Portugal got their European U21 Championships off to a winning start – but their victory against Serbia was far from comfortable.
Rui Jorge’s men took the lead in the 37th minute through Goncalo Guedes, and then killed the game off with three minutes remaining when captain Bruno Fernandes netted.
Gonçalo Guedes’ last two games for Portugal U21s:
⚽️ vs. Serbia 🇷🇸
⚽️⚽️ vs. Liechtenstein 🇱🇮
Getting in on the act. pic.twitter.com/5s5lPbJpXE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 17, 2017
The result was far better than the performance, with a disjointed Portugal often looking second best, but truth be told Portugal goalkeeper Bruno Varela did not have a difficult save to make all game.
Coach Rui Jorge made a strong statement with his team selection at the Bydgoszcz Stadium, showing faith in his squad and perhaps an eye on Spain by leaving Renato Sanches and Bruma on the bench.
Portugal had a great chance to take the lead early on. Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick was flicked on by Gonçalo Guedes to Rúben Neves at the back post but his volley rebounded off the post as Serbia cleared the danger.
Serbia had chances of their own soon after but were unable to capitalise. Edgar Ié’s sloppy give-away went unpunished before João Cancelo produced a crucial challenge to deny Marko Grujić a great opportunity.
Rúben Semedo then picked up a yellow card in a dangerous position for a sliding challenge on Aleksandar Čavrić. Benfica’s Andrija Živković stepped up but could only blast his free kick into the wall.
Cristiano watches Portugal U21 take on Serbia U21. They won 2-0. 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/1nnTV9Is1w
— SB (@Realmadridplace) June 17, 2017
Portugal were threatening down the right flank, mainly due to the excellent João Cancelo who was contributing well in attack and linking up with João Carvalho and Guedes. Clear-cut chances were proving hard to come by for both sides however, Diogo Jota and Guedes struggling to get on the ball in dangerous areas.
Serbia were looking dangerous with right-back Milan Gajić combining with Živković. Their best chance came midway through the first half as Živković sliced open the Portuguese defence with a through ball to Uroš Đurđević, the Partizan striker wasting the chance with a tame effort well wide. Bruno Varela then had to rush out of his area to clear the danger after Aleksandar Čavrić ran in behind the Portuguese defence, Serbia well on top with main instigator Živković looking particularly dangerous.
Portugal then had half a chance but Jota couldn’t steer Cancelo’s free kick towards goal, but the Seleção would soon take the lead. Jota produced a fine pass for Daniel Podence who drove to the by-line, his cross met by the hand of keeper Savić with the ball popping straight up to Guedes who headed in from close range.
Portugal gained confidence and started knocking the ball around well to close out the half, Guedes in particular looking assured with surging runs and silky skills.
Jorge brought on Bruma for Jota after the break as Serbia replaced striker Čavrić with Srđan Plavšić. Ruben Neves wasn’t about to let Guedes steal the show, a brilliant turn drawing a foul from Gaćinović which earned a yellow card.
With time running out Portugal eventually scored the crucial second goal. Renato Sanches had been quiet after his introduction, but in an instant he received the ball, summed up the situation and dinked the ball over the defence into the path of captain Bruno Fernandes, whose cool control and finish secured the victory.
— Bayern & Germany 📹 (@iMiaSanMia_vid) June 17, 2017
Portugal didn’t play their best football but opening the tournament with three points was absolutely crucial with Spain next up. Guedes showed his class, Ruben Neves controlled the game from his deep midfield position and João Cancelo was particularly effective at right back.