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Postiga powers Portugal to shock win against Russia

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It was a long and frustrating night for Fabio Capello and his men, as they travelled all the way to Lisbon only to be suffer a 1-0 defeat by an inspired Portugal side. Although only a single goal separated the two big teams of Group F, the game was by no means dull. The quality of the Russian side was well matched by an inspired display of football by Portugal in front of their home crowd.

This game was a must-win match for Portugal to keep their dream of World Cup qualification alive, and with Cristiano Ronaldo making it to the starting XI after shaking off a back injury, it was a huge boost for the Portuguese side, who were already missing Pepe through suspension. Paolo Bento also chose to leave Nani on the bench, in favor of the talented winger Vierinhia.

The Russians were heading into tonight’s match after pulling off an impressive four wins in four matches, and were expected to make life very hard for the hosts. However, Paolo Bento’s men went all out from the start, which showed they meant business. Russia soon succumbed under the constant pressure and aggression and Portugal was awarded with the early breakthrough. Miguel swung the ball in from a free kick which Ronaldo won earlier for them, and the ball in was well met by Postiga at the other end to give Portugal the early lead they were looking for.

Capello’s experimental line up back fired as the Russians failed to impress at the Estadio da Luz, and the Russian coach was already making the first change of the night with only 20 minutes played, as Desin Glushakov came in for Viktor Faizulin. It got worse for the visitors when Capello had no choice but to take off defender Aleksandr Anyukov who was struggling with injury, replaced by Aleksey Kozlov, which meant that the Russian boss had used 2 of his 3 substitutions only 30 minutes into the game.

The Russians, however, seemed to have finally found their footing by the end of the first half, and were very unlucky to be a denied a penalty in the 38th minute when Coentrao’s trailing arm made contact with the ball inside the penalty area. The second half was pretty much the same story, with Portugal dominating possession and creating more chances. The hosts came close to increasing their lead twice at the start of the second half, both opportunities being presented to the Cristiano Ronaldo, but the Portuguese star failed to capitalize on the chance and the score line remained unchanged.

Portugal looked in control for most of the second half but were not able to find that second goal which would allow them some breathing space, and Russia came close to an equalizer on quite a few occasions. Aleksandr Kerzhakov run almost gave Portugal a scare, but Rui Patricio was there to collect the ball at the right time. The visitors came tantalizingly close to an equalizer when Vladimir Bystrov's brilliant overhead kick went just over the bar.

Both sides had a chance to make the score line a different story during the final moments of the game. Roman Shirokov shot right at Patricio and a better finish from him could have seen Russia through to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and then at the other end Ronaldo was denied a shot at glory as he was thwarted by an excellent save from Igor Akinfeev just two minutes from the end.

Portugal’s win against Russia saw them promoted to the top of the table in Group F with 14 points, 2 ahead of Russia who are currently second with 12 points. However, Capello’s men have played two games less than the Portuguese and the Russians still have every chance of making it to the World Cup if they manage to win their next two games.

Final Score: Portugal 1-0 Russia (Postiga 9')


Portugal :  Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Neto, Joao Pereira, Miguel Veloso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Vieirinha, Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga

Substitutions :

Nani for Helder Postiga (66')

Ruben Amorim for Raul Meireles (73')

Custodio for Vieirinha (90+2')

Russia : Igor Afinkeev, Alexander Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich, Vasili Berezutski, Dimitri Kombarov, Yuri Zhirkov, Igor Denisov, Roman Shirokov, Vladimir Bystrov, Viktor Faizulin, Alexander Kerzhakov


Denis Gulshakov for Viktor Faizulin (22')

Aleksei Kozlov for Alexander Anyukov (32')

Smolov for Alexander Kerzhakov (68')