Spain 1-1 Portugal: Selecao grab late leveller in glimpse of life without Cristiano Ronaldo

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Portugal snatched a late draw away to Spain to kick off their Nations League campaign in a glimpse of life without Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Manchester United striker was benched and spent the first hour looking on from the sidelines after suffering from a hip issue, while his international teammates wasted a number of good openings.

A game too-often butchered by cynical fouls struggled to spark into life after Diogo Costa’s flap at an early Spanish corner. Rafael Leao shot over from Portugal’s first promising position before the hosts produced the opener on the counter.

Barcelona youngster Gavi stood out all night and led the way after Otavio’s air-kick and Bruno Fernandes’ missed tackle. A sly through ball into Ferran Torres created space for Alvaro Morata, who positioned himself perfectly to sweep home the lay-off after 25 minutes.

Carlos Soler missed a magnificent chance to make it two seconds later after another Gavi pass, this time forcing Costa to parry his shot before the Valencia man somehow placed his rebound over the bar.

Leao and Andre Silva, starting up front for Ronaldo, carried some threat with Silva firing off-target after a lovely ball into the box from Otavio, which brought Unai Simon off his line and yet only reaped a dragged shot that went wide.

A more confident Portuguese side came out in the second-half and Silva teed up Leao for a huge chance on the hour, the AC Milan striker producing a magnificent first touch before a wayward second allowed Simon to smother his shot. Off camera, Ronaldo was stripped and ready to come on.

Instead, it was Spain who looked more likely to grab the second with a more direct approach leading to snapshots from Morata and Jordi Alba in behind.

Portugal managed to level with ten minutes remaining after a bombastic run by Joao Cancelo caught the hosts’ defence napping, and Ricardo Horta was unmarked in the middle to roll home his first international goal - in the Braga midfielder’s first cap since his debut in 2014.

A to-and-fro end to the game saw Alba head a glorious chance wide after Costa palmed a cross straight at the veteran defender before the scores ended level for a fifth consecutive game between the Iberian neighbours.

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