Goals from Maniche and Rui Costa earned Portugal a 2-0 win over a poor Russian side, a result which ends Russia’s interest in the tournament and gives the hosts a chance of reaching the last eight.
Although Portugal deserved their win, there was a hint of good fortune attached to it. Russia, who struggled to achieve any cohesion throughout, were handicapped by the dismissal of goalkeeper Ovchinnikov on the stroke of half-time, when the referee adjudged he had handled outside the penalty area.
There was a spark about Portugal’s early play and it came as no surprise when they went ahead on 7 minutes. Deco, in for Rui Costa, collected the ball just inside the Russian half and advanced toward the area before checking and hitting a delightful pass to Maniche who controlled the ball instantly before dragging his shot into the corner of the net.
Figo, who with Deco to share the creative burned was unrecognisable from the hunched, miserable figure in the opening game. The talismanic skipper roamed like a free spirit, running at defenders and providing teasing crosses. In harness with Deco, Portugal looked a much more potent force and the only surprise in the first half was that they didn’t increase their lead.
Russia, who had performed abjectly in the opening period, suffered a cruel blow on the stroke of half time when keeper Ovchinnikov raced out to deny Pauletta after a weak back pass. Ovchinnikov reached the ball first but the referee adjudged he had handled the ball outside the area and produced the red card. The decision was harsh as television replays subsequently showed that there was no contact.
Down to ten men, the Russians faced an uphill battle if they were to avoid a second half rout, but perhaps aggrieved by the dismissal of Ovchinnikov, they came out after the break with renewed zest, taking the game to their opponents and playing more positively than they had with eleven men.
Nonetheless, the bulk of the chances continued to fall to Portugal with Nuno Valente, Figo and Deco all having efforts saved by substitute keeper Malafeev. Indeed were it not for some wasteful finishing Portugal could have run out comfortable winners. The best move of the game almost brought a second goal for the hosts. A wonderful flowing move involving Nuno Gomes, Deco and Luis Figo ended with Figo’s precise shot rebounding off the post.
Scolari brought on Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as he went in search of the goal which would kill off the Russians. His decision was vindicated when the pair combined for Portugal’s second goal. Rui Costa broke from midfield and fed Ronaldo whose curling cross with the outside of his right foot was met by Rui Costa, who had the easy task of volleying into the empty net.
The goal sparked huge celebrations from the home supporters, but they, like Scolari, will be aware that the hard work begins now. They must beat Spain in their final game if they are to reach the knock out stages and on this evidence, they will have to improve significantly to achieve that aim.
Portugal 2-0 Russia 1-1 Greece
– Portugal -Maniche 7, Rui Costa 89
Sergei Ovchinnikov (Russia) 45
Portugal: 1-Ricardo; 13-Miguel, 4-Jorge Andrade, 16-Ricardo Carvalho, 14-Nuno Valente; 6-Costinha, 18-Maniche, 7-Luis Figo (captain) (17-Cristiano Ronaldo 78), 10-Deco, 11-Simao (10-Rui Costa 63); 9-Pauleta (21-Nuno Gomes 57).
Russia: 1-Sergei Ovchinnikov; 16-Vadim Yevseyev, 4-Alexei Smertin (captain), 21-Alexei Bugayev, 17-Dmitry Sennikov; 5-Andrei Karyaka (9-Dmitry Bulykin 79), 22-Yevgeny Aldonin (12-Vyacheslav Malafeyev 45+2), 15-Dmitry Alenichev, 20-Dmitry Loskov; 7-Marat Izmailov (19-Vladimir Bystrov 72); 11-Alexander Kerzhakov.
Referee: Referee: Terje Hauge (Norway)