A first-half own goal from Maksim Medvedev proved the difference as Portugal beat Azerbaijan in their opening World Cup 20 Portugal required an own goal from Maksim Medvedev to help them to an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan in their opening World Cup 2022 qualifying fixture in Turin.
The reigning European and Nations League champions dominated possession against Group A’s bottom seeds on Wednesday but struggled to create many clear-cut chances. Azerbaijan skipper Medvedev put into his own net eight minutes before half-time following a mix-up with keeper Sahruddin Mahammadaliyev and that proved to be the only goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo fired a third successive blank for Portugal at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium, where the game was being staged due to coronavirus travel restrictions, but Fernando Santos’ men ultimately picked up the win.
Azerbaijan, the designated away side, had drawn their last four matches by the same 0-0 scoreline and kept Portugal’s attacking talents quiet for large swathes of the first half. Mahammadaliyev denied Ruben Neves and Joao Cancelo in quick succession, while Domingos Duarte fired wide from five yards after bringing down a chipped pass from Ronaldo.
But Portugal’s pressure told 37 minutes in when Mahammadaliyev raced off his line and punched a cross into Medvedev, the ball flying off the Azerbaijan skipper and trickling into the net.
Despite the introduction of Bruno Fernandes from the bench at half-time, the Selecao continued to toil in the final third against a side ranked 108th in the FIFA rankings. Ronaldo was kept out by Mahammadaliyev on the volley and Bernardo Silva also tested the Azerbaijan keeper, but Portugal could not add a killer second goal.
That nearly proved costly 19 minutes from time as Anatolii Nuriev blazed over with plenty of the goal to aim for after stand-in keeper Anthony Lopes failed to deal with a ball into the box.22 qualifier.