Euro 2020 Qualifiers | Ukraine 2-1 Portugal: Three reasons why Portugal lost the match
Ukraine confirmed top spot in Group B of the Euro 2020 qualifiers and consequently booked their ticket to the tournament proper next year.
First-half goals from Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko put the hosts in the ascendancy at the break and even though they were reduced to ten men in the 70th minute with Ronaldo halving the deficit from the spot, they still held on for all three points.
The defeat leaves Portugal in a dicey situation, as they are just one point clear of Serbia in third-place with two rounds of matches and one qualification spot left.
Portugal entered the game as slight favorites owing to the superiority of their players, but Ukraine ultimately did enough to upset the pre-match analysis. Here, we shall be highlighting three reasons why Portugal fell to a defeat in Kyiv.
#3 Fernando Santos' questionable decisions
Fernando Santos deserves immense praise for his handling of the Portuguese national team ever since his appointment in September 2014.
Under the 65-year-old's management, Portugal have earned a reputation of being an astutely solid team and he masterminded their first triumph on the international scene at Euro 2016 and followed that up with another victory at the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League.
The former Greece manager has been known to be a pragmatic coach, however, in the game against Ukraine, he took some risks in his starting lineup that backfired spectacularly.
He elected to leave Joao Felix on the bench, starting Goncalo Guedes in his stead and the folly in this decision was exposed when the Valencia man was brought off at half-time having made just 32 touches of the ball.
Furthermore, Santos left out Bruno Fernandes who has been unplayable this season for Sporting Lisbon in the Primeira Liga.
In the absence of the pair, Portugal struggled for creativity in a first-half that was utterly dominated by Ukraine and although they were ultimately brought on, the damage had been done.
The difference between Portugal's lackadaisical first-half display and the second was evident, begging the question as to why Santos left out two of his most creative players from the start and while the risk might have paid off on another day, Ukraine's tactical solidity ensured that Portugal were made to pay for the questionable tactics of their manager.