Portugal needed to win by three clear goals to have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals, but Macedonia were resilient
PORTUGAL are out of the European U21 Championships despite a 4-2 victory against Macedonia tonight.
Rui Jorge’s side needed to win by three clear goals to have a chance of qualifying as best runner-up from the group stages, but they found Macedonia in their most resolute form tonight.
Goals from Edgar Ie, Bruma (two) and Daniel Podence proved pointless as Macedonia’s double sent Portugal home.
And Rui Jorge was left even more downtrodden in injury time when he saw Diogo Jota shown a straight red for what was nothing more than a tangle of feet.
Portugal got off to a dream start against the minnows Macedonia taking the lead after just two minutes.
Iuri Medeiros floated in a corner and rangy defender Edgar Ie powerfully thundered the header past Damjan Siskovski in the Macedonia goal.
But five minutes later, Macedonia almost shocked Portugal when Marjen Radeski flashed a shot just wide.
And in the 22nd minute, Portugal went 2-0 up, and it was one of the stars of the tournament so far Bruma who netted it.
Substitute Kevin Rodrigues played the ball into the RB Leipzig winger, and he burst inside before firing in a superb 20-yarder that flew into the goal.
It was his second in two games after his stunning 25-yard volley in their last group game against Spain.
But Rui Jorge’s troops were stunned in the 39th minute after a bit of genius from Macedonia’s Enis Bardhi.
The tricky winger picked the ball up some 20 yards out and fizzed an effort that flew straight past the despairing dive of Portugal keeper Bruno Varela.
Taking a slender lead into the break, Portugal knew they would have to come out and crack more goals to progress out of the group stages.
And in the 57th minute they re-instated their two-goal lead through Daniel Podence.
Medeiros played a beautifully disguised ball through and the striker made no mistake to slam the ball home.
But Portuguese hopes of progression into the semi-finals were dealt a severe blow in the 79th minutes.
Macedonia executed the most perfect of counter-attacks as Portugal looked for a fourth that would likely seal group progression.
The two substitutes Elif Elmas and Kire Markoski combined for the latter to curl the ball past Varela for 3-2.
The drama was far from over, however.
In the 91st minute Bruma bagged his second of the game, ending what had been a disappointing second half showing from him when his country needed him most.
Then the referee decided to take centre stage by showing a straight red card to Portugal substitute Diogo Jota for what appeared to be nothing more than a tangle of feet, and with it went Portugal’s chance.
Group B – Results
June 17 – Portugal 2 Serbia 0
June 17 – Spain 5 Macedonia 0
June 20 – Serbia 2 Macedonia 2
June 20 – Portugal 1 Spain 3
June 23 – Serbia 0 Spain 1
June 23 – Macedonia 2 Portugal 4