Rating the players in Portugal's 4-2 victory over Serbia
Portugal well and truly got their European Championship qualifying campaign back on track with an entertaining 4-2 victory over Serbia in Belgrade.
Portugal, heading into the game, had just 2 points from their opening 2 games, having drawn against both Ukraine and Serbia at home, 0-0 and 1-1 respectively, and were at risk of slipping further behind without a victory in Serbia.
Now, they know that beating Lithuania and Luxembourg home and away is all that is required to confirm their place in the Euro 2020 finals next summer.
That victory is in a great part due to some excellent performances from Fernando Santos’ team, with a few players standing out above the others to lead Portugal to a crucial victory. Here, we assess who those players were, rating each of the starting eleven - and the three substitutes - out of ten:
Rui Patricio - 7/10
A very strong display from Portugal’s number one despite the fact that he conceded two goals. Little he could do about either, truth be told, with Milenkovic given a free close-range header to bullet past a helpless Patricio, before Mitrovic’s rocket of a shot was blasted past Patricio before he even had the chance to react. As such, despite having to pick the ball out of his own net on a couple of occasions, Patricio can consider this a job well done, proving solid at the back as he matched every other effort Serbia had one goal. His very smart stop to keep out Ljajic’s long-range rocket just before the 70 minute mark was huge, keeping Portugal’s slender 2-1 lead intact.
Nelson Semedo - 5/10
Not the most convincing game from the Barcelona right back. Before being stretchered off in the 65th minute - which thankfully looked more serious than it is now believed to be - Serbia were having a lot of joy attacking down Portugal’s right-hand side, putting in crosses from their left flank as Semedo was caught out of position on a handful of occasions and failed to recover. Going forward, he was as lively as ever, overlapping Bernardo Silva to provide additional attacking potency, but defensively, it was problematic on more than one occasion, and it could have proved costly, particularly on the stroke of half time, where he was nowhere to be seen as Serbia again attacked down his flank.
Jose Fonte - 8/10
Another very solid display from one of Portugal’s veteran centrebacks. Often a player picked out by Portugal fans as the weak link in the side, it is about time Jose Fonte is given the credit he fully deserves. Despite his advanced years, the Lille defender always steps up for his national team and proves to be a top class defender whenever he wears the red of Portugal. Today was no exception. With Nelson Semedo having some trouble defending, Jose Fonte helped out on several occasions, his positional awareness narrowing the options for Serbia’s left winger Filip Kostic by either putting additional pressure on the winger, or marking his man closely in the box.
One of the big moments for Fonte came in the first half when his perfectly timed forceful slide tackle on Kostic on the half hour mark stopped yet another very dangerous attack at source as Semedo again struggled to contain the lively winger. Another standout moment for the 35-year old then came in the second half, when he produced two tackles in quick succession to show great positional awareness and excellent agility to quickly get up and again defend
Ruben Dias - 7/10
Fonte’s centreback partner had an equally solid game, albeit without being quite as influential in the heart of defence. Depending on how you look at it, the yellow card he picked up in the 40th minute for pulling down his man could be seen as great defending and taking one for the team, stopping a potential counter attack immediately, or could be seen as avoidable and a situation Dias could have better dealt with. Either way, a major moment for Dias came in first half stoppage time where Portugal, who had only scored 5 minutes earlier, nearly let their hard work unravel just before the break as Kostic again attacked down the left-hand side. With Semedo caught out of position, Kostic was free to play a dangerous low cross across the box. Luckily, however, Dias got back in time to intercept and prevent what looked to be an excellent goalscoring opportunity for the hosts.
Raphael Guerreiro - 6/10
A mixed day for Raphael Guerreiro who, like Nelson Semedo had some difficulties defensively. He was not as frequently caught out of position, though when Lazovic ran at him, he did not look comfortable to put in a tackle, constantly tracking back without actually attempting to win back the ball. There was also a humorous moment when Guerreiro inexplicably dribbled the ball over the touchline as he geared up to put a cross in. He did rectify that later on though when he squared the ball to Bernardo Silva to get the final assist for Portugal to ease the tension for Selecao supporters, putting Portugal two goals ahead yet again.
