Cristiano Ronaldo misses out but Portugal open with win over Italy
Italy have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of Roberto Mancini’s five matches in charge.
Portugal, without talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, got their Nations League campaign under way with a 1-0 victory against Italy in their Group A3 clash at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz.
Portugal did not have to get out of second gear to take the points against a much-changed side fielded by Roberto Mancini.
After a dominant first-half display, the hosts finally made the breakthrough at the start of the second half when Andre Silva scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game in the 48th minute.
Italy began with a 1-1 home draw against Poland in their inaugural Nations League clash last week and Mancini made wholesale changes from that match, with only goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and midfielder Jorginho retaining their places in the team.
That lack of cohesion told, with Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal not being called upon to make a meaningful save.
Bernardo Silva wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring when he seized on a poor defensive pass after 15 minutes but delayed his attempt on his weaker foot and the chance was lost.
Portugal continued to look the most likely to score and went close with a couple of chances either side of the half-hour mark.
Donnarumma failed to claim a looping ball into the six-yard box and it broke to Bernardo Silva. He drilled a shot at goal but his effort was cleared off the line by Alessio Romagnoli.
Shortly afterwards, Mario Rui put a driven cross into the middle that deflected into the air off Bryan Cristante and struck the crossbar.
Domenico Criscito then survived a penalty appeal against him after 35 minutes when he appeared to block the run of Andre Silva.
Portugal eventually made their pressure tell three minutes into the second half. Bruma’s cross from the left found its way to Andre Silva, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled a shot past Donnarumma into the far corner of the net.
Only a superb one-handed save from Donnarumma prevented Bernardo Silva from quickly extending the lead.
Donnarumma was worked again midway through the second half, this time getting down low to palm away Pizzi’s strike before pouncing on the loose ball.
Italy created their best chance 12 minutes from time but Simone Zaza could not get his header on target.
Donnarumma kept his team in the match again in the 86th minute with a strong wrist to keep out substitute Renato Sanches’ low strike.