The Portuguese hordes wanted Cristiano Ronaldo to light up the party at UEFA EURO 2016 and guide them past Austria towards the round of 16, but the evening did not work out that way. Instead the captain’s missed penalty 11 minutes from time meant Portugal still have it all to do in Group F.
On the night he picked up his record 128th cap, surpassing the great Luís Figo, the stage was set for Real Madrid’s talisman. Having been denied twice in the first half and again after the break, Ronaldo won a penalty after being felled by Martin Hinteregger inside the area.
Up he stepped but, with the previously excellent Robert Almer diving the wrong way, the No7 sent his penalty crashing against the post. To add insult to injury, Ronaldo had a header ruled out for offside soon afterwards.
How the Portuguese might have partied. They had said the Parc des Princes would be like a home from home, so huge is the diaspora in Paris. And they were not disappointed, for this was Lisbon by the Louvre; they could almost taste the nata cakes.
Portugal were fluid and inventive, with Ricardo Quaresma joining Ronaldo and Nani in a three-man forward line, the latter linking neatly with the excellent André Gomes.
Yet they were also profligate. Nani was thwarted by the agile goalkeeper Almer and later hit the post with a header; Ronaldo side-footed agonisingly wide and snatched at a later effort. Heads were held in hands.
Austria, out of sorts in Bordeaux, were missing Zlatko Junuzović through injury and had David Alaba in a slightly advanced role. The Bayern midfielder was well shackled but threatened a breakthrough shortly before half-time, only for Vieirinha to somehow head clear his thumping free-kick.
The pattern hardly changed thereafter, with Ronaldo twice stinging Almer’s hands as Portugal sensed victory. But Austria had other ideas, and the tension mounts in Group F.
Man of the match: João Moutinho (Portugal)
This was a commanding midfield performance by Moutinho, so full of energy and quality. The Portugal No8 pulled off 52 successful passes, with 21 coming in the final third – albeit to no avail.
Santos is a striker light
Portugal coach Fernando Santos had faced calls from the media to revert to a 4-3-3, rather than the 4-4-2 that had served him well throughout qualifying. The argument was that Quaresma would add variety and potency in a three-pronged attack. Portugal were certainly more fluid than they had been in their opening draw with Iceland, but they are still missing an out-and-out striker.
Hard act to follow
Attention has rightly been drawn to Austria’s lofty position of 10th in the FIFA world rankings, two places below Saturday’s opponents Portugal and three adrift of Brazil. In their opening defeat by Hungary, Marcel Koller’s team were below par but here they soaked up the Portuguese pressure and had some clout on the counterattack.