Sparked by goals from Ricardo Carvalho and Fábio Coentrão, Portugal held off an uninspired Serbia side in a European Championship Qualifier match at Estádio da Luz, 2-1. The two defenders helped the Portuguese side to a third straight win after they fell to Albania at home in their qualifying opener, while Serbia could not take advantage of an amazing Nemanja Matic bicycle-kick goal.
The loss continues a terrible start to qualifying for Serbia, who have just one point. They drew their opener and were forced to surrender a victory over Albania after crowd disturbances and brawls caused a dangerous environment. Portugal have continued a strong run of play, winning a third straight and shooting their side back into the top spot in Group I of qualifiers.
The scoring was started early by defender Carvalho in the 10th minute. Carvalho sent a snap header cleanly past stunned Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic. Coentrão struck the beautiful ball to Carvalho from the right wing, finding the defender who was wide open from about six yards out. It was a solid combination play to move the score to 1-0. Carvalho later had to leave the match because of an injury, but he made his mark early on. The first half belonged entirely to Portugal, who controlled play for most of the match.
Serbia was briefly buoyed by a remarkable effort from one its stars. Matic leveled the score in the 61st minute with a beautiful bicycle kick off a corner kick play. The Chelsea defensive midfielder was open in the box and sent a stunning overhead strike past Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Radosav Petrovic hit a header off of a looping cross on a corner kick, re-directing the ball to Matic which set up the goal that evened the score at 1-1.
It wasn’t long before Portugal answered. Defender Coentrão hit a well-placed left-footed shot past Stojkovic ti put Portugal back up 2-1 in the 63rd minute. Coentrão one-timed a low, accurate ball from João Moutinho, who was streaking down the right side on an open dribble. The Serbian back line couldn’t track the ball that curled perfectly to Coentrão at the back post. The goal was a well-organized response that quickly took the wind out of Serbia’s sails following the beautiful goal from Matic.
Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t able to find the back of the net, but provided a solid perfomance. He was a constant threat to the Serbian defense and opened space with his typical darting dribbles.