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Where would Portugal be without Ronaldo?

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Ronaldo was on the bench for Portugal for the first time in 13 years. AFP

Where would Portugal be without Ronaldo?

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 1 +10k

Portugal claimed all three points in Andorra, after a game that was tougher than the scoreline would suggest, to keep alive their hopes of leading their qualifying group.

In order to fight for the top spot in Group B in the final clash with Switzerland on Tuesday, Portugal were compelled to win at the Estadi Nacional d'Andorra, something which initially appeared uncomplicated given the 6-0 result in the reverse fixture.

The side managed by Fernando Santos took a hold of the ball immediately, Andorra accepting their submissive role. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, who started on the bench with Santos unwilling to risk a booking to keep his star from making the game against the Swiss side, Portugal pinned their hosts inside their own half, but clear-cut chances were scarce throughout the entire first period.

Quaresma headed wide and Andre Silva volleyed over the bar before the crestfallen Portuguese returned to the dressing room with the scoreline unaltered.

Despite struggling with a niggle midweek and the looming danger of suspension in Portugal's vital clash, Cristiano Ronaldo came on for his side carrying the captain's armband after the break. Gibraltar continued to defend tooth and nail and the visitors grew more frustrated as the minutes went by.

It took Portugal over an hour to find the back of the net and it was none other than Ronaldo who latched onto Joao Mario's cross, which was helpfully deflected into his path, and the Real Madrid man poked the ball past Gomes and into the bottom corner.

The European champions breathed a huge sigh of relief having finally broken the deadlock and the home side turned to some underhanded tactics. Well aware of the striker's impulsive nature, Ronaldo was specifically targeted with mistimed tackles that angered the Portuguese players.

Andre Silva scored the second five minutes from the final whistle after Carvalho headed a Ronaldo cross back for the AC Milan man to tap in from close range. 

Portugal clinched an indispensable win to go into the Tuesday's Switzerland clash three points away from topping the group and depending on themselves to do so. It was an unconvincing display in the Principality which brought to light their troubles in coping without Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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