Joao Cancelo and Bruno Fernandes were in stunning form as Portugal cruised to a 3-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
Portugal dominated the proceedings from start to finish, with Azerbaijan only managing a couple of hopeful efforts on goal. Even then, the hosts were unable to muster up a single shot on target, while on the other end, A Selecao ran riot at times.
The second half of the opening period, in particular, saw Portugal ramp up the pressure, as they first opened the lead with a scintillating finish from Bernardo Silva, who converted a searching pass by Bruno Fernandes. The Manchester United talisman was then involved again as Andre Silva made it 2-0 five minutes later, just past the half hour mark.
Portugal kept pushing for the third goal to put the game to bed for good, but had to wait till the 75th minute to finally get on the scoresheet again, with Diogo Jota heading in Joao Cancelo’s cross with ease. The win means Portugal have now consolidated their place atop Group A of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Fernando Santos’s men.
Rui Patricio: 6/10
Easy as you like for Rui Patricio, who barely broke a sweat as Portugal cruised to a 3-0 win over Azerbaijan. In fact, the 33-year-old did not even have to make save, punch or even a high claim while being called to play just 10 passes all game. One of the most straightforward outings of his career.
Joao Cancelo: 9/10
A stunning performance by Cancelo, who was in the mood on Tuesday. The 27-year-old was a constant outlet down the right flank, with Portugal dominating the proceedings, and played a couple of key passes as well. At the same time, he did not shy away from his defensive duties, making two clearances and three tackles. The cherry on top, though, was his assist for Diogo Jota.
Joao Cancelo's game by number vs. Azerbaijan:
122 touches (most)
89 passes (most)
86.5% pass accuracy
12 long balls
2 chances created
And two nutmegs. 😎 pic.twitter.com/nKSDzuQ9OQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 7, 2021
With Azerbaijan barely threatening, Pepe did not have a lot of defensive work to do. However, the veteran defender was alert to any rare threat that the hosts did produce, making a couple of clearances while also winning three duels. A tad bit wasteful on the ball, although that did not hurt Portugal.
Ruben Dias: 7/10
Like his partner at the heart of the Portugal defence, Dias produced a professional performance, winning five duels while also making three clearances. Moreover, he was typically reliable with the ball at his feet, completing 94 percent of his attempted passes.
Raphael Guerreiro: 7/10
Unlike Canelo, Guerreiro did not see a lot of the ball, although he did show awareness to find Bruno Fernandes in the build-up to the goal scored by Bernardo Silva. The 27-year-old even aimed two shots at goal, only to miss the target. Moreover, he was sloppy on the ball at times, losing possession as many as 20 times.
Joao Palhinha: 7/10
Given another chance to impress, Palhinha was a solid customer in the double pivot that Santos had installed in the middle of the park. Combining smartly with Joao Moutinho, the 26-year-old barely let anyone past him, winning seven of the eight duels he contested. At the same time, he was also accurate with his passing, misplacing just two passes before being taken off for Ruben Neves.
Joao Moutinho: 8/10
Donning the armband for Portugal in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Moutinho led by example, as he pulled the strings brilliantly while providing a solid base in midfield. This allowed the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva to express themselves better higher up the pitch. Completed 92 percent of his attempted passes while even having a shot blocked.
Bernardo Silva: 8/10
Things might not be all too rosy for Bernardo Silva at club level. However, for Portugal, there is very little stopping the diminutive playmaker, who was in his elements against Azerbaijan, as he played a couple of key passes all while retaining a passing rate of 88 percent. The icing, though, was the magnificent outside-of-the-boot finish from Bruno Fernandes’s long pass to net the opener.
Bruno Fernandes: 9/10
Bruno Fernandes has registered his first assist of the season for both club and country.
Surprising. 😲 pic.twitter.com/8G3WILYNwR
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 7, 2021
Bruno Fernandes showed a glimpse of just how good he can be whenever he has the time and space to express himself. On Tuesday, everything Portugal created went through him. And after providing the assist for Bernardo Silva’s goal, the 27-year-old was also involved in Andre Silva’s striker. All in all, he provided a whopping six key passes while also coming close to scoring twice. Brilliant, simply put.
Diogo Jota: 7.5/10
Now a regular for Portugal, Jota showed just why he enjoys the confidence of Fernando Santos, in an energetic performance. In fact, on another day, the 24-year-old could well have even celebrated a hat-trick, if not for the inexplicable misses and saved efforts. Having said that, Jota did get on the scoresheet, as he rose the highest to meet Cancelo’s cross and nod in one of his trademark headers.
Andre Silva: 7/10
A decent enough performance by Andre Silva, who was still a notch below his best. The 25-year-old saw a lot of the ball and was here, there and everywhere at times in an effort to bring the rest of the attacking players in the game. Silva even played as many as three key passes while getting in on the act himself with a 31st minute strike. Job well done.
Andre Silva has been balling for Portugal in WCQs 🇵🇹
Games: 13 ✅
Goals: 10 ⚽️
Assists: 1 🅰️
Portugal lead Azerbaijan 2:0 at half-time of their WCQ match 💪 pic.twitter.com/umyZjpUBI0
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) September 7, 2021
Ruben Neves: 7/10
On for Palhinha at half-time, Neves continued pretty much from where the incumbent had left off, taking total control of the game while combining typically beautifully with Moutinho. Such was his exellence on the ball that the midfielder lost possession just five times.
Nuno Mendes: 6/10
On for Guerreiro, Mendes did not have a lot of time to make an impact but still managed to play a couple of key passes.
A late introduction, Otavio did not do a whole lot, with Portugal in cruise control mode late on.
Goncalo Guedes: N/A
On for Jota, Guedes barely saw the ball in the final 10-15 minutes.
Joao Mario: N/A
A late introduction, Joao Mario did not have time to make an impact.