Unconvincing Portugal struggle past Angola

Portugal kicked off their Group D campaign with a narrow victory over World Cup debutants Angola courtesy of an early Pauleta strike.

Portugal 1 Angola 0

Portugal kicked off their Group D campaign with a narrow victory over World Cup debutants Angola courtesy of an early Pauleta strike.

The Africans can rightly feel proud of their first performance on the big stage, especially as they had been thrashed 6-0 and 5-1 in their only previous encounters with their former colonial rulers.

But a nervous start turned out to be their undoing. Just 15 seconds were on the clock when Pauleta broke free on the left of the box and slotted past goalkeeper Joao Ricardo.

That time the ball just missed the far post but the Paris St Germain striker made no mistake in the fourth minute to net his 47th international strike.

It came from an Angolan free-kick that Jamba punted up field, with the defender horrified to see it headed straight into the path of the on-rushing Luis Figo.

The Portugal skipper motored easily past the out-of-position left-back to reach the box and lay the ball back for Pauleta to apply a simple finish past last man Kali, with the goalkeeper already having been taken out of the equation.

Angola eventually gained some composure and Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo had to get behind a well-struck long-range shot from Mendonca.

Pauleta then hooked a chance wide after a long ball had unhinged the Africans’ defence and Simao Sabrosa fired a passable chance over before Angola’s Mateus, who plays in Portugal, was much closer with a drive at the other end.

Angola’s star man Fabrice Akwa sent an over-head kick scorching just over, Figueiredo then fired wide and Cristiano Ronaldo received a 26th-minute booking for a foul on Andre.

Jamba was cautioned two minutes later for upending the Manchester United man, who wasted the free-kick and then sent the ball spinning wide from the next attack, which had reached him at the back post.

Ronaldo’s luck deserted him again in the 34th minute when his header from a Figo corner bounced back off the crossbar but the next chance was Angola’s and Ricardo had to dive to his right to tip Andre’s 25-yard drive round the post.

Angola’s goalkeeping Ricardo then palmed away a fierce drive from Ronaldo and the un-fancied Africans must have been delighted to still be in the game going into the break.

Loco and Andre added to the Angola booking tally for fouls on Figo as Portugal dominated possession but rarely threatened.

Pauleta fired wide on the turn before forcing the goalkeeper into a save from 25 yards out and the hour mark saw both sides take off a flair player, with Akwa replaced by Pedro Mantorras and Ronaldo removed for Costinha.

Tiago saw a drive saved but Loco panicked at the other end when presented with a sight of goal and hacked wildly wide.

Everton’s Nuno Valente was the last to be booked before Simao headed a late chance wide from a Figo free-kick.

There was a late scare when Mateus hooked the ball goalwards in the 89th minute but Ricardo was alert enough to save.

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