Posts Tagged ‘Luis Neto’

Pepeenfada

Pepe, Real Madrid

Portugal’s stalwart at the centre of defence. This will be the fourth major tournament for Brazilian-born Pepe. A serious knee injury forced him to miss the first two matches of the last World Cup in South Africa. He returned to action ironically in a group stage match against Brazil which ended in a scoreless draw.

After a mediocre season last year, the 31-year-old bounced back with one of his best in 2013-14. He has been stellar for Portugal in big occasions, having been named to the Team of the Tournament for Euro 2008 and most recently, Euro 2012. He will line up along side Bruno Alves in Brazil.

This Season: Pepe was once again at the heart of Real Madrid’s success. He played in 30 La Liga matches this season, scoring four goals. The Portuguese international helped Real Madrid win La Décima this season as well, although he would miss the final due to injury.

Fun Fact: Pepe is a practicing Roman Catholic. He traveled to the shrine town of Fátima after Portugal’s semi-final defeat against Spain to ‘Give thanks to Our Lady.’

Bruno Alves, Fenerbahçe

A strong, tactically astute central defender, who is also very good in the air. Bruno Alves received his first international call-up in 2007 when he was with FC Porto. He currently has 70 caps for Portugal which places him third all-time among defenders behind only Ricardo Carvalho (75) and Fernando Couto (110).

The 32-year-old previously won four Primeira Liga titles with FC Porto before leaving for Zenit St. Petersburg in 2010. He was named the Primeira Liga’s Player of the Year in 2009. Alves spent this past season with Turkish club Fenerbahçe, alongside fellow Portuguese international Raul Meireles.

This Season: In his first season in Turkey, Bruno Alves played in 25 League matches for Fenerbahçe. The club was disqualified from European competition because of involvement in a match-fixing scandal. But the İstanbul-based club won the Turkish League title, finishing nine points ahead of rivals Galatasaray.

Fun Fact: Alves comes from a very proud football family. His father Washington, was a Brazilian footballer who played professionally in Portugal, mainly with Varzim Sport Clube. His older brother Geraldo has had a long, successful career and played this past season in Romania. Younger brother Júlio Alves is currently with Rio Ave.

Ricardo Costa, Valencia

Despite not always being first-choice at club level, Ricardo Costa has been consistently chosen to represent Portugal. Although his contribution has largely been limited to late-match substitute. The 33-year-old is currently sitting on 16 caps.

Costa began playing football with Boavista before signing with city rivals FC Porto in 1999. He would never receive regular first-team football at the club. He would leave to join VfL Wolfsburg in 2007. Costa would help them win the Bundesliga in 2008-09, before joining Valencia in 2010. He served as team captain this past season for the La Liga club.

This Season: Ricardo Costa battled through some injuries this season, but still managed to play 20 League matches for the club. Valencia had a very disappointing season for their standards. They finished eighth in the League table and will not play in Europe next season.

Fun Fact: Ricardo Costa will be one of only two Portuguese internationals to represent his country in three World Cups. This other is Cristiano Ronaldo.

Luís Neto, Zenit Saint Petersburg

The 26-year-old was selected to play in his first major tournament for Portugal. He received his first international call-up in October 2012 and currently has six caps. Luis Neto has been a very reliable defender in his short career with the Seleção.

Neto played for his hometown club Varzim before leaving to join Madeira-based Nacional in 2011. After a short stint with Serie A club Siena, Neto moved on to Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.

This Season: Luis Neto had a rather poor first half of the season. However, after the arrival of André Villas-Boas as manager in March his fortunes began to improve as did the club’s results. He played in 25 League matches, which included 22 starts for the club. Zenit would finish second in the Russian Premier League, only one point behind CSKA Moscow.

Fun Fact: Luis Neto was named to Portugal’s under-21 squad for the 2009 Lusophony Games, winning a silver medal.

