Euro 2024: Ronaldo kept silent but Conceicao stars in Portugal's scratchy 2-1 win over Czech Republic | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Euro 2024: Ronaldo kept silent but Conceicao stars in Portugal's scratchy 2-1 win over Czech Republic

By, Leipzig
Jun 19, 2024 03:13 AM IST

Portugal emerged victors in a stellar injury-time comeback as Czech Republic faced a heartbreaking 1-2 loss in their Euro 2024 opener.

Chances abounded for Portugal, but it was an unfortunate error from the Czech Republic that brought them back from the brink, and a clutch goal from Francesco Conceição in the injury time that sealed a memorable comeback in their tournament opener against Czech Republic. While Portugal were undoubtedly the more dominant side by a fair margin, one couldn't help but feel the Czechs were hard done by as the full-time whistle blew.

Portugal's Francisco Conceicao, left, celebrates his side's second goal during a Group F match between Portugal and Czech Republic(AP)
Portugal's Francisco Conceicao, left, celebrates his side's second goal during a Group F match between Portugal and Czech Republic(AP)

Roberto Martinez's sides are known for their attacking gameplay and Portugal, as expected, dominated most of the proceedings at the Red Bull Arena as they began their campaign on a rainy night in Leipzig. But despite the win, Portugal might rue their profligacy in attack, and it would certainly be something Martinez will be discussing with the team in days to come as Portugal look to count on the scratchy win on Tuesday.

To put Portugal's wastefulness in numbers, they had nine shots to Czech Republic's one at the end of the first 45 minutes, and had 11 passes inside the box to their opponent's none. The side also suffered partly due to Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva -- two of the side's most creative players -- drifting significantly forward for most of the first half, allowing the Czech players to intercept the passes in the midfield with relative ease.

Portugal largely relied on their left flank for most of the attacks throughout the game, with AC Milan's forward Rafael Leao, Joao Cancelo, and Vitinha pressing forward with brilliant exchanges throughout the first half. Cristiano Ronaldo, the side's talismanic striker leading the line, missed two clear chances that could have put his team ahead.

The rain began in the 11th minute, coinciding with a barrage of Portuguese attacks, but Czech goalkeeper Jindřich Staněk was immense, denying Portugal repeatedly.

Ronaldo’s best opportunity in the first half came in the 32nd minute. A clever run behind the Czech defense put him in a prime scoring position, but Staněk's superb save kept the game level. Diogo Dalot's follow-up shot went wide, maintaining the deadlock. Ronaldo had another chance just before halftime, but again, Staněk was equal to the task. Despite Portugal's dominance, the score remained 0-0 at the break 

An eventful second half

The Czech Republic emerged from halftime with renewed confidence in their defensive resilience, while Portugal looked to regroup. Early in the second half, Bruno Fernandes initiated a promising counter-attack, but his pass to Vitinha was too strong, wasting another opportunity.

Lukas Provod finally put the underdogs ahead from outside the penalty area, producing a scorching shot that rockets right into the goal of the tournament contender. However, an instant attacking change from Roberto Martinez worked for Portugal. Following the goal, Martinez first subbed off Leao for Diogo Jota, while Diogo Dalot made way for Rafael Leao.

A series of relentless attacks eventually forced a mistake, with Robin Hranac stumbling the ball into his own net after a superb cross from Bernardo Silva is mowed down by Nuno Mendes. Diogo Jota, then, puts Portugal ahead, but only for the goal to be ruled off-side to tremendous boos from the Portuguese fans. 

Martinez made three more substitutes for the final four minutes and two of them combined for the winner in the injury time, with Pedro Neto setting up Conceicao for a dream first goal of his international career.

The win for Portugal means the 2016 champions join fellow tournament favourites England, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands in winning their first match of the tournament. However, Portugal are second in the group, with Turkey enjoying the top spot thanks to a better goal difference.

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