As was expected, Spain were the first to find their feet in the game and press their opposition, balls sent out wide to be lofted in, the Portuguese defence, on paper, not strong enough to deal but coping well in the opening exchanges. A smart break and ball sent in by Suzane Pires could have seen Portugal take the lead, Ana Leite on her heels as the ball dropped into the box, Spain caught cold at the back.
Wanting to attack and hurt their neighbours, Portugal remained disciplined, dropping back into banks when Spain had the ball, allowing them little room in mount a cohesive attack, supply lines cut off before they countered. With mint green pushed back, Claudia Neto adopted a centre-forward position, her attackers behind her, waiting for the signal.
A Spanish throw deep in Portugal territory brought about all sorts of problems, La Roja deliriously close to opening the scores, Silvia Rebelo and Carole Costa the stars with important blocks, Jenni Hermoso wasteful from close range.
La Roja keep knocking
A quick free kick had Spain looking deadly, red shirts massed as Alexia Putellas took the ball past one defender before firing across for Silvia Meseguer, who set it for Mariona Caldentey, her thunderous effort parried by Patricia Morais. However, it was wasn’t long before Spain opened the scoring, La Roja having found the keys to unlock the Portuguese defence. A superb ball over the top from Andrea Pereira expertly found Vicky Losada in the box, with a clean first touch to take it down, the Barca woman then hammered it home. Having taken the lead and settled not just into the game but the tournament, Spain were immediately on the hunt for a second, Morais in for a busy evening.
Whilst Spain kept the pace up, their smooth touches and clean linkup ensuring they bossed possession and kept Portugal back, defending for their lives, the game seemed to be drifting towards the break almost too quietly. Amanda Sampedro’s deft header three minutes before the half enough to relight the fire for Spain and get them pressing with just that little bit more fire, Morais left incensed with her defence. Again, the service was better than the finish, Caldentey’s cross a sublime one to set up Sampedro.
The second-half ran like the first, Portugal penned back, gradually losing their defensive discipline, the pace gone from Spain’s game, the hot afternoon sun bathing the pitch, heating the turf. The match already won for La Roja, their first of a possible six, no need to overexert, they threatened but had no reason to force the issue.
A saucy corner after the hour saw the best chance for Spain to make it three, Morais unable to hold onto the ball, Hermoso’s acrobatic effort nodded away in front of a scrambling Morais. The game beginning to warm up again, Portugal searching for a footing but Spain more than happy to start dialling it back up to keep them boxed into their own half.
A shot from range had Morais show her best, the Sporting woman jumping high into the air to tip the ball over, her punch at the resulting corner vital to keep the score respectable. A drive from Portugal saw their best chance of the second-half, Neto’s ball kept alive, a touch here and a touch there to leave Spain looking vulnerable before Sandra Paños smothered the ball.
A snap-shot from live-wire Mari Paz drew another fine save from Morais, the ball put behind for a corner after red massed in the box, keen to make sure of all three points, goal difference a potential factor in group standings.
For Portugal the full-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough, although they’d threatened late in the day, Spain continued to look like they could snatch a third at any minute.