Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva starred in a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic, consolidating Portugal’s position at the top of their UEFA Nations League group.

Portugal consolidated their hold at the summit of Group B in the UEFA Nations League with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic in Lisbon on Thursday night. A Selecao now have seven points from their first three games and are the early favourites to make it through the group stages. First half goals by Joao Cancelo and Goncalo Guedes made the difference on the night as Fernando Santos’s side waltzed home to all three points.

Both teams began the game aggressively in what was a potential six pointer for the top spot. Despite their keenness, the visitors struggled to piece together any attacking moves worth mentioning and had just a solitary shot in the first half.

Portugal, however, were better at the task and looked threatening on the night. Bernardo Silva was the creator in chief, providing the assist for Cancelo’s opening goal in the 33rd minute. He repeated the trick five minutes later, with Guedes this time at the receiving end to hand the home side a two goal advantage.

Both sides were very competitive and not afraid to put their foot in. Yellow cards were a dime a dozen, and the referee certainly had a busy night. The Czech Republic tried their best to find a way back into the game by making substitutions in the second half.  However, Portugal, too, responded in kind and gave their opponents little to no leeway in finding a way back into the match.

It was a very satisfying night for Portugal who are now comfortably top of their group at the halfway mark of the first stage. It will come as a surprise if they go on to surrender this initiative in the games to come. The Hard Tackle now looks at how the Portugal players fared on the night.

Diogo Costa: 6/10

It was a fairly comfortable game for the shot stopper who had little to nothing to do on the night. Costa made one save but should have done better with his distribution.

Joao Cancelo: 8/10

The Manchester City man has clearly taken his club form to the international stage. He scored Portugal’s opener and was a constant thorn in the Czech Republic side’s side. Cancelo kept going all night and even earned himself a yellow card.

Pepe: 7/10

The 39-year-old was near imperious on the night and won all of his duels. Pepe continued to impress at the heart of Portugal’s defence and allowed little past him all game long. He continues to show that age is no barrier as long as the application is spot on.

Danilo Pereira: 7/10

Danilo Pereira was an able subordinate to Pepe and aided the veteran well at the back. Pereira was admittedly not too troubled by a Czech Republic side that lacked rhythm in attack. With Pepe impressing and Ruben Dias still to come in, Pereira will do well to make the most of his opportunities.

Raphael Guerreiro: 7/10

The left-back dominated his flank and was imperious in both attack and defence. He got forward whenever an opportunity presented itself and made several key passes on the night. Guerreiro was the perfect foil to Cancelo on the other wing, and both players effectively choked the life out of the opposition on the flanks.

Goncalo Guedes: 7/10

Guedes got forward whenever he got the opportunity and doubled the home side’s advantage on the night. He took three shots but lacked the clinical ability to add to his tally.

Bernardo Silva: 8/10

Silva was Portugal’s tour de force in creativity on the night and provided assists to both goals. Silva’s ability to retain possession and weave his way through Czech Republic’s defence made him a difficult player to keep quiet. Unlike Bruno Fernandes, Portugal can expect a semblance of consistency from Silva.

Ruben Neves: 7/10

The Wolverhampton Wanderers star put in an assured performance in midfield and kept things simple. His tactical awareness coupled with excellent passing ability helped him dictate the pace in the middle of the park. Neves’s ability to anchor the midfield handed Silva the freedom to push forward.

William Carvalho: 7/10

Another player who put in a proper shift in the middle of the park, Carvalho combined well with Neves to hand Portugal the early initiative in the middle of the park. This, more or less, gave the rest of the side the freedom to push forward and inflict damage on the Czech Republic defence.

Diogo Jota: 5/10

The Liverpool man has been off colour in recent months and did not impress on the night. He could do with a proper rest to recharge his batteries ahead of the 2022/23 football season.

Cristiano Ronaldo: 7/10

The veteran is usually Portugal’s goalscorer in chief but failed to find the back of the net this time around. Ronaldo was otherwise lively and made some darting runs while also linking up well with his teammates.

SUBSTITUTES

Vitinha: 6/10

He replaced Silva and gave a good account of himself. Vitinha still has some way to go before matching his teammate’s contributions but appears to be on the right track to doing so.

Bruno Fernandes: 5/10

The Manchester United man replaced Carvalho in the second half and did his best to get involved in the attack. It was largely a mixed performance from a player who usually blows hot and cold.

Rafael Leao: 5/10

The AC Milan hero replaced Jota in the 80th minute but fared little better. A yellow card in the 87th minute was the extent of his contributions to the side.

João Palhinha: N/A

A late replacement for Guedes in the 88th minute.

Joao Moutinho: N/A

The veteran replaced Neves in the 88th minute as Portugal sought to see out the game.

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