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Pepe Will Lead Portugal's Defence  Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Roger Gorączniak

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Roger Gorączniak

Over the next few weeks Futebol Factory will be analyzing Portugal at each position. At centre back, Portugal boasts a very experienced group of players.

Pepe and Bruno Alves have carried the load for the Selecção for the last few years and are widely expected to do the same in Brazil.

Paulo Bento will bring four centre backs to the World Cup. Luis Neto and Ricardo Costa appear to be front-runners to grab the two back-up positions, but with more than half the season to go there is plenty of time for others to mount a challenge.

Tickets Booked: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Pepe (Real Madrid), Luis Neto (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Ricardo Costa (Valencia)

On The Bubble: Daniel Carriço (Sevilla FC), José Fonte (Southampton), Henrique Sereno (Kayserispor), Miguel Vítor (PAOK), Rolando (Inter Milan), Tiago Ilori (Liverpool)

Brazilian-born Pepe will lead the Portuguese back line in Brazil. The 30-year old missed the beginning of the last World Cup with a serious knee injury. One of Portugal’s best performers at Euro 2012, he famously traveled to the shrine-town of Fátima after the tournament to pray. After a poor 2012-12 season, he has been in good form so far this year.

Pepe will likely be partnered with Bruno Alves, who also has Brazilian heritage on his father’s side. The 31-year old is a tough tackler, a free-kick specialist, and is dominate in the air. He is currently playing with Fenerbahçe in Turkey with fellow Portuguese international Raul Meireles.

Manager Paulo Bento has been very consistent with his selections at centre-back. Valencia captain Ricardo Costa and Zenit’s Luis Neto have both performed admirably when called upon.

But that does not rule out the possibility of another player being selected for the squad. Injuries and a decline in form could open the door for someone else.

Rolando, who is on loan at Inter Milan from FC Porto, has received caps during Bento’s time as Portuguese manager. So has Kayserispor’s Henrique Sereno.

After that there are some intriguing players that could play themselves onto the squad. Southampton’s José Fonte has been in excellent form this season for the club and some feel that Bento has unfairly overlooked him.

Former Benfica player Miguel Vítor has also impressed with Greek club PAOK this season. Former Sporting Captain Daniel Carriço is finally healthy and if he manages to put together some consistent performances with Sevilla, Bento could be tempted to select him.

Liverpool youngster Tiago Ilori remains a possibility, but he would need to start playing regular football before he could be considered.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Need To Improve Before The World Cup

The Goalkeepers: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

FEATURE: 7 Young Players That Could Help The Seleção Reach World Cup 2014

FEATURE: 5 Players That Could Help Portugal Beat Sweden And Reach Brazil 2014

TRANSFER WINDOW: Portuguese Defender Bruno Alves Officially Joins Fenerbahçe

PLAYER PROFILE: Former Benfica Defender Miguel Vitor Loving Life In Greece

TRANSFER WINDOW: Former Sporting Idol Daniel Carriço Moves To Sevilla On Loan

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Central Defender Tiago Ilori

TRANSFER WINDOW: Portuguese Defender Rolando Loaned To Inter Milan

nufcfans_newcastle_linked_with_eder_braga

The Seleção will need to be at their best in order to beat Sweden and qualify for Brazil.

Paulo Bento’s club has not been in top form during this qualifying stage, finishing second in their group behind Russia. It no longer looks like the same squad that came within inches of dethroning Spain at last year’s European Championship.

Manager Bento has been widely criticized for what people say has been an overly ‘conservative’ approach, relying too much on the same players to win. Certain players have aged and seen their quality decline. At the same time, Portugal has looked disinterested and lacking in creativity, particularly in midfield.

Bento has shown in the past that he knows how to tinker with his line-up, dropping Eduardo and Ricardo Carvalho during Euro 2012 qualifying for example. He would need to do the same if Portugal is to qualify and do well in Brazil.

Futebol Factory has comprised a list of 5 current Seleção players that could have a meaningful impact in the crucial World Cup play-off against Sweden.

