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Silva lifts Portugal past Italy; Scotland score welcome win
September 12, 2018
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Lisbon: Andre Silva scored the only goal as European champions Portugal — without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo — got their Nations League campaign off the mark with a 1-0 win over Italy in Lisbon on Monday.

Ronaldo, 33, had been left out of the squad at his own request to focus on his new Italian club Juventus. But the Euro 2016 winners showed no sign of missing their star striker, dominating the Italians to secure their first three points in a Group 3 that also includes Poland.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini suffered his first competitive setback after being held by Poland 1-1 in their opener on Friday in Bologna, with the Azzurri on one point after two games.

“We made too many mistakes, but the lads gave everything,” said Mancini.

“We need to find a solution to scoring goals because you don’t win games without scoring. That’s our main problem right now. Portugal have won the first, so they’re the favourite, but I think it’s still wide open, you never know in football.”

Silva scored three minutes into the second half with AC Milan’s on-loan Sevilla striker collecting a Bruma cross to beat his former Milan teammate Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Italy goal.

“I have some friends in the Italian national team, but there are no friends on the pitch,” said Silva.

“Overall we were the better team on the night and deserved the win.”

Italy had been fortunate to keep their goal clear in the first half, largely thanks to Donnarumma, as Portugal dictated play in the Estadio Da Luz. Bernardo Silva’s effort was cleared off the line by Alessio Romagnoli with a Bruma shot deflected onto the bar.

Italy fought back with Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza threatening just before the break. Mancini had rang the changes with an experimental side with seven new players starting -- midfielder Jorginho and Donnarumma the only pair to be retained from the draw with Poland.

‘Italy take risks’

In the same 4-3-3 lineup, Lazio striker Immobile came in for Mario Balotelli, who was heavily-criticised for his performance against Poland before coming off with a muscle problem.

SPAL’s Manuel Lazzari made his international debut on the right of defense. Federico Chiesa and Andre Silva both missed chances early, while a Zaza back-heel flick for Immobile was cleared in the box.

William Carvalho fired just wide from distance and Jorginho’s volley was cleared. Portugal grabbed the winner soon after the restart through Silva with Bernardo Silva coming close to a second only for Donnarumma to clear.

Italy struggled to create chances, apart from a Zaza header that went wide 12 minutes from time, as Portugal claimed their ninth straight home win.

The four-time world champions now risk being relegated from their Nations League group after also failing to qualify for the World Cup.

But Mancini defended his experimental side.

“We don’t like losing, but it’s also true that we have to take risks and get experience in these games, otherwise it’s hard to move forward quickly,” said the former Manchester City and Inter Milan coach.

“We must help the youth grow, as we don’t have alternatives.

“We would like to finish first in the group, you never know in football. We will see what happens, our starting goal is to qualify for the Europeans.”

In the three-team group Portugal play in Poland on Oct.11, with Italy again facing the Poles on Oct.15. And Portugal coach Fernando Santos ruled out talk of them now being the favourites.

“Do we have a foot in the final? We need both feet in there, because standing on one foot you risk falling over.”

Scotland triumph

Steven Naismith was on target as Scotland marked Alex McLeish’s first competitive match since coming back for a second spell as manager by beating Albania 2-0 at a sodden Hampden on Monday.

The Hearts forward Naismith, 31, had an eventful night, forcing Berat Xhimshiti into scoring the own goal that put Scotland ahead just after half-time before he scored the second goal that clinched victory.

After losing five of their last six games -- all friendlies -- and scoring only once in that time, Scotland needed this as they begin their latest quest to qualify for a first major tournament since 1998.

This was their first game in the new UEFA Nations League, a competition which offers the carrot of a possible qualifying spot for Euro 2020.

After this result, they are level with Albania on three points in Group 1 of the third-tier League C.

“This was always the focus. People were talking about win ratios but I’m not worried about that. It’s about building a team and we’ve had the very hardest tests possible,” McLeish told Sky Sports.

“I’m really proud of the victory tonight because we were under pressure, everybody said we must win, and we did.” Back in the job after a previous spell in 2007, McLeish faces a huge challenge reviving his side’s fortunes, and persuading long-suffering supporters to attend games again.

Just as for Friday’s 4-0 thumping by Belgium, Hampden -- which will host four matches at Euro 2020 -- was sparsely populated for this game on a dreary Glasgow evening.

Naismith produced a remarkable miss midway through the first half when he headed against the post from just two yards out after Charlie Mulgrew had nodded down John McGinn’s free-kick.

The same player then had the ball in the net just before the interval, diverting Callum McGregor’s effort past Thomas Strakosha, but he was just offside and the flag came up.

Agence France-Pesse

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