It’s hard to see sometimes why Fernando Santos looks so hangdog. The Portugal coach prowled around the Hampden technical area, hands buried deep in pockets, wearing the scowl of a man with the weight of Brexit on his shoulders. He should try being Alex McLeish.
Against the champions of Europe Scotland’s sixth defeat in their last eight games was hardly unexpected. It was never quite the grim, cracks of the fingers spectacle of the 2-1 defeat to Israel on Thursday night and, if managers try to learn lessons from these friendlies, then McLeish learned a few things to take to Albania next month.
Four at the back works better than three. Andrew Robertson and Stephen O’Donnell look very slightly more comfortable operating as conventional full-backs. And Celtic’s James Forrest on the right flank in a 4-4-1-1 formation offers more balance than the shapeless dog’s dinner offered up in the second half of a woeful defeat in Haifa. Steven Naismith meanwhile is still the best best for a goal. However late, however futile.
Wolves winger Helder Costa (right) celebrates scoring the goal that put Portugal ahead
Costa reacted quickest in the Scotland penalty area to turn the ball beyond Craig Gordon
Eder (centre) celebrates putting Portugal two goals ahead against Scotland on Sunday
Alas, what we also learned was that Portugal’s second string is still too strong for something approaching to Scotland’s first.
The Euro 2016 winners arrived in Glasgow with a 100% record from a three-team Nations League Pool A group following impressive wins over Italy at home and Poland on Thursday night. Their 3-2 win in Chorzow was achieved minus Cristiano Ronaldo, left out of the squad by ‘mutual consent’ following allegations of sexual assault. And while a 5pm Sunday kick-off was never likely to have supporters queuing down the steps of a half empty Hampden, the absence of CR7 was like pouring a bucket of cold sick down the ticket office window.
A few wins and some signs of progress would make games like this a good deal more attractive. Yet this latest defeat – however predictable – leaves McLeish a manager under pressure to deliver goals and Nations League results in Albania and at home to the Israelis next month.
All of which makes the lugubrious demeanour of Santos even odder.
There was a fair hint of how the Portugal coach planned to treat this game in the fact Southampton right-back Cedric Soares and were Eder the only survivors of the European Championship triumph over France two years ago. Bernardo Silva and Andre Silva – the two Portuguese goalscorers in Poland were missing. Most of the big names where.
Eder got up well to direct his header into the far corner which Gordon was unable to stop
Bruma was able to add a third goal for Portugal as he glided through a poor Scotland defence
Bruma finished off a flowing Portuguese move that Scotland failed to track and deal with
This was, to all intents, the Portugal reserves. They still had more than enough to beat the home nation comfortably, the bagpiped strains of Flower of Scotland after 80 minutes playing a lament for yet another defeat.
Portugal took the lead two minutes before half-time with a goal of utter simplicity.
Left-back Kevin Rodrigues made ground as an overlapping left back, thumping Bruma’s pass firmly across the face of goal. Thumping the ground with his right palm Scotland captain Andrew Robertson knew he shouldn’t never have Helder Costa to get round his blind side and slide the ball into the net from close range. The moment that battle was lost so was the goal.
Struggling to land a punch on the visitors, striker Oli McBurnie is still waiting for his first Scotland goal after his fourth cap. Portugal’s Lokomotiv Moscow striker Eder showed him how it was done, thumping a superb header into the net from a Renato Sanchez header 16 minutes from time.
A superb run of pace and power from winger Bruma piled on Scotland’s misery six minutes from time, the Red Bulll Leipzig winger racing past Stephen O’Donnell as if he wasn’t there before thrashing a superb right foot striker into the top postage stamp corner for 3-0. For the briefest of moments his coach threatened to smile, contenting himself with a restrained whirl of a finger in the Glasgow air.
Portugal were so potent they could have scored at both ends.
It took a fine save from goalkeeper Beto to prevent Scotland grabbing the lead through a spectacular own goal in the 15th minute.A quick Stuart Armstrong free-quick sent James Forrest clear on the right side of the area, a low ball into a crowded area spinning up for Sergio Oliveira to send a header Oli McBurnie would have been chuffed with towards his own goal. The midfielder’s intention was to head over his own bar. Misjudging it by at least a foot, Beto showed sharp reflexes to push the ball over the bar.
Scotland striker Oli McBurnie reacts after a difficult first half against Portugal in Glasgow
Scotland head coach Alex McLeish delivers instructions to his players during the game
To suggest Scotland attempts on goal were a regular occurrence in a moribund would be pushing it.
Strong direct wing play from Forrest in 37 minutes breathed life into a flagging contest, the Celtic player skinning Rodrigues on the right flank before slinging in a fine cross. The ball falling slightly behind him Steven Naismith had to twist his body to direct a looping header past the far post of Beto. If nothing else it roused a sparse home crowd diminished by an awful performance and defeat in Israel on Thursday night.
Yet there can be no denying that, for Scotland, the scoreline here could easily have matched September’s embarassing 4-0 home defeat to Belgium
Third goalscorer Bruma had a wonderful chance to put the visitors ahead when Jack Hendry’s defensive header fell perfectly for the winger, a touch and low shot fizzing inches wide of Craig Gordon’s left hand post.
Eder was also denied by a fine Craig Gordon save four minutes before half-time. Turning with his back to goal the powerful back-up striker showed the qualities the Scots would kill for in a first choice when he thumped a right foot shot past Scott McKenna from 12 yards, Celtic’s goalkeeper reacting quickly to push the ball away.
As an attacking force Scotland were barely seen in the second half.
Scott McKenna peeled off his marker Luis Neto in 53 minutes and propelled himself at the ball. Had he hit the target the Aberdeen defender would have claimed his first international goal. The rueful look on his face as the ball skidded wide of the post said it all.
The game ran away from the Scots completely with Eder’s emphatic header followed swiftly by Bruma’s outstanding finish.
Steven Naismith’s injury time curling strike after a delightful backheel by substitute Gary Mackay Steven was a straw to clutch at. A measure of scant consolation on a night which left the home supporters unexpectedly glad Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make it after all.