Portugal eliminate Turkey to keep World Cup hopes alive
Portugal kept their dreams of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup alive by defeating Turkey in the play-off semi-final in Porto after the visitors missed a late penalty.
Otavio and Diogo Jota’s first-half goals placed the hosts in command at Estadio do Dragao, and they appeared to be cruising into the play-off final until Turkey replied.
With 25 minutes remaining, Burak Yilmaz side-footed into the bottom corner, setting up a tense conclusion, but then blasted over the crossbar from the penalty spot.
In stoppage time, Portugal’s Matheus Nunes added a third goal to put the game beyond Turkey.
Fernando Santos’ team, who were denied automatic qualification from the group by Serbia, will now face North Macedonia on Tuesday for a chance to qualify for the Qatar World Cup.
Portugal were undoubtedly expected to face Italy in their play-off final, but North Macedonia stunned the European champions with a stoppage-time winner from Aleksandar Trajkovski.
“These games are finals. Finals are always complicated,” said Portugal boss Santos. “We won the first one and now we have to win the second. That’s what we’re going to focus on.
“This game is over. Now we have to focus on North Macedonia, which will be a difficult game for sure. If they managed to beat Italy that means it’s going to be very difficult.”
In Porto, the final score indicated a comfortable victory for Portugal, which it would have been had the hosts capitalised on their early superiority.
Jota’s extended leg deflected Bruno Fernandes’ dipping free-kick from close range over the crossbar before Portugal opened the deadlock after 15 minutes.
Bernardo Silva’s low shot struck the post, and the ball went across the goalmouth into the path of Otavio, who squeezed in from an angle despite goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir’s best efforts.
Turkey soon began to play and created their own half-chances, with Kutlu hitting wide at the far post, before Portugal increased their lead.
Cristiano Ronaldo began the play with a brilliant flick, and the hosts worked it well to Otavio, who picked out Jota, who smashed a header into the net.
This appeared to put Portugal in command, but they were unable to expand their lead when Otavio headed wide in the second half, and Turkey rallied against the run of play.
Yilmaz was then provided with a golden opportunity after Jose Fonte caught Enes Unal in the box, a penalty awarded after the referee consulted the pitchside monitor.
Yilmaz, however, lent back and fired his shot over the crossbar, before Portugal completed their passage in added time when Nunes escaped the offside trap to finish cleanly.