Danilo Pereira - 5/10
A disappointing day for Porto’s sole representative in the Portugal squad. Didn’t put in too many tackles or interceptions for Portugal, which was his main role on the night, even if his positional awareness and discipline was generally impeccable. Nevertheless, he was to blame for Serbia’s first goal, failing to jump as the corner was whipped into the box, caught ball-watching as Milenkovic sprinted past him and jumped above him to bullet into the back of the net. He also made very little effort to track back when Portugal lost the ball in their own half in the 69th minute, Ljajic free to unleash a powerful effort from outside the box as Danilo simply jogged back to put the pressure on. The same was evident for Serbia’s second goal too. Don’t be surprised to see Ruben Neves start ahead of him against Lithuania.
William Carvalho - 7/10
Another solid display from the Real Betis man, who is becoming instrumental to Fernando Santos’ Portugal. Since being deployed as a more box-to-box figure in the Portugal team, his composure on the ball and passing has been great to see, while the ease he seems to shrug off attempted tackles makes him a threat when dribbling on the ball. His goal was scrappy and fortuitous, but he was in the right place at the right time to poke home to capitalise on the defensive mistake.
Bernardo Silva - 9/10
Bernardo Silva yet again put in a marvellous display for the national team. His quick feet and neat flicks in the attacking third of the game made him the source of most of Portugal’s most dangerous attacks, in addition to his silky dribbling and adventurous movement, making it almost impossible to decipher whether he was going to cross, pass or cut inside. His pass for Ronaldo’s goal to put Portugal 3-1 up was exquisite, perfectly weighted to split the defensive line, and he fully deserved his goal in the closing stages of the game, a well-taken effort into the bottom right corner.
Bruno Fernandes - 7/10
The strange thing is that it wasn't even close to Bruno Fernandes’ best game - and yet he comes out of it with two assists and having been instrumental in the victory. His first may not officially count as an assist, though it was his beautiful in-swinging cross that led to the goalkeeper’s failed punched clearance and William Carvalho’s subsequent goal, while it was he who then played the ball to Goncalo Guedes to get Portugal’s second goal too.
Gonçalo Guedes - 7/10
Many weren’t happy with his name being on the team sheet - nothing against the player, of course, but rather his presence in the starting XI meant that a certain Joao Felix was not. And fans would have felt somewhat vindicated about their frustration at seeinf him lead the line early on as he failed to really threaten Serbia’s backline. However, Guedes is the type of player that has that ability to do something magical in an instance, and that’s exaactly what he did to get his goal, picking up the ball on the edge of the Serbia box, showing excellent quick feet to evade a challenge, before blasting a ball across the goal into the top right corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo - 8/10
With the toxic nature of Messi and Ronaldo supporters, fans of the former may have attempted to suggest that Ronaldo had a very poor first half and was failing to live up to the occasion, referencing his close-range mishit shot close to the half hour mark as the perfect example. That would be far too simplistic though. Indeed, Ronaldo was actually incredibly influential throughout the game, even in the first half when he failed to have any significant shot of note.
Being heavily marked by Serbia, he often dropped much deeper to shrug free and create space for his teammates, playing some intricate football with the other attacking players in the side. Realising that he was unlikely to be able to break free, he changed his role, and became something of a playmaker rather than the striker. And it helped create some of Portugal’s most dangerous chances in the first half. In the second, he was given a bit more freedom with Serbia looking for a goal, and he came to life early on, two excellent shots coming very close to doubling Portugal’s lead. He fully deserved his goal in the 80th minute, a well-taken first-time effort as he met the pass by Bernardo Silva.
João Cancelo - 7/10
Although he only came on with 25 minutes left on the clock and was on the field of play for both of Serbia’s goals, he can still be given great credit, and was likely the better performer at right back on the night. His tackle to give away the corner that led to Serbia’s first goal was exceptional, and he can hold none of the blame that it ultimately resulted in Serbia narrowing Portugal’s lead. He looked good both defensively and going forward, and he will almost certainly start for Portugal versus Lithuania.
João Felix - 6/10
Didn’t really have sufficient time to make a significant impact, only playing the final 20 minutes, but was lively and showed good movement and passing.
João Moutinho - N/A
Only came on late in the second half to help see out the game. That’s the role he’s likely to serve for Portugal in the big games going forwards, his composure making him the perfect player to come on when Portugal are defending a lead.