André Almeida, SL Benfica, Right-Back

The 23-year old filled in at right-back for the injured João Pereira in Portugal’s final two qualifying matches and performed very well. If Pereira’s hamstring injury persists, Bento could easily turn to Almeida again.

Almeida has shown already with club and country that he is a solid player defensively although the offensive side of his game leaves something to be desired. He could also play at left-back and even in defensive midfield if called upon. Almeida is a very reliable player and barring a lack of playing time at Benfica, he has a bright future with the Seleção .

Luis Neto, FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, Centre Back

The 25-year old Neto has received five caps with Portugal already, which includes four starts. With Pepe and Bruno Alves both over 30, Neto appears to be the likely candidate to help lead Portugal’s back line. He has filled in nicely when called upon so far.

Neto, who is currently playing in Russia with Zenit, drew interest from Tottenham and Inter Milan this summer. Bruno Alves has been a workhorse for Portugal in the past but it appears likely that Neto will soon replace him as first-choice.

Josué, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

In his time as Portugal manager, Paulo Bento has relied on a three-man midfield for creativity. In recent matches, it has struggled to break down opposing defenses even against weaker teams like Northern Ireland, Israel and Luxembourg. Enter, FC Porto playmaker Josué Pesqueira, a Deco look-a-like who even wears the same number 20 for Portugal.

Josué played in Portugal’s lacklustre 3-0 win against Luxembourg to finish World Cup qualifying. After a quiet first-half he demonstrated more of his skill as the match went on. Alongside Monaco’s Joao Moutinho, Josué could help the midfield link up better with the wingers, i.e. Ronaldo and Nani.

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

Another candidate to solve Portugal’s midfield deficiencies. The 23-year old Martins has been in good form this year for a resurgent Sporting Lisbon and has been selected by Bento since the end of last season.

Portugal’s offence has long relied on the flanks to create scoring opportunities. This is the same type of system that Sporting Lisbon is currently using under manager Leonardo Jardim. Martins has the vision to be an excellent player one day and could make a serious challenge for Raul Meireles’ position in the starting XI.

Éder, Sporting Braga, Striker

The Sporting Braga forward is still working on his fitness after returning from a 6-month layoff due to a knee injury. The 25-year old has received 6 caps with Portugal, including one start but is yet to score. Since the retirement of former PSG striker Pauleta, Portugal has been in search of a world class striker.

Hélder Postiga has done well in the role but the Valencia striker’s overall game is lacking. Nelson Oliveira has potential but he still has a lot to learn. That leaves Éder as the great hope of Portuguese football. He could create goals, as well as score them. Good in the air and lightning quick, everything is falling into place for Éder right now.

Related Posts:

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

SCOUTING REPORT: Paços de Ferreira’s Playmaker Josué

SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

PORTUGAL: Paulo Bento Names Squad For Final World Cup Qualifying Matches Against Israel And Luxembourg

FEATURE: 7 Young Players That Could Help The Seleção Reach World Cup 2014

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Paulo Bento’s Portugal squad went into Wednesday’s friendly against Holland with a renewed sense of optimistic after an important win against Russia in World Cup qualifying in June.

The squad was missing some familiar faces with Nani, Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles all withdrawing due to injuries. Manager Paulo Bento fielded a makeshift midfield that included Miguel Veloso, Ruben Amorim and Ruben Micael.

Luis Neto started in place of Bruno Alves who would come into the match as a late substitute. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Danny started on the wing, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and striker Helder Postiga. Beto also started in goal instead of Rui Patricio.

The match began brightly for the Oranje, with Louis van Gaal’s squad getting the better opportunities in the opening minutes.

In the 17th minute, Dynamo Kyiv winger Jeremain Lens would find AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman just outside the box. Strootman delivered a world-class strike which beat Beto.

Portugal would counter with a few opportunities of their own. Ruben Micael had the best opportunity before the half striking a good opportunity inside the box just wide of the goal.

