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Euro 2024 - Portugal 2-1 Czech Republic: Francisco Conceicao outshines Cristiano Ronaldo with late winner

Report from Euro 2024 as Francisco Conceicao's stoppage-time winner clinches a 2-1 victory for Portugal over Czech Republic; a Czech Republic own goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's stunning opener; Cristiano Ronaldo missed several chances

Portugal's Francisco Conceicao, centre, celebrates his side's winning goal against Czech Republic
Image: Portugal's Francisco Conceicao celebrates his goal

Francisco Conceicao's 92nd-minute goal ensured a winning start to Euro 2024 for Portugal as Roberto Martinez's side came from behind to beat Czech Republic 2-1 in Group F.

As the clock ticked down in stoppage time at the Leipzig Stadium, Porto youngster Conceicao, making his first competitive appearance for Portugal, netted from close range after Czech Republic failed to clear a low cross from fellow substitute Pedro Neto.

Earlier in the second half, Czech Republic midfielder Lukas Provod's stunning strike from the edge of the box had punished Portugal's failure to take numerous chances, many of which fell to a wasteful Cristiano Ronaldo, making history as the first player to feature at a sixth European Championship at the age of 39.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo duels for the ball with Czech Republic's Tomas Holes
Image: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo duels for the ball with Czech Republic's Tomas Holes

Portugal levelled shortly after Provod's shock opener in fortuitous circumstances when Czech Republic goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek pushed a Nuno Mendes header into the legs of defender Robin Hranac, with the ball bouncing back into the net for an own goal.

It seemed the Czechs were going to hang on for a point when Diogo Jota's 87th-minute header, after Ronaldo's effort had come back off the post, was ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

But, with only two minutes of stoppage time remaining, Neto and Conceicao combined to clinch a narrow win, ensuring Portugal, European champions in 2016 and one of the favourites to win this year's tournament, move level on points with Turkey, who beat Georgia 3-1 in the earlier game in Group F.

Analysis: Ronaldo denied on historic day

Another piece of history in Ronaldo's extraordinary career as he became the first player to play at a sixth European Championship. He just lacked a goal to mark the occasion.

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At times, during the first half in particular, he looked sluggish, repeatedly out of position for crosses into the box as Portugal laboured in the final third, despite dominating possession.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the final whistle
Image: Ronaldo celebrates after the final whistle

Still, though, the 39-year-old had their best chances, spurning a one-on-one chance from a Bruno Fernandes pass, then seeing a diagonal effort parried in first-half stoppage time. Earlier, there was a decent headed opportunity he sent bobbling past the post.

Ronaldo was prolific in qualifying, top-scoring for Roberto Martinez's side with 10 goals, but, away from the rigours of European football in Saudi Arabia, it appears he may need a little time to get back up to full speed at this tournament.

He almost provided a match-winning moment, his header steered into the net by Diogo Jota after coming back off the post, but an offside call against him meant that was left to Portugal's new generation, with Conceicao the hero on this occasion.

Star performer: Vitinha impresses

Portugal's starting line-up raised eyebrows, with Joao Palhinha, their normal holding midfielder, benched, and Vitinha, a more offensively-minded player, asked to fill in.

Vitinha impressed against Czech Republic
Image: Vitinha impressed against Czech Republic

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder had his work cut out on the rare occasions Czech Republic managed to break forward, given fellow midfielders Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes effectively played as attackers, but he handled his defensive duties well.

He used the ball smartly too, completing 86 of his attempted 91 passes, producing a fine diagonal cross in the lead-up to Portugal's equaliser, and generally catching the eye.

Hasek impressed by 'genius' Ronaldo

Czech Republic boss Ivan Hasek said: "I have to admit it is a big pity that we did not finish our work. It was close. We made it very difficult for Portugal, one of the best teams in the world.

"We are all disappointed to have conceded in additional time. We have to put it behind us very quickly as in four days we will play a key game. We will need to improve.

"It is really unbelievable how dangerous a player Cristiano Ronaldo is in every game at his age. He showed his genius again, he knows how to get involved in chances.

"My hat goes off to him; he is one of the best players in football history. Truly a fabulous man."

Stats: Story of the match

So far in Group F...

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