpz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 30, 2021
Joao Palhinha: 7/10
Sent on in place of Bernardo Silva in the 68th minute, the midfielder opened his account for the national team with a well-taken header that put the result to bed.
Rafa Silva: 6/10
Came on for Jota with a little over 20 minutes left. Completed one dribble.
Sergio Oliviera: N/A
Late substitute for Neves.