Olympiakos midfielder Paulo Machado would replace Ruben Micael at half-time. The change gave the Seleção a determination not seen in the first-half. The squad dominated in terms of possession and chances in the second half.

They were finally rewarded for their hard work in the 87th minute when Pepe deflected a Miguel Veloso corner kick in front of goal. Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a clinical finish, giving Portugal a well-deserved draw.

The match was not the best news that Portuguese fans received on Wednesday. Northern Ireland beat Russia 1-0 in a group F World Cup qualifying match. The result means that Portugal remains in first place with three matches left.

The Seleção will face Northern Ireland in Belfast on September 6th.

Video:

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Tying Goal Against Holland

Related Posts:

MATCH PREVIEW: Portugal Will Rekindle Rivalry With The Netherlands In International Friendly

MATCH REVIEW: Portugal Earn Crucial Victory Over Russia In World Cup Qualifying

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

An early goal by Hélder Postiga gave Portugal an important 1-0 win over Russia at the Estádio da Luz on Friday. The win means that the Seleção temporarily move into first place in Group F ahead of Russia. Although, Fabio Capello’s Russian side have played two fewer matches at this point.

Manager Paulo Bento fielded a squad that was missing Real Madrid defender Pepe who was suspended for the match. Zenit St.Petersburg’s Luis Neto lined up alongside Bruno Alves at the centre of defense and was very impressive. Also, Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha was a surprise starter in place of Nani.

After several mediocre displays in recent matches, Portugal began the match playing with great purpose and never really took their foot off the pedal. In the 8th minute of play, Cristiano Ronaldo made a dangerous run and was brought down about 35 yards away from goal earning a free kick.

Miguel Veloso delivered a dangerous ball into the box which Hélder Postiga deflected into the net. It was the start that Paulo Bento and the legion of Portuguese fans were desperately looking for. The Seleção did not ease the pressure creating several good scoring chances before the end of the half.

Fabio Capello’s Russia side looked noticeably disjointed, struggling to maintain possession and rarely troubling Rui Patricio throughout most of the match. Cristiano Ronaldo had the best opportunities for Portugal but was unable to score despite some good shots on goal. João Moutinho was behind most of Portugal’s threats.

Portugal manager Paulo Bento spoke about the squad’s performance to journalists after the match.

“We played a very balanced game and maintained a good amount of pressure over our opponents. We started the match well, and had our moments of quality which resulted in us gaining an advantage. We did have problems clearing the ball out of dangerous areas on occasion but we were able to play an intelligent game and reached our objective by winning,” Bento told media.

“The motivation you get by representing the Seleção should be enough. We had a terrific attitude throughout the 90 minutes and a good mentality in comparison to the match against Israel. It is important to continue to work hard because we have not achieved anything.”

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MATCH REVIEW: Portugal Rebound With A Deserving Win Against Azerbaijan

PORTUGAL: André Martins In Seleção Squad Ahead Of World Cup Qualifier Against Russia

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Catherine Kõrtsmik

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Catherine Kõrtsmik

Paulo Bento’s Portugal side is facing another tough road to qualification. Bento has been criticized by many in the Portuguese media by relying too heavily on the same starting XI that came within inches of eliminating Spain in last summer’s European Championships.

With certain Seleção players ageing and losing effectiveness, the road to World Cup has proven to be more difficult than many people predicted. Therefore, I have compiled a list of young Portuguese players that could help the Seleção qualify for Brazil 2014.

Luis Neto, Zenit St.Petersburg, Central Defender

With Bruno Alves and Pepe both on the wrong side of 30, Bento is surely looking for alternatives to Portugal’s ageing central defense. 24-year-old Luis Neto has enjoyed a quick rise to stardom this season and could help solve Portugal’s defensive problems.

Neto impressed with Varzim and Nacional before signing with Serie A club at the beginning of this campaign. With Siena facing relegation, Neto was sold to Zenit in Russia for an undisclosed fee. He played in Portugal’s recent friendly against Ecuador, alongside Zenit teammate Bruno Alves.

