Portugal picked up three massive points after beating Russia, 1-0, in Lisbon.
Coming into the match, Russia were sitting atop Group F on 12 points in 2014 World Cup qualification. The Portuguese were a point back.
The goal came off the boot of Helder Postiga in the ninth minute off a pretty simple enough free kick. Miguel Veloso delivered in a very nice ball that floated in over the top from the left. The Russian defense lost track of their men, and Postiga was left unmarked to poke it in without any challenge from Igor Akinfeev.
Portuguese football blogger Tom Kundert was very happy with Portugal scoring in the early stages of the match:
It was just disorganization from the Russian defense, which set the tone in a match where Portugal always looked the better side on the pitch.
Russian supporters might feel aggrieved by a penalty shout that was denied by the official in the first half. Fabio Coentrao seemed to have handled the ball, but nothing was called. As Russian Premier League commentator John Bradley pointed out, that one play didn't outweigh the Russians' lack of an attack:
Russia didn't offer much in the match. They were able to get forward a little bit, but they offered no real threat in the first half, aside from the penalty shout. It was only in the 60th minute that they got their first shot on goal, courtesy of Alesandr Kerzhakov.
It wasn't much, but it offered hope to their supporters, like RussianFootballNews:
Most of the match was Cristiano Ronaldo dribbling the ball down the left flank, looking to get another goal for Postiga or cutting inside to have an effort himself. It's a shame he didn't find a goal, as that was the only thing missing from his performance.
There were some efforts for both sides as the match dragged on. Credit Akinfeev and his opposite number, Rui Patricio, for coming up big when they needed to late.
Kundert was very happy with the overall performance from Portugal:
They have a wealth of talent, but some of their results have been underwhelming on the pitch. There will be plenty to build on with a win like this.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: A
Ronaldo was the biggest name coming into the match, and he duly delivered on the pitch. He didn't have a goal, but Ronaldo was a constant threat going forward.
Quite often, the winger found himself in a fair amount of space. Ronaldo did well trying to get Postiga involved.
Joao Moutinho, Portugal: A+
Moutinho and Miguel Veloso both had outstanding matches in midfield, but it was Moutinho who shone the most. He was fantastic in the midfield, doing everything Paulo Bento could possibly have asked of him.
Moutinho was a very good distributor from deeper in midfield and was great shielding his back four. There may be few better defensive midfielders in the world right now if Moutinho consistently plays like this.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Russia: C+
Russia is in need of a really good target man, as they simply don't have a reliable striker. Kerzhakov was historically bad at Euro 2012, and after him, the talent pool only goes down.
Kerzhakov wasn't awful against Portugal, but he failed to make much of an impact. He had some nice chances on goal.
R-Sport's James Ellingsworth was a bit surprised to see the striker come off for Fedor Smolov:
When Kerzhakov came off, Fabio Capello lost what was probably his best chance to equalize.
Igor Akinfeev, Russia: B
You can't blame Igor Akinfeev for the Portugal goal. He was powerless to stop Postiga's effort as his defense really let him down. The marking was poor, and Akinfeev couldn't react quickly enough to stop an unmarked striker a couple of yards from goal.
The keeper was pretty good, otherwise, and put in a strong performance.
|Rui Patricio ||B+|
|Bruno Alves ||B |
|Fabio Coentrao ||C+ |
|Luis Neto ||B+|
|Joao Pereira ||C+ |
|Miguel Veloso ||A |
|Joao Moutinho ||A+ |
|Raul Meireles (off '73) ||B- |
|Cristiano Ronaldo ||A |
|Vieirinha (off '90) ||B- |
|Helder Postiga (off '66) ||B+ |
|Nani ||C+ |
|Ruben Amorim ||C |
|Custodio ||INC |
|Igor Akinfeev ||B|
|Sergei Ignashevich ||C+ |
|Yuri Zhirkov ||C |
|Vasili Berezutski ||C|
|Alexander Anyukov (off '32) ||D |
|Igor Denisov ||C |
|Roman Shirokov ||C+ |
|Vladimir Bystrov ||C+ |
|Dmitriy Kombarov ||C|
|Victor Faizulin (off '22) ||D |
|Aleksandr Kerzhakov (off '68) ||C+ |
|Aleksei Kozlov ||C+ |
|Denis Glushakov ||C |
|Fedor Smolov ||C |
Portgual now goes to the top of Group F, two points ahead of Russia. They've got Croatia in a friendly on Monday. World Cup qualification resumes on September 6 against Northern Ireland.
It's important to remember Russia still has two games in hand on Portugal. With the right results, they can take the lead in the group back. Qualification resumes on August 14 against Northern Ireland, with another match on September 6 against Luxembourg.