KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- European champions Portugal were staring defeat in the face in Munich after falling 4-2 down to reviving Germany inside an hour of a Group F tie which was by far the most outstanding individual match of the finals.
The Germans, smarting after their opening defeat to France, were much more impressive in the first half. Robin Gosens had a ‘goal’ disallowed after only six minutes because of an offside call against Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller had a long shot saved easily by keep Rui Patricio.
Yet it was Portugal who took the lead after 15 minutes with a classic counter-attack.
Cristiano Ronaldo helped clear a corner out of his penalty area then ran the length of the pitch so that, after a 50-yard dash by Bernardo Silva and cross from Diogo Jota, he was in place to score the 107th goal of his 177-cap international career.
The goal was also the first he had ever scored against Germany.
Germany were quick to respond. Joshua Kimmich changed the direction of play from right to left and the subsequent cross from Gosens was jabbed by Ruben Dias, under pressure from Kai Havertz, into his own net.
That was the 35th minute. Four minutes later and another own goal, this time by Raphael Guerreiro, put Germany ahead.
This time Germany switched play from left to right and it was Kimmich’s short cross which the defender put Rui Patricio.
The Portuguese goalkeeper made fine saves from Gosens Gnabry just before half-time but Germany’s effort was doubly rewarded in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
First Muller and Gosens set up a third goal for Havertz in the 51st minute then Gosens headed home a Kimmich cross three minutes later.
Gosens, the Atalanta left wingback, was immediately substituted to an ovation. The 26-year-old, son of a German father and Dutch mother, has never played professionally in Germany. He started in the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem, Dordrecht and Heracles Almelo before transferring to Italy’s Atalanta in 2017.
Portugal, in Gosens’s absence, pulled one back. Guerreiro’s free kick flew across the face of goal, Ronaldo hooked the ball back and Jota stabbed it into the net. Ronaldo thus equalled the record of Euro finals assists of six, set by the Czech Republic’s Karel Poborsky.
The Portuguese almost crept even closer in the 79th minute but a thunderous shot by substitute Renato Sanches struck a post before Germany almost increased their lead with a counter-attack led by Leon Goretzka who’s own effort clipped the top of the crossbar.
The final, simultaneous fixtures next Wednesday will see Portugal face France and Germany home to Hungary.
Not one of the Group of Death can be sure of progressing with ‘only’ three points.
More drama guaranteed!
Joachim Löw, Germany coach: “We have spoken about a few things over the past few days. We were still looking for balance after the France match and knew that we had to add a gear to create more chances. We fought brilliantly and showed great spirit. We had a lot of good attacks against really strong opponents.”
Thomas Müller, Germany forward: “We desperately needed these three points and we have our fate in our own hands again. But we shouldn’t lose focus, Hungary are very awkward to play against.”
Fernando Santos, Portugal coach: “We started well, with good organisation, looking to attack, getting some connections. We made good use of a counterattack move, which was one of an aspect we knew they would struggle with. Germany were better but we had a foothold in the game. We had a second chance on the break that could have resulted in a goal. It could have turned out differently.”
João Moutinho, Portugal midfielder: “It’s not the result we were after. At times we couldn’t fight the supremacy of Germany but we have to take the positives. Germany are a great team, with good players who play between the lines. We couldn’t release the pressure but we improved. We made it 4-2 and hit the post. But we have to keep working.”
Portugal: Rui Patrício – Nélson Semedo, Rúben Dias, Pepe, Guerreiro – Danilo, William Carvalho (Rafa Silva 58) – Diogo Jota (André Silva 83), Bruno Fernandes (Moutinho 64), Bernardo Silva (Renato Sanches 46) – Ronaldo.
Germany: Neuer – Ginter, Hummels (Can 63), Rüdiger – Kimmich, Gündoğan (Süle 73), Kroos, Gosens (Halstenberg 62) – Havertz (Goretzka 73), Müller – Gnabry (Sané 87).
Referee: Taylor (Eng).