Euro 2024: Conceicao to the rescue as Portugal snatch 2-1 win over Czechs

The 21-year-old Conceicao, who was brought on in the 90th minute, pounced on a mistake from Robin Hranac to fire home from close range in the third minute of added time

Updated - June 19, 2024 05:54 am IST

Published - June 19, 2024 05:25 am IST - LEIPZIG, Germany

Portugal’s Francisco Conceicao celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates.

Portugal’s Francisco Conceicao celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Francisco Conceicao came off the bench to grab a predatory stoppage-time winner as Portugal kick-started their Euro 2024 campaign with an edgy 2-1 Group F win over a dogged Czech Republic on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old Conceicao, who was brought on in the 90th minute, pounced on a mistake from Robin Hranac to fire home from close range in the third minute of added time, moments after Portugal were left crestfallen when a Diogo Jota effort was chalked off by VAR for offside.

The Czechs had stunned the Portuguese fans packed inside the Leipzig Stadium when they took the lead out of the blue in the 62nd minute as Lukas Provod's superb curling effort threatened to cause an almighty upset.

Yet the unfortunate Hranac scored an own goal seven minutes later to set up a frantic finish that saw Portugal claim the three points to leave them level in the group with Turkey who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday.

"It's important to believe until the very end. We didn't go in blind, we believed, we kept our game plan, we were very clear-headed," said Portugal's man-of-the-match Vitinha.

With the 41-year-old Pepe, who became the oldest player in European Championship history, at centre back, and the 39-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo up front, Portugal were banking on experience winning out against a Czech outfit with the youngest squad in the tournament.

The match was meant to be a walk in the park for highly fancied Portugal, who came into the tournament on the back of a flawless qualifying campaign in which they won all 10 matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding twice.

But as is so often the way in tournaments the script needed a hasty rewrite.

While Portugal predictably dominated the ball, with 70% possession, 19 shots and 13 corners, the workmanlike Czechs provided an infuriating obstacle for Roberto Martinez's side.

Portugal set up camp in Czech territory early on, but they came up against some dogged resistance as Ivan Hasek's disciplined side kept them largely at arm's length.

For all their possession, Portugal's chances were limited. Rafael Leao was their most creative outlet with his jinking runs down the left flank although one theatrical dive earned him a first-half booking.

Ronaldo was predictably at the centre of most of Portugal's attacks, passing up their best chance of the first half when he was played through on goal by Bruno Fernandes only to be thwarted by keeper Jindrich Stanek who spread himself brilliantly to stop the striker's effort.

Ronaldo had another shot beaten away by Stanek just before the break and a header deflected over shortly after the restart, but it wasn't long before Portugal were hit with a hammer blow.

Out of nowhere the Czechs worked the ball down the pitch and Vladimir Coufal fed Provod who curled a stunning finish beyond the reach of keeper Diogo Costa into the net.

The advantage, however, was short-lived as Portugal drew level with more than little good fortune. A cross to the back post was headed towards goal by Nuno Mendes but Stanek's save ricocheted off the knee of defender Hranac into his own net.

Portugal thought they had snatched victory when Ronaldo headed against the post and substitute Jota was on hand to convert the rebound, but VAR swiftly ruled Ronaldo was a fraction offside.

It did not matter however as Hranac made a mess of his attempted clearance and Conceicao nipped in to fire home.

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