Russia 0-1 Portugal: Match report
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal took on Russia in Moscow on Wednesday afternoon in the hope of leapfrogging their Group A opponents and pushing themselves top of the group before Mexico played New Zealand later on Wednesday night in Sochi.
Fernando Santos made four changes to his side with Nani, Quaresma, Moutinho and Fonte dropping to the bench and Bernard Silva, Bruno Alves, Andre Silva and Adrien Silva replacing them in the line-up.
The game started as expected with Portugal pushing forward and bossing the possession stakes. They were failing to really creating anything, however, and luckily for them, Russia were the same. Their attack was disjointed and they had no clear system of how they wanted to attack.
Portugal went ahead after nine minutes when Rapahel Guerreiro landed a ball on Ronaldo's head and all the Real Madrid man had to do was direct it towards goal. Igor Akinfeev waved his hands at it but it had flashed by him before he knew what was happening.
The hosts continued to probe but were never going to score, it seemed, with the version of attack they were implementing.
A change at half-time saw Roman Shishkin replaced by Aleksandr Erokhin and the sub went into midfield to give them superiority there while also leaving them with a back three. It worked as Portugal were left clinging on for most of the second 45.
Russia pummelled their penalty area with crosses but they lacked that little bit of quality that would have asked serious questions of Rui Patricio. As the game ticked on, Russia were dead on their feet and while Portugal had chances, they seemed content with their lead. And that's how it would finish.
The group will come down to whether Mexico can beat New Zealand and Russia, and by how much, but for now, Portugal remain the team to catch.
Russia vs Portugal live stream online: Confederations Cup latest news
Russia vs Portugal live stream: Group A match preview
The Confederations Cup group stage heads into its second round of matches with an enticing encounter in Moscow between the tournament hosts and the European champions.
The clash at the Spartak Stadium is a sell-out, and a home crowd buoyed by Saturday's 2-0 victory in Saint Petersburg will look to roar Stanislas Cherchesov's men on to two wins from two.
And another three points for the Group A leaders, whose line-up is not expected to see many changes, would make them the first team at this year's Confederations Cup to claim a semi-final spot.
Russia will again look to in-form striker Fyodor Smolov, who hit their second goal against the All Whites at the weekend on his way to the 'man of the match' award.
The Krasnodar ace, top scorer in the Russian Premier League in the last two seasons, said pre-match that he is confident his side can use home advantage to good effect.
"Portugal have many great players including Cristiano [Ronaldo]," Smolov said, "but the full stadium will give us strength and I'm sure we can achieve a good result."
Fernando Santos' Euro 2016 winners came to Russia among the favourites, but a late Mexico equaliser on Saturday has left their hopes of advancing to the last four in the balance.
An 86th-minute Cedric Soares goal looked to have got Portugal off to a victorious start in Kazan, only for Héctor Moreno's stoppage-time header to ensure the spoils were shared.
And with Mexico fancied to defeat New Zealand later on Wednesday, the Seleçao are likely to need to beat Russia to avoid going into their final match playing catch-up on the top two.
Santos, who on Tuesday declared that his confidence in his players "is unlimited", could well tinker with his starting line-up.
André Silva and Gelson Martins both made an impact as substitutes against Mexico and are pushing for inclusion, while Manchester City new-boy Bernardo Silva is also a candidate to come in.
Russia vs Portugal live stream online: betting
Portugal are the bookies' favourites to claim the points at the Spartak Stadium, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. priced at €1.95 per every euro bet, with Russia back at €4.50 for every bob wagered.