Cédric Soares, Sporting Lisbon, Right-Back

Talented, offensively-gifted full-back who has been in excellent form recently for Sporting Lisbon. The 21-year-old has been a regular on Portugal’s junior squads and many people see him as a future option at right-back.

Portugal’s current right-back João Pereira has been under fire recently, and perhaps Bento is ready to look at other options. Cédric would certainly provide the Seleção with an offensive threat down the right side, thought he has to work on his defensive game.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany

André Almeida, Benfica, Right Back and Defensive Midfielder

Technically gifted and reliable, Almeida has been one of the best young players in the Portuguese league this year. Normally a defensive midfielder, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has used Almeida primarily at right-back where he has performed admirably.

The 22-year-old could provide relief to João Pereira at right-back and Miguel Veloso at defensive midfield. Almeida may not have the offensive upside of Cédric, but he has shown that he could balance his offensive skills with his defensive responsibilities on a more consistent basis.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

A terrific young talent, 23-year-old André Martins has worked his way back into Sporting’s line-up under manager Jesualdo Ferreira. Martins could inject some much needed creativity to the Portuguese attack which has at times been wasteful and disjointed.

Portugal have lacked a quality playmaker or number 10 since the days of Rui Costa and Deco, Martins certainly looks like he could fulfill that role with the Seleção. Paulo Bento for a few years now has relied on the midfield trio of Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles and João Moutinho. They were terrific at Euro 2012, but have recently struggled to break down opposing defenses.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

André Gomes, Benfica, Central Midfielder

Benfica’s André Gomes has been singled out by many as a future star for the Seleção. Despite being only 19 years of age, Gomes has already played regularly with the senior club. Though, his opportunities have become more limited in the second half of the campaign.

There is no denying that Gomes has the skill to play on the national team one day. Raul Meireles’ effectiveness has dipped since moving to Turkey and Gomes could be an excellent option in midfield now and for the long term.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Promising Youngster André Gomes

Pizzi, Deportivo La Coruña, Winger

Highly regarded winger who has had a breakout year with La Liga club Deportivo La Coruña, on loan from Atletico Madrid. Pizzi is one of those footballers who can do just about anything. He could dribble past defenders, deliver near impossible passes, score from free-kicks and has the ability to read the game very well.

Pizzi has been called up to the squad on several occasions, and received his first cap for the Seleção in a recent friendly against Gabon. Portugal has a wealth of talent on the wings, but Pizzi could certainly be an impact substitute for Portugal. Bento has been reluctant to use the 23-year-old so far.

Nélson Oliveira, Deportivo La Coruña, Striker

Nelson Oliveira has been anointed by many as the solution to Portugal’s long standing problem at centre-forward. The 21-year-old has had a disappointing season in Spain, and has not been called up for the squad in recent matches. He has scored only two goals in 22 matches for Deportivo this year.

With Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo on the wings, Portugal should really be scoring more goals. The problem is that the Seleção has lacked a world-class striker since Pauleta retired in 2006. Hélder Postiga and Hugo Almeida are just simply not good enough. Sporting Braga’s Éder looked the part before he went down with a serious knee injury. If Oliveira could earn his place back on the squad, he has all the tools needed to fulfill that responsibility.

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Benfica earned a narrow 1-0 win over French side Bordeaux in the first leg of their Europa League match-up on Thursday night.

The only goal of the match came in the 21st minute when Benfica forward Rodrigo struck a long range shot from just outside the box. The shot hit the post and then deflected off Bordeaux keeper Cédric Carrasso into the goal for the own goal.

The Águias were noticeably not at their best on the night, often assuming a defensive approach that frustrated fans at the Estádio da Luz. key players such as Lima, Enzo Perez and Eduardo Salvio started the match on the bench.

