Tom Bell brings you the low down as Portugal and Mexico produce a sleepy thriller with their opening matches at the 2017 Confederations Cup

What Happened:

European Champions Portugal drew (shock horror) their opening game of the Confederations cup 2-2 against Mexico despite leading twice, with Hector Moreno’s equaliser for the CONCACAF Champions coming in the 91st minute.

Mexico came out hotter than a Jalapeño as they dictated the opening 20 minutes with intense pressing and double striker setup that had the Portuguese defence a little confused, but they were unable to capitalise in any meaningful way. Portugal settled in the 21st minute after a rasping hit from Cristiano Ronaldo hit the crossbar with Pepe firing home the rebound. Unfortunately for the Iberians we saw our first use of the Video Assistant Referee as the goal was ruled out on review with Nani in an offside position

They did eventually take the lead however in the 35th minute as the otherwise slightly quiet Ronaldo played a lovely ball through to the well journeyed and often maligned Ricardo Quaresma who did the rest. Mexico would be level before half time though, as a dominant period could have seen them score two or three but it was Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez who buried a classic poachers header from a Carlos Vela cross after 42 minutes.

The second half lacked a lot of energy for the first half hour as Mexico dominated the ball but couldn’t break through a tough, if uninspiring, Portuguese side. With the help of subs Gelson and Andre Silva Portugal did eventually retake their lead with Cederic Soares’ deflect cross in the 86th minute. It was in vain however as Hector Moreno rose to meet Miguel Layun’s corner in the 91st to give Mexico a deserved share of the points.

While Cristiano Ronaldo’s mere presence is often to a huge contributor to Portuguese victories it was former Inter Milan man Ricardo Quaresma who was the most potent attacking option for the European Champions. His direct running, willingness to take on players and clever runs into spaces vacated by defenders paying attention to Ronaldo allowed him to grab himself a goal for his troubles.

On the Mexican side, Goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa once again showed the effects that a national team shirt has on him. Coming off La Liga relegation with Granada, having broken the record for goals conceded by a goalkeeper no less, Ochoa made several key saves including a an excellent show of reflexes to deny an Andre Silva header in the 84th minute.

Talking Points

Video referees are here so let’s get talking shall we? Portugal had a goal seemingly correctly ruled out in the 21st minute after Nani strayed into an offside position as Pepe fired home. This all seemed to go quickly, smoothly and was accepted by the players.

However, after Cederic Soares’ goal we sat around for over a minute while the VAR discussed a goal which was as legitimate as you could get lacking any hint of a problem.

What It Means

The two favourites in Group A get a point on the board but the result definitely means more for Mexico considering their positive style and the caliber of their opponents. Mexico were also able to demonstrate great mental character in coming from behind twice and that should bode well for them going forward.

Needs Work

Portugal’s game plan won them a European Championship so it’s hard to criticise but for how long can “sit deep and hit Cristiano Ronaldo on the break” really work? Mexico’s slight lack of cutting edge helped them get away with it on this occasion but other teams may not be so forgiving.

For Mexico, more has to be done with the possession that they get because they probably should have created more clear cut chances than they did. They didn’t make a whole lot of defensive errors but the ones they did were punished harshly by Portugal so eradicating them will also be of great importance.

What’s Next

Portugal will take on hosts Russia while Mexico will face New Zealand who they last faced, and hammered, in the playoffs for the 2014 World Cup. Both games take place on Thursday EST.

Goal of the Day

You can’t beat a stoppage time equaliser or winner can you? Mexico are always a danger at set pieces with quality ball deliverers in Andres Guardado and Miguel Layun looking to find the likes of Nestor Araujo, Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez and co. With scarce little time on the clock it was Layun’s corner which found the head of the centre half Moreno who directed the ball onto the inside of the back post and into the back of the net sending the home team and all El Tri fans into raptures.

Miss of the Day

No real glaring misses to speak of in this one but a special mention Chicharito who could’ve had a hattrick on the day. Just before his first half equaliser he headed a similar chance straight at Portuguese ‘keeper Raul Patricio before having the ball get stuck at his feet in a great position in the second half.

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