Match Report: Portugal vs Switzerland: 2018 World Cup Qualifying Group B Matchday Ten 11th October 2017
Portugal Masterclass Snatches Russia Place From Sorry Switzerland
A calamitous own goal from Swiss centre-back Johan Djourou and a second-half strike from Andre Silva were to see the reigning European Champions to Russia 2018 with a victory over Switzerland last night at The Stadium of Light.
The two Nations headed into the clash knowing that whoever won would book a place at next summer’s World Cup with the Swiss three points ahead of the Portuguese but the trailing team had a better goal difference, making for a winner takes all thriller.
However, as the visitors dug in for a draw that would see them safely through, they invited the hosts onto them and ultimately paid the price for negative Football.
From the start, Fernando Santos made five changes to the starting Xl that defeated Andorra 0-2 last week to set up the Swiss showdown.
In defence, Cedric Soares and Jose Fonte came in for Nelson Cabral Semedo and Luis Neto, meanwhile, there were three changes in the centre of the park as Cristiano Ronaldo, William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho replaced Gelson Dany Batalha Martins, Danilo Pereira, and Ricardo Quaresma.
Meanwhile, Swiss Boss Vladimir Petkovic made only two changes from the 5-2 thrashing of Hungary with Blerim Dzemaili and Admir Mehmedi coming in for Fabian Frei and Steven Zuber, despite the latter netting twice on Saturday.
If the EURO 2016 Champions had a better side on paper, they certainly would on the pitch as well with Ronaldo pulling the strings of relentless waves of Portuguese attack.
The assault started early with several threatening crosses well dealt with by Switzerland’s back four, but as time went on the opportunities got better as Bernardo Silva forced a terrific save from Yann Sommer.
Meanwhile, Haris Seferovic was pulled down by a combination of Pepe and Eliseu with Referee Cuneyt Cakir not interested.
However, soon after, the home Nation would break the deadlock in the most bizarre and fortunate of circumstances.
A superb delivery from Eliseu forced a three-way challenge from Joao Mario, Yann Sommer and Johan Djourou with the ball deflecting off the defender and into the net to give Portugal a vital lead and leave the former Arsenal man with egg on his face.
The visitors threatened to level just after the Break as Xherdan Shaqiri tried audaciously to beat Rui Patricio with a long-range free-kick, while Ronaldo fired just over at the other end.
But, it wouldn’t be long before Portugal got the second they deserved and in much more conventional circumstances.
A fantastic passing move from the hosts culminated in a magnificent Joao Moutinho into Silva as he picked out Andre Silva to control magnificently and put into the empty goal.
The stunning goal proved to be the sucker punch that was needed to flatten a tame Swiss side, much to the delight of on watching Pop star Madonna.
The visitors now trailed by two with 33 minutes of normal time left to play, but the day could have got worse for Djourou as Mario’s cross appeared to strike his hand but penalty appeals were waved away.
Ronaldo was then played through but Sommer was up to the unlikely task of wrestling the ball off him, while Seferovic went close earlier, Portugal had all the late pressure to see out a historic and memorable 2-0 win.
But, it would be heartbreak for the Swiss who miss out on goal difference with both sides locked on 27 points, having led for the entirety of the Qualification campaign.
Vladimir Petkovic and his Players will now nervously wait to find out whether they will face The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Sweden or Greece in a Play-Off for Russia next month.
However, for Portugal, it was time to “Take a Bow” because they were the “Lucky Stars” in Lisbon and they will have a chance to make it a European Championship and World Cup double next summer.
Man of the Match: Eliseu.