Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 16 News List

UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE: Portugal remain undefeated with draw

TEAM EFFORT:Even without captain Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Santos’ side managed to keep Poland at bay after Danilo Pereria was sent off in a controversial call

AFP, PARIS

Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik, left, jumps over Portugal’s Ruben Dias in their UEFA Nations League Group A3 match in Guimaraes, Portugal, on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Portugal on Tuesday finished off their successful UEFA Nations League group campaign with a 1-1 draw against Poland, while Sweden earned promotion to the top division.

Hosts Portugal had already qualified for the inaugural Nations League finals in June next year alongside England, the Netherlands and Switzerland, while Poland could not avoid relegation.

Fernando Santos’ side finished three points clear of Italy at the top of Group A3 after an unbeaten campaign, despite the absence of star forward and captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It’s always good to have Cristiano Ronaldo in the lineup, but we’ve proven that we have other quality players besides him,” centerback Pepe told TV channel RTP. “The spirit of these players has been very positive. Now we have to be humble and respect the other teams in the final four and show our qualities.”

Renato Sanches started brightly for Portugal and saw an early effort blocked, and the 21-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder created the opening goal as his 34th-minute corner was headed in at the near post by Andre Silva.

The European champions appeared to be in control, but the game changed when Danilo Pereira was harshly sent off and Poland were awarded a penalty.

The referee gave the Porto midfielder his marching orders after Arkadiusz Milik tumbled to the floor under his challenge, despite appearing to win the ball cleanly.

The SSC Napoli striker picked himself up to slot the ball past Beto in the Portugal goal and level for the visitors with one-quarter of the match still remaining.

Poland have struggled since a disappointing FIFA World Cup group-stage exit, failing to win in the Nations League, and they wasted late chances, with Piotr Zielinski being denied by Beto and Damian Kadzior firing wide as the 10 men held on.

“I thought the double red card and penalty call was harsh, from my point of view it didn’t exist,” Santos said. “The referee could whistle for a penalty and not give a red card. In spite of that, I’m proud of the players.”

Elsewhere, Sweden pipped Russia to promotion to League A, as a 2-0 victory over this year’s World Cup hosts in Stockholm saw Janne Andersson’s men finish top of Group B2.

Manchester United centerback Victor Lindelof smashed home a loose ball to put the hosts in front shortly before halftime and Marcus Berg wrapped up the win with 18 minutes to play by tapping in after Sebastian Larsson’s shot was saved by Russia goalkeeper Andrey Lunev.

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