Spain, intent on keeping Cristiano Ronaldo in check, left another Portugal substitute entirely unguarded, jeopardizing the team’s chance of earning a home victory.
On Thursday, Ricardo Horta scored his first goal for Portugal in a 1-1 tie against Spain.
Horta was making his second appearance for Portugal, over eight years after making his debut for the country in 2014.
Horta’s run into the heart of the box in the 82nd minute was entirely disregarded by Spain’s defenders, who didn’t allow the international soccer’s all-time greatest scorer to pose a threat. Joo Cancelo picked out Horta with his cross which the Braga star took full advantage of.
Alvaro Morata’s 25th-minute opener for Spain, which lost last year’s final to France, was canceled out thanks to Horta’s strike.
“This feels good because Spain is a very strong team and we were playing on the road,” Portugal forward Bernardo Silva said. “This is a good result for Portugal.”
Gavi, a 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder, made his international debut in his hometown and assisted on the opening goal after the 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder snatched a pass from Cancelo to initiate a counterattack. Gavi burst forward and played a superbly weighted pass to Pablo Sarabia, who squared the ball for Morata to score.
Four minutes later, Spain’s Carlos Soler had an opportunity to score from the top of the box, but his shot was blocked by Diogo Costa.
In the 59th minute, Rafael Leo almost equalized for Portugal, but goalkeeper Unai Simón got a foot on his attempt and sent it wide. Simón, on the other hand, was powerless to stop Horta’s strike.
“We failed to finish them off, but we were playing against a great team,” Morata said. “We have to keep working hard as always. There is not weak rival in this group.”
The Czech Republic defeated Switzerland 2-1 at home in League A in the same group.
After Switzerland failed to clear a long throw-in, Jan Kutcha tapped in to put the Czechs ahead in the 11th minute.
Just before halftime, Noah Okafor brought Switzerland back with a thunderous effort off the underside of the crossbar, but the Czechs won thanks to an own goal by Djibril Sow.
League A’s four group winners will advance to the Final Four in June of next year. In the lower levels, the group winners will be promoted.
On Wednesday, Poland defeated Wales 2-1 in the opening match of the UEFA Nations League’s third season, which numerous nations will utilize as a warm-up for the World Cup in November.
Norway got off to a solid start in League B thanks to Erling Haaland. The striker, who is expected to join Manchester City, scored in the 26th minute after receiving a feed from Marcus Pedersen to defeat the Serbs in Belgrade.
In the same group, Sweden defeated Slovenia 2-0.
Shon Weissman’s 84th-minute goal earned Israel a 2-2 draw at home versus Iceland in a separate League B group.
Greece beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in Group 2 of League C thanks to a goal from Tasos Bakasetas in the first half.
In Group 4 of League C, Georgia defeated Gibraltar 4-0, while Bulgaria was held to a 1-1 draw by North Macedonia at home.
In League D, Estonia defeated San Marino 2-0.