It was a game of two distinctly different halves at the Stadion Polduj in Split as Portugal came from behind to beat Croatia in League A Group 3 of the UEFA Nations League. The reigning champions had little to celebrate about in the first half as it was a dismal display from the visitors. Portugal looked disjointed and out of sorts, and failed to put together any meaningful sequences of play and open up the rigid host side.
While the same could be said about Croatia bar the odd chance, they capitalised on Ruben Semedo's error after the centre-back gave the ball away within his penalty area and Mateo Kovacic scored after the rebound fell kindly for him.
Cristiano Ronaldo and co looked like a different side entirely in the second half, playing with more purpose and vigour. Matters were made a tad easier for Portugal after Croat midfielder Marko Rog picked up a second yellow card just six minutes into the second half, giving them a numerical advantage.
Ronaldo took the resulting free-kick with a venomous effort, and Dominik Livakovic's rebound gave Portugal a route back into the game.
Just eight minutes later, Diogo Jota latched onto a long ball in the Croatian penalty box and set up Joao Felix for his second goal of the tournament, although having inadvertently handled the ball before his assist.
Kovacic, who scored just one goal in 60 games for Croatia heading into this clash, scored his second goal in just over 60 minutes into the game with a stunning strike from the edge of the box to bring a ten-man Vatreni side back into the contest.
However, Kovacic's effort was in vain as Portugal stole three points after Livakovic's error in second-half injury time, which allowed Ruben Dias to find the back of the net once again with just two minutes to spare.
Portugal Player Ratings
Rui Patricio — 6/10
It would be harsh to blame the Wolves veteran for either of the goals conceded by Portugal, and there wasn't much else for him to do. Great reaction save to deny Kovacic's first attempt on target before the eventual goal.
Nelson Semedo — 7.5/10
A reliable attacking outlet for the Selecao down the right-hand side. Regularly darted into the final third and completed all five of his attempted dribbles. The Wolves wing-back won a staggering 16 duels in the game out of 17, the highest for any player on the pitch. Superb display.
Ruben Semedo — 6/10
Would have been rated far lower had he not made amends for his poor error in the first half which gifted Croatia the lead. Found Ruben Dias with a neat flick from a Livakovic save in the second-half for the equaliser. Was beaten too easily on several occasions and looked shaky on the ball. Not his best night.
Ruben Dias — 8.5/10
The Manchester City man was solid at the back and reliable with the ball, and most crucially, scored two of Portugal's three goals. Coolly slotted the ball past Livakovic to score first goal and showed predatory instincts in the dying embers of the game to score the winner for his side after the keeper spilt the ball from a lofted cross. Match-winner for Portugal.
Mario Rui — 6.5/10
In stark contrast to Semedo on the right flank, Mario Rui didn't have the best of nights on Portugal's left side. The Napoli full-back found himself in decent positions but often lacked quality in the final ball.
Bruno Fernandes — 6/10
Tried to make things happen with ambitious long balls and crosses, but often failed to find his teammates. A relatively ineffective night for the Manchester United talisman, who was replaced by Barcelona's Francisco Trincao at half-time.
Danilo Pereira — 6/10
The Paris Saint-Germain man has been a regular for Santos' men during the Nations League campaign, but it was a largely unsuccessful night for him against Croatia. Pereira failed to screen his defence from the base of midfield and provide a platform for his more creative counterparts.
Joao Moutinho — 7/10
The most productive of the midfield trio that began the game, Moutinho kept play ticking efficiently from the middle for the reigning champions. A neat display from the Wolves star, who helped his side out on both the offensive and defensive fronts and it was his lofted cross that eventually yielded the winner in second-half injury time.
Diogo Jota — 7/10
The in-form Liverpool forward was a constant threat for the hosts and was inventive the final third, attempting cheeky flicks and showing moments of great control. It is essential to note that Jota had an incredible stroke of luck as the referee, Michael Oliver, didn't spot him handling the ball seconds before he set up Portugal's second goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo — 6.5/10
Despite his side seeing a major chunk of possession, Ronaldo didn't have his most prolific night in front of goal. The Juventus superstar's most notable contribution was the vicious free-kick he struck which lead to the equaliser for Portugal. Booked in the second half for simulation.
Joao Felix — 7/10
Atletico Madrid's crown jewel began the season in superb fashion and continued his rich vein of form with a crucial goal for his country with a neat finish from close range. Came close to scoring with another half-decent opportunity and was a handful for the visitors' backline in the second-half after an ineffective first-half display.
Francisco Trincao (Bruno Fernandes, 45') — 7/10
The Barcelona wideman came on at half-time and added an extra attacking outlet on the right, and had a reasonably productive outing. The 20-year-old was neat on the ball and won seven of his nine duels in just 45 minutes. Came close to scoring with a strike towards Livakovic's near post, but dragged his shot just wide.
Joao Cancelo (Mario Rui, 71')— 6.5/10
No noteworthy contribution barring a superbly-weighted cross from the left-hand side to try and find Ronaldo in the box and a wayward strike at goal.
Bernardo Silva (Joao Felix, 71') — 5/10
Could have put the game to bed with a gilt-edged chance with the scoreline at 2-2, but smashed the ball into the ground, causing it to sail over the crossbar after the bounce. Poor effort.
Sergio Oliviera (Danilo Pereira, 77') — 6.5/10
Brought on for the last few minutes to freshen up the engine room for Portugal, no significant impact.
Paulinho (Diogo Jota, 77') — N/A
Barely got a touch of the ball in his short stay on the pitch.
Also read: FIFA World Rankings: Top 10 football nationsPublished 18 Nov 2020, 04:26 IST