Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani on target as Portugal record victory over depleted Belgium
International friendlies, Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa – Portugal 2 (Nani 20, Ronaldo 39) Belgium 1 (Lukaku 62)
Cristiano Ronaldo was on the scoresheet as Portugal got back to winning ways with a 2-1 triumph over a depleted Belgium side in a poignant night in Leiria.
The Real Madrid star missed a penalty in his side’s 1-0 loss to Bulgaria on a frustrating night at the weekend but he redeemed himself with a fantastic headed first-half goal to double Portugal’s advantage after Nani had opened the scoring on 20 minutes.
Belgium – ranked the world’s number one team – were missing a number of players including Christian Benteke, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Jan Vertonghen and Marc Wilmots’ reserves simply failed to cope with a determined Portugal in the first-half.
The visitors improved in the second period and they found a way back into the match on 62 minutes when Jordan Lukaku – on as a substitute just minutes before – delivered a cross to the near post which his brother Romelu Lukaku met to head past Rui Patricio.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Belgium.Reuters
Portugal seemed at home at the Estadio Dr. Magalhaes Pessoa stadium and coach Fernando Santos will have been impressed with his side’s performance with just over 10 weeks until the European Championships.
The match was initially to be played in Belgium but was moved following the bomb attacks in Brussels which killed 35 people last week.
Belgium – whose scheduled friendly with Spain in November was called off following the Paris atrocities – wore special warm-up tops with the message – ‘In memory of all victims – Brussels, 22.03.2016’ - ahead of the game. A minute’s silence was also observed just before kick-off.
Belgium's players stang together during a minute of silence before soccer match against Portugal.Reuters
Brotherly love – Witnessing the Lukaku brothers link-up to score a goal for their country was a genuinely touching moment. Romelu was starved of any real service throughout the match but he was on the score-sheet within just two minutes of his brother Jordan being introduced when the winger found the Everton forward with a fantastic cross. The goal sparked wild celebrations between the pair who were playing their first senior match together.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) – The Chelsea goalkeeper proved exactly why he is one of the best shot-stoppers in world football with a classy performance. The 23-year-old holds the hopes of his nation this summer.
PRE-MATCH - Cristiano Ronaldo STARTS! The Real Madrid forward missed a penalty in Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Bulgaria on Friday and his coach had suggested he could be rested in preparation for the El Clasio at the weekend.
9’ - DOUBLE SAVE! Gomes forces Courtois into his first stop of the night as he hammers a shot straight down the middle of the goal from a wide area, the Chelsea number 1 does well to parry the ball away but it's only as far as Witsel who fires an effort at goal and Courtois does well to make yet another save.
11’ - SAVE! Cedric picks out Nani with a wonderful low cross and Courtois makes a great stop as he tips the ball over the bar. Great chance.
Axel Witsel (Belgique) au duel avec Nani (Portugal), mardi 29 mars 2016AFP
20’ - GOAL! Portugal 1-0 Belgium - Nani is played through on goal and he makes no mistake as he smashes the ball past the helpless Courtois. It's been coming.
39’ - GOAL! Portugal 2-0 Belgium - Ronaldo scores on his 125th international appearance! He makes a late run into the penalty area to meet Joao Mario's deadly cross. A great goal.
62’ - GOAL! Portugal 2-1 Belgium - The Lukaku brothers link up to score! Jordan, just on as a substitute, finds Romelu at the near post and the Everton man heads past Rui Patricio! It's a goal straight from the back garden!
83’ - OVER! Quaresma collects the ball just inside the area but he can't decide which leg to shoot with! He eventually sends his shot well over the bar.