Pepe gets Portugal off to winning start in Euro 2008 (Lead)

June 8th, 2008 - 5:42 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 8 (DPA) A Pepe goal just after the hour was enough to give Portugal victory over Turkey in their opening Euro 2008 game Saturday. Although Turkey posed sufficient threat on the break to ensure it was a completely one-sided contest, Portugal were almost entirely dominant in terms of goal chances, and thoroughly deserved their win.

Twice they struck the post, through Cristiano Ronaldo and Nuno Gomes, and had a goal ruled out before Pepe finally broke the
deadlock after 61 minutes.

Gathering the ball on halfway, the Real Madrid centre-back advanced, exchanged passes with Nuno Gomes, and then lifted the ball - possibly with the help of a slight deflection - over Volkan Demirel.

“It was a very important goal for me,” said Pepe. I love playing for my country and am delighted that everything went so well for us.”

Portugal’s only real concern would be that they did not win more comprehensively.

Ronaldo was spasmodically exciting, but the real pluses were Deco and Joao Mouninho, who dominated the centre of midfield despite their lack of height.

There was a thought that the Manchester United winger might be distracted by the ongoing speculation over his future, but Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insisted that he had seen no signs of a diminished performance.

“The first 30 minutes of Cristiano Ronaldo were the normal 30 minutes from him,” the Brazilian said.

“When Turkey play against a great squad like ours, they try to stop them playing the way they want to play. We expected Cristiano to play like he did.”

Significantly, when Nuno Gomes came off after 69 minutes, it was to Ronaldo he handed the captain’s armband.

“I did that to give him more strength and motivation,” Scolari said.

Petit had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside on 17 minutes, then Ronaldo drew a superb fingertip save from Demirel as he tipped his trademark free-kick against the upright.

Gokhan Zan then made a fine block to deny Moutinho after he had been laid in by Deco.

The barrage continued after half-time. Gokhan was guilty of an awful foul on Simao Sabrosa, but as the ball broke to Nuno Gomes, referee Herbert Fandel allowed play to continue, only for the forward to jab his shot against the post.

The goal settled Portugal, but it didn’t bring them any great fortune, and Nuno Gomes again hit the bar with a looping header from a Ronaldo cross.

The margin may have been the same as the Czech Republic achieved against hosts Switzerland earlier in the day, but this was a far more impressive performance.

After a rather bitty first game, this was the match that got the tournament rolling, and Portugal did more than enough to justify
their position as overwhelming favourites to win the group.

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