Nations League: Andre Silva leads Ronaldo-less Portugal to victory against Italy
Andre Silva scored the lone goal as Portugal overcame an insipid Italy to take control of Group 3 in League A of the Nations League.
Portugal, who are playing without talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo – left out so that he can focus on establishing at new club Juventus – still looked fired up in their opening encounter after the round-of-16 exit to Uruguay in the World Cup.
Italy, on the other, as has been the case in recent times looked disjointed after undergoing a massive change in Roberto Mancini’s second competitive match. As many nine changes were made from the team that was held to 1-1 draw against Poland in the opening match of the competition.
Former Man City and Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, who started in the earlier match was completely left out the squad, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Chelsea midfielder Jorginho were the only players to retain their places in the opening XI.
Struggling from the agony of failing to qualify for the World Cup, Italy failed to keep up with Portugal’s pace and could have fallen behind in the opening half-hour mark when Donnarumma spilled Bruma’s header under pressure inside the penalty box. Bernado Silva volleyed home from that bunny but Alessio Romagnoli was well at hand to make a goal-line clearance.
Donnarumma then redeemed himself with two fine-saves, the first of which was a Silva shot from 20-yards out, which he brilliantly kept out with a fine save. Substitute Renato Sanches’ shot was palmed away with equal excellence.
Portugal though kept on trying and eventually found the net just three minutes into the second half, when Silva thundered home Bruma’s cross having chested it down in the 48th minute.
Mancini’s side though will call themselves unlucky having being denied a clear penalty in the 67th minute after Domenico Criscito stopped Pizzi from escaping into the box.
Meanwhile, Emre Akbaba scored twice as Turkey bounced back from two goals down to beat Sweden 3-2 in the Nations League encounter.
The match looked to go in favour of the Swedes, who took the lead through Issac Kiese Thelin and Viktor Claesson had put them ahead inside 50 minutes. E
Hakan Calhanoglu pulled one back in the 51st, two minutes after Claesson had put Sweden 2-0 up. It, however, seemed assured of a Swede victory. But with two minutes left in the regular time, Emre finished off a brilliant team move before heading in a Serder Gurler cross to hand Turkey their first victory in the competition.
They had lost the first match 1-2 against Russia.