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Nations League: Portugal hold Spain; Haaland fires Norway to win

June 03, 2022 09:31 IST
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Images from the Nations League matches played on Thursday.

IMAGE: Spain's players celebrate after Alvaro Morata scored the goal in the 25th minute during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 2 match against Portugal at Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville, Spain. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Portugal striker Ricardo Horta grabbed a late equaliser to earn his side a 1-1 draw with Spain in their Nations League opener at Estadio Benito Villamarin on Thursday.

Alvaro Morata had given Spain the lead but Horta's goal ensured the great rivals drew for the fourth time in a row. Portugal have not won a competitive game against Spain since 2004 and have never beaten them on Spanish soil.

 

"It tastes good because Spain is strong and we were playing away. It was a good result for Portugal," midfielder Bernardo Silva said.

"We already knew them very well, but it's tough to play against them."

Spain made a lively start in the League A Group Two match when midfielder Gavi had a chance from outside the box in the third minute but his effort was blocked.

Portugal defender Pepe did well to stop midfielder Carlos Soler who was through on goal after receiving a precise low pass.

Morata put Spain ahead from close range following a fine passing movement involving midfielders Gavi and Pablo Sarabia in the 25th minute.

"We didn't finish it off, but we played a good game," Morata said. "We'll see each other again. Soccer is like that, we have to look ahead."

The 29-year-old, hoping to play his first World Cup this year, is now three goals away from Raul's national squad record of 61 across all age categories.

"He's not a player with stratospheric numbers, but everything Morata gives us in attack and defence," Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

"It was a match similar to the previous ones. We could have won, but we could also have lost."

IMAGE: Ricardo Horta, right, celebrates scoring the equaliser for Portugal. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Portugal had opportunities to equalise through forward Rafael Leao and striker Andre Silva before halftime but both narrowly missed the target.

Fernando Santos' side were once more close to levelling just before the hour mark after Leao received a pass from Silva and defender Diego Llorente failed to block his strike, but goalkeeper Unai Simon stretched to deny him.

Morata, meanwhile, had another good chance which went just wide of left post in the 64th minute before he was substituted.

Substitute Horta equalised for Portugal eight minutes from time, leaving the Spanish defence behind as he latched on to a precise cross from defender Joao Cancelo inside the area and placed a shot into the middle of Simon's goal.

Fans of both sides were able to enjoy a lively game which had caused the Spanish national team's website to crash when tickets went on sale last week.

The last positive result in the fixture was Spain's victory on penalties at the 2012 European Championship and their last two friendly meetings finished goalless.

Both sides play three more Nations League games in the next 10 days. Spain travel to Switzerland between two matches against the Czech Republic while Portugal host the Czechs and face Switzerland twice.

Spain and Portugal will meet again on September 27, in their last group fixture.

Haaland fires Norway to Nations League win over Serbia

IMAGE: Erling Haaland, right, celebrates after giving Norway the lead against Serbia. Photograph: Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Striker Erling Haaland's superb first-half volley gave Norway a surprising 1-0 win away to Serbia as they got their Nations League Group B4 campaign underway on Thursday, but they needed goalkeeping heroics from Orjan Nyland to secure the win.

The visitors took the lead in the 26th minute as Martin Odegaard sliced open the defence with a beautiful pass to Marcus Pedersen who crossed for Haaland to deftly volley home from close range with the only shot on target in the first half.

Serbia dominated possession and put the Norwegian defence under tremendous pressure in the second half, but Nyland pulled off a string of fine saves to keep his clean sheet intact and secure the three points for his team.

Serbia host Slovenia on Sunday, while Norway take on Scandinavian rivals and group leaders Sweden in Stockholm.

Sweden down Slovenia

IMAGE: Sweden's players celebrate after Emil Forsberg scored the opening goal against Slovenia. Photograph: Borut Zivulovic/Reuters

Emil Forsberg's first-half penalty and a superb solo goal by Dejan Kulusevski got Sweden off to a winning start in their Nations League campaign as they beat Slovenia 2-0 in a feisty Group B4 clash in Ljubljana on Thursday.

Alexander Isak hit the post with an early header as Sweden started strongly, and they took the lead in the 39th minute when Forsberg calmly converted a spot-kick after Viktor Claesson was fouled.

Kulusevski almost doubled the Swedes' lead on the hour mark, cutting in from the right and unleashing a brilliant curling shot, but Jan Oblak made a superb one-handed save to push the ball away for a corner.

Kulusevski did better in the 88th minute, breaking away on a solo counter-attack and hammering the ball home from a tight angle to secure victory for Sweden ahead of their home game against Norway on Sunday. Slovenia next travel to Belgrade to play Serbia.

Kuchta leads Czechs to win over Switzerland

IMAGE: Czech Republic's players celebrate winning their match against Switzerland. Photograph: David W Cerny/Reuters

An early Jan Kuchta strike and a second-half own goal gave the Czech Republic a 2-1 win over Switzerland on Thursday in an entertaining Nations League group match in which both sides created plenty of chances.

Kuchta opened the scoring in the 11th minute when the forward took advantage of a defensive mistake following a long throw-in to tap in his first international goal.

Noah Okafor levelled for the visitors just before the break after he pounced on a loose ball inside the penalty area and slammed a shot from close range that cannoned off the underside of the crossbar into the corner of the net.

Both teams attacked throughout the match and the home side missed two golden opportunities after the interval when Adam Hlozek fluffed a shot with only the keeper to beat and Vladimír Coufal smashed a long-range shot against the post.

The Czech efforts paid off in the 58th minute when Jakub Jankto sent in a cross that deflected off Swiss midfielder Djibril Sow into the net.

Switzerland pressed forward for an equaliser and forced Czech keeper Tomas Vaclík into a number of point-blank saves to secure victory for the Czechs.

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