Midfield stalwart Nemanja Matic also missed the match because of a yellow card suspension. Manager Jorge Jesus fielded a 4-3-3 rotation with Nicolas Gaitan and Carlos Martins in central midfield and former Portugal U20 defender Roderick Miranda in defensive midfield.

Jesus said after the match that his club reached its primary objective which was not to concede a goal at home against their French opponents.

“We did not play as well offensively as we would have liked, because we were facing a good club that also wanted to push us off-balance, therefore we had to defend,” Jesus told journalists.

“We played an intelligent game. We have gained some experience playing over two-legs and we will go to France in better conditions to advance then when we started,” he added.

Benfica will face Bordeaux in the second leg on March 14th.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, Former FC Porto manager continues to build on his growing reputation. His Tottenham side earned an impressive 3-0 win against Italian giants Inter Milan.

Man of the moment Gareth Bale opened the scoring at White Hart Lane. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen also scored for Spurs.

A very excited Villas-Boas praised his club’s amazing form after the match.”It was a full 90-minute performance with excellent attacking football. We tried to limit their chances and had so many opportunities. It was a great European night.”

Former Sporting Lisbon Bruno Pereirinha started at right-back for Lazio and helped to set up the first goal in the Italian club’s 2-0 win over Stuttgart.

Raul Meireles’ Fenerbahçe side beat Czech side Viktoria Plzeň 1-0. Meireles did not play due to a red card suspension.

But the results were not all positive for the Portuguese contingent on Thursday night. Portuguese internationals Danny and Luis Neto played in Zenit St. Petersburg’s disappointing 2-0 loss to Swiss club Basel. Neto received a red card in added time.

Benfica earned a well-deserved 2-1 victory against Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen at the Estádio da Luz on Thursday night. The win means that the Portuguese side advance 3-1 on aggregate and will face French side Bordeaux on March 6th in the next round of the Europa League.

After a scoreless first half where Leverkusen created the majority of chances, Jorge Jesus’ club emerged a better club in the second half. In the 60th minute, they were rewarded when Dutch winger Ola John dribbled into the box and struck the ball over Bernd Leno for the opening goal.

The German side, though looking increasingly frustrated did not quit. In the 75th minute, Leverkusen forward Andre Schürrle struck a well-timed volley past Artur. Two minutes later however, substitute Lima received a long-range pass from Artur deep into Leverkusen territory which he crossed to Nemanja Matić for the deciding goal.

Jorge Jesus spoke to SIC television after his club’s victory and was quick to praise his club’s effort. “We played against a good team, who plays in the best league in the world. Germany has three clubs in the Champions League, Bayern Munique, Dortmund and Schalke. Leverkusen is at their level. In order to eliminate them, we had to play very well both games. We are happy but we have more to do,” he said.

Jesus added the club needed to remain focused on their next opponents which is Paços de Ferreira who have surprised everyone this season and remain third in the domestic league. He added that the match against Bordeaux will be a “duelo duro” or golden duel.

The news was not all positive for Benfica on this night. Nemanja Matic picked up another yellow card in the closing minutes of the match and will miss the next first leg against Bordeaux. Carlos Martins also left this match with an undisclosed injury in the second half.

In other Europa League action on Thursday, Andre Villas-Boas eliminated Olympique Lyonnais advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Despite losing 3-1 to Liverpool at Anfield, Zenit St.Petersburg hung on to advance on away goals. Former Porto player Hulk scored the only goal for the Russian side, while Portuguese internationals Danny and Luis Neto both started the match.

Oscar Cardozo’s goal in the 61st minute of play gave Benfica a deserving victory over one of the best clubs in this year’s Europa Cup competition.

The goal came as Jorge Jesus’ club came close to conceding a goal moments before. Andre Almeida who was playing right-back for the Águias crossed the ball into the box. Cardozo sought the opportunity, dribbled past a defender and slid it over Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno for the only goal of the game.

The Portuguese side have the added advantage of having an away goal going into the second leg on February 21st at the Estádio da Luz.

