Portugal overcame Serbia 2-1 in their final Group I Euro 2016 qualifier in Belgrade on Sunday. In what turned to be a hot headed encounter between the two nations, Group leaders Portugal came out triumphant with goals from former Manchester United winger Nani and Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho. The impressive Zoran Tosic, who plays for CSKA Moscow, pulled one back for the Serbs in the second half to cancel out Nani’s opener.
Portugal came into the match having already been guaranteed top spot in the group and had sealed their place at the Euro Finals in France next year. Serbia, on the other hand, had no chance of making it even into the playoffs courtesy of their poor performances throughout the qualifiers and was pretty much a matter of playing for pride.
The 2004 Euro finalists were without their captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo who was rested by manager Fernando Santos for this tie.
The Portuguese started the match in great fashion when Sporting Lisbon winger Nani finished high into the net after Serb stopper Stojkovic had parried Danny’s initial effort into the path of the former as early as the 5th minute. But this failed to deter the Serbians as they created a host of chances and constantly threatened the Portuguese defense. The Serbians had two goals disallowed for a close offside call and a contentious handball incident.
Serbia deservedly equalized in the 65th minute through man of the match Zoran Tosic who converted an Alexander Kolarov cross into the top corner. But Portugal regained the lead on 78 minutes through substitute Joao Moutinho against the run of play. The midfielder curled a great shot into the top corner beyond the reach of Stojkovic. It all went downhill for the Serbs from there as Kolarov and Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic received their marching orders in the space of 3 minutes to reduce Serbia to nine men.
Portugal held on to win their seventh game out of eight qualifiers to finish top of the group with 21 points.Published 12 Oct 2015, 13:30 IST