8th September, 2019
It was a game of mixed fortunes for Portugal when it defeated Serbia 4-2 away from home as it lost Semedo to injury with Ronaldo back on the scorers’ list with a goal that looked like an offside one.
Two of the goals were created by Bruno Fernandes while Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva both struck late as Portugal won in a Euro 2020 qualifying match on Saturday.
Before this game, Portugal had played two draws from their first two games, and that includes being held at home by Serbia back in March.
The Euro 2016 winners, Portugal have now collected their first Group B victory at Rajko Mitic Stadium.
Portugal had found themselves in the driver’s seat in this match courtesy goals from William Carvalho and Goncalo Guedes but an injury to Barcelona full-back Semedo, who left the field after a heavy Aleksandar Kolarov challenge, appeared to have disrupted their rhythm.
Serbia thereafter had their hopes restored as Nikola Milenkovic’s first international goal reduced the deficit but Ronaldo and Silva scored either side of Aleksandar Mitrovic’s rocket with the result ensuring the visitors move up to second in the section.
The Serbian captain Kolarov shot wide from an early warning shot, but then came a goalkeeping error by Marko Dmitrovic which handed Portugal an easy opener three minutes before the break.
A right-wing cross from Fernandes saw Dmitrovic clattering into defender Milenkovic and the ball falling loose for Carvalho to slot into an empty net.
Portugal could have gone further ahead but Ronaldo fired off target twice in quick succession following the restart. The Juventus superstar however atoned for his misses as he later combined with Fernandes to create Portugal’s second goal in the 58th minute.
Guedes, who had recovered from an injury scare, refused to be left out of the party as the Valencia forward cleverly jinked into space before lashing a superb drive across Dmitrovic.
The hosts hit back shortly after Semedo’s injury and departure with Milenkovic losing Danilo Pereira in the box to crash home a towering header from Dusan Tadic’s left-wing corner.
Then came a moment of some dispute as Silva fed Ronaldo to beat Dmitrovic with a dinked finish – although replays showed that he had strayed offside.
Serbia were on song later through Mitrovic’s hammer of a finish, with Tadic again the creator, seemed to have set up a frantic finale.
It was not to be however, as Manchester City star Silva wrapped up the scoring with a low finish four minutes from time.
Portugal, the Nations League winners, had a shaky start to their qualifying campaign, but are now up and running as they have five points from their three games, with a trip to Ukraine – who they trail by eight points – to come.
However, Serbia’s hopes of reaching the finals now seem to be fading as this was a game they really needed to win. It was somewhat inexplicable that their coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic, left Real Madrid striker Luka Jovic on the bench until the 87th minute.
As it stands, Serbia will surely be annoyed by the absence of VAR for this game given that Ronaldo’s 80th-minute goal ought not to have counted.
Portuguese side Sporting CP’s success in managing to hold on to Fernandes during the transfer window was clearly a winner for the team.
And that despite the player revealing he had been close to joining Tottenham, while Real Madrid were also on the list of his reported suitors.
With a hand in Portugal’s first two goals, it was very clear why he was so highly desired.
As for the hosts, they never looked like conceding before Dmitrovic came for a cross he was never likely to reach.
It was slightly unfortunate the way the ball ricocheted to Carvalho for a tap-in, but the goalkeeper’s mis-judgement of a dangerous centre created the situation.
The next round of matches will see Portugal playing another away game, as the team travel to win-less Lithuania on Tuesday with Serbia taking a trip to Luxembourg.