Macedonia U21 2-4 Portugal U21: Portugal win but crash out
By Michael Cox
Last Updated: 23/06/17 11:04pm
Portugal missed out on the European U21 Championship semi-finals despite beating Macedonia 4-2 in a gritty encounter on Friday evening.
Portugal needed to score four and win by at least a three-goal margin to be in with a chance of progressing to the knockout stages as best placed runners-up and early strikes by Edgar Ie and Bruma put Rui Jorge's side firmly in the driving seat.
Enis Bardhi struck back for Macedonia just before half-time before Daniel Podence netted Portugal's third after the break.
Portugal's suspended pair of Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Semedo were by replaced Bruma and Tobias Figueiredo, while Iuri Medeiros, Rebocho and Goncalo Pacienda replaced Joao Carvalho, Kevin Rodrigues and Goncalo Guedes.
But Macedonia's Kire Markoski added his name to the scoresheet soon after, dealing a crushing blow to Portugal's semi-final hopes.
Bruma's stoppage-time goal prompted a late surge to find a fifth, but the final drama proved to be Diogo Jota's sending off for dissent.
It was a dream start for Portugal as the first corner of the evening, taken by Iuri Medeiros, was met with a strong header from Ie, who guided the outswinging ball past Damjan Siskovski for the opener.
The introduction of Kevin Rodrigues for Rebocho, who picked up an early knock, seemed to provide the catalyst for a spell of Portuguese pressure, Iuri Medeiros and Ruben Neves putting efforts just wide from distance.
Siskovski in the Macedonian goal fumbled a routine pop shot from distance, before clever work on the left from Rodrigues gave Bruma a shooting opportunity 20 yards from goal.
His curling shot nestled into the top corner, another special strike for him in the tournament after his stunner against Spain.
Macedonia looked short of ideas before half-time but Bardhi managed to find rare space in a deep-lying area and he unleashed a fierce strike past Bruno Varela.
Medeiros continued to impress after the restart and it was his clever disguised pass that unlocked the Macedonia defence for Podence who converted smartly.
Portugal continued to pile on the pressure but, despite spending much of the half in their opponents final third, they failed to convert a host of chances, and a quick break involving Elif Elmas gave Markovski an opportunity to deal a fatal blow.
He made no mistake, slotting past Varela to end Portugal's hopes.
There was still time for Bruma to notch his third goal of the tournament but their efforts were not enough to cement a semi-final place.
Man of the match - Bruma
His energy and pace cutting in from the left proved too much for the Macedonians.
He scored a wonderful goal in the first half and took his second well under pressure to cap an impressive tournament.