Young Andre Silva has made an excellent start to his international career, coming into Saturday night’s World Cup qualifier against Andorra having tallied seven goals and one assist in his previous eight qualifying games.
So it didn’t raise too many eyebrows when manager Fernando Santos, who decided to rest Cristiano Ronaldo for this fixture, entrusted Silva with the responsibility of leading the line for Portugal in Andorra.
It ended up being a mixed bag from the young AC Milan forward, who impressed with his skill and his poise on the ball, but couldn’t find his scoring touch, forcing Santos to bring Ronaldo on at halftime – a move that ended up benefitting Silva as well, although he was lucky he wasn’t the one being brought off for Portugal’s talisman.
Here’s a look at Silva’s performance in Portugal’s 2-0 win.
Against stubborn, defensive opponents, Silva found freedom to roam at the head of Portugal’s attack, often popping up on either wing or dropping deep to get on the ball. It was a performance that was both industrious and skillful, but Silva forgot his finishing boots.
He had his chances to score before halftime, and had he done so, Ronaldo wouldn’t have needed to come in and save the day.
33rd min CHANCE: Presented with a glorious chance to open the scoring – easily Portugal’s best chance of what had been a frustrating first half up to that point – Silva fluffed his lines.
The Milan forward, from yards out, actually caught a falling ball out of the air with a perfect volley – except for the fact that it went yards over the crossbar, when he really should have scored.
82nd min CHANCE: At this point, with Ronaldo having come on and scored, some of the pressure had been lifted off Silva’s shoulders, but he was still looking for a goal to erase the frustrations of his night.
Ronaldo gave him one on a platter, teeing Silva up after some good work on the right wing. only for the 21-year-old to blaze over from close range.
86th min GOAL: At long last, Silva’s wait for a goal came to an end. It was again down to Ronaldo, who changed the game completely after coming on at halftime. The Real Madrid star sent in a teasing cross from the left, and right-back Danilo’s header back across goal set Silva up for a tap-in.
What was impressive was Silva’s movement to get in that position – when Ronaldo crossed from the wing, Silva was almost right next to him, yet like any good striker he used his movement to find space in the box so that when Danilo’s header came to him, he was two yards out with no one marking him.
Silva came into this game having scored 9 goals in 15 senior starts for Portugal, so Santos was justified in starting him against perceived weaker opponents in Andorra and allowing Ronaldo to rest up for next week’s crucial clash against Switzerland.
However, the young forward didn’t do enough to repay his manager’s faith in him. He led the line well and found pockets of space to exploit, but his finishing let him down as he passed up chance after chance until there was finally one he couldn’t miss.
As they say for strikers, all that matters is the goals.
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