The news was not so good for Portuguese players on foreign clubs on Thursday. Fenerbahçe and Portuguese international midfielder Raul Meireles received a straight red in the 4th minute of play against Belarussian club Bate.

The former FC Porto player was dismissed after a hard tackle on former Stuttgart and Arsenal player Aliaksandr Hleb. Luckily, his Turkish club held on to the 0-0 draw going into the second leg in Istanbul, which Meireles will be ineligible for. But Meireles’ terrible first season in Turkey continues.

The result was not so good for Rolando, who is on loan at Italian club Napoli. Rolando received his first start for the club, playing in the middle of a three-man backline. But it was a match to forget for the Porto defender, as Napoli went on to lose 3-0 to Czech club Viktoria Plzeň.

Elsewhere Luis Neto and Danny started the match for Zenit St.Petersburg as they went on to defeat Liverpool 2-0. Former Porto attacker Hulk opened the scoring for the Russian club.

Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham side continued to impress with a 2-1 victory over French side Olympique Lyonnais. Gareth Bale scored both goals for the Spurs, the winner coming in the closing minutes of the match.

Portuguese midfielder Sergio Pinto’s Hannover 96 lost 3-1 to Russian side Anzhi. Olympiakos’ Paulo Machado could do little to prevent a 3-0 defeat by Levante in Spain.

Miguel Veloso’ Dynamo Kyiv drew 1-1 with Bordeaux in the Ukraine. Romanian club CFR Cluj started 5 Portuguese players but lost 2-0 to Inter Milan. Rodrigo Palacio scored both goals after coming on for his injured countrymen Diego Milito.

Former Portugal international Tiago played the entire match for Atletico Madrid who lost 2-0 to Rubin Kazan despite playing the entire second half with an extra man. Former Sporting player Bruno Pererinha was featured on the bench for his new club Lazio but did not play in the Italian team’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Portugal’s poor run of form continued Wednesday in Guimarães with a 3-2 loss to Ecuador. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant goal in the 23rd minute and was the best Portuguese player, but the Seleção was undone by a very poor defensive display.

Manager Paulo Bento fielded a typical starting XI, with a few exceptions. Eduardo started in net in place of established number one Rui Patricio. And Zenit’s new signing Luis Neto started the match alongside new teammate Bruno Alves, in place of the injured Pepe.

Portugal starting brightly in the first minute of play with a good chance by Helder Postiga. But a minute later goalkeeper Eduardo woefully misread a cross into the box that Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia easily capitalized on. This was a sign of things to come.

Portugal responded well with some dangerous attacks lead by Cristiano Ronaldo. They were rewarded in the 23rd minute with some clever passing that resulted in a brilliant goal by the Portuguese captain. But Portugal’s defense look noticably vulnerable throughout the first half.

After going into half-time tied at one, Portugal raised the pressure on Ecuador. In the 60th minute, Nani delivered a pass to Postiga in the box that gave Portugal the lead. But the momentum was very shortlived. A minute later right-back João Pereira brutally mismanaged a ball in the defensive zone which resulted in one of the most absurd own goals ever seen.

Now tied at two, Bento subbed Postiga and Ronaldo, and that seemed to put an end to the Portuguese attack. Former Sporting Lisbon player Felipe Caicedo, who now plays in Russia scored in the 70th minute to win it for Ecuador.

After the match Paulo Bento was asked to explain the team’s performance. “We should have scored right at the beginning of the match, but they managed to score right after that. At the beginning of the second half, we started well, went ahead and then we had the misfortune of an own goal. At 2-2, things became more difficult which resulted in the third goal by Ecuador. We played a good game with some errors,” Bento said.

Bento added that he did not blame the defensive frailties on a lapse of concentration and added that there we positives to the match for Portugal. He added that this game will not take the pressure off the team. Portugal will play two very important World Cup qualifying games against Israel and Azerbaijan at the end of March.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Goal Against Ecuador On Wednesday