Portugal pours more misery on Italy

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Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio (L) and defender Ruben Neves celebrate their win at the end of the UEFA Nations League match against Italy at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon Monday. — AFP

LISBON — Portugal rested Cristiano Ronaldo and still overcame new-look Italy 1-0 in its opening Nations League match Monday, giving visiting coach Roberto Mancini plenty to think about.

Forward Andre Silva scored three minutes after halftime in the League A Group 3 game to give the Portuguese their first win over Italy in a competitive match since 1957.

Mancini, in only his second competitive match in charge, made nine changes to the team which started Friday’s 1-1 draw at home to Poland but his side was on the back foot for most of the match and struggled to create any real danger.

Italy forward Mario Balotelli, widely criticized after his performance against the Poles, did not even make the substitutes bench and watched the match from the stands.

Italy, which missed out on this year’s World Cup for the first time in 60 years, is without a win in four competitive matches.

“The players gave all they could, but to win you need to score goals so we must find a remedy,” said Mancini. “We made mistakes, and we must try to limit them.”

“I didn’t enjoy the defeat, but I did like the team’s desire to keep trying right until the end, even if they were at risk of conceding a second goal.”

Portugal, which agreed to give its record scorer Ronaldo time to adapt following his move to Juventus from Real Madrid, leads the group with three points, ahead of Poland and Italy on one each.

The European champion dominated the first half against the Italians but failed to make the most of their chances.

The deadlock was finally broken after halftime.

Bruma, wearing the No. 7 shirt which usually belongs to Ronaldo, dispossessed Italian debutant Manuel Lazzari, burst into the area and found Silva who curled a shot past Donnarumma from 12 meters.

In Pristina, Kosovo clinched its first-ever win in a competitive international by beating the Faroe Islands 2-0.

Two goals in a six-minute spell after halftime by Arber Zeneli and Atdhe Nuhiu earned Kosovo the points in the League D Group 3 match, which was also the first time they had staged a competitive game in Kosovo itself.

Dutch-based Zeneli curled a superb shot into the bottom corner in the 50th minute and Nuhiu, who plays for English second tier side Sheffield Wednesday, doubled their advantage with a deflected effort to spark jubilant scenes at a packed Fadil Vokrr stadium.

In Stockholm, Turkey’s substitute Emre Akbaba got two late goals to snatch a stunning 3-2 win over Sweden as the visitors recovered from two goals down at the Friends Arena.

The midfielder first rifled home Cenk Tosun’s pass to level the score two minutes from time and then sent a glancing header past home goalkeeper Robin Olsen, sealing the comeback win to the delight of the thousands of Turkish fans in the crowd.

Turkey, which suffered a 2-1 home defeat by Russia in its opening League B Group 2 game, started well and had lots of possession but the final ball into the box often lacked quality.

Sweden took the lead when Isaac Kiese-Thelin scored 10 minutes before the break, flicking Viktor Claesson’s cushioned header against the post before slotting home the rebound.

Claesson got on the scoresheet himself four minutes into the second half, drifting in from the left before releasing a rocket of a shot from distance that flew into the net.

Hakan Calhanoglu quickly threw Turkey a lifeline, pulling a goal back two minutes later with a deflected shot that wrong-footed home keeper Olsen.

The Swedes, whose defensive organization helped them reach the quarterfinals at this year’s World Cup in Russia where they were defeated by England, had several chances to increase their lead, but Akbaba had the final say to secure the points.

In Glasgow, Steven Naismith was on target as Scotland marked Alex McLeish’s first competitive match since coming back for a second spell as manager by beating Albania 2-0 at a sodden Hampden. — Reuters


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