Portugal got a glimpse into life without Cristiano Ronaldo as Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva and Diogo Jota scored in a 3-0 victory in the World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan.
With the world record international goal scorer missing after being booked for celebrating his record-setting 111th goal for his country, Fernando Santos' side looked to be missing his killer instinct until a wonderful finish from Bernardo Silva broke the deadlock in the 26th minute.
Bruno Fernandes' cross-field ball from the left flank found the Manchester City forward at the back post and he volleyed home with a knee-high outside of the left boot effort.
A cross from Fernandes from the right flank saw Andre Silva with the simple task of putting into a gaping goal three minutes later, with the previously profligate Diogo Jota heading home Joao Cancelo's cross in the second half to give the scoreline a fair reflection of Portugal's dominance.
The win leaves Portugal three points clear of Serbia at the top of Group A.
TALKING POINT - PORTUGAL SO MUCH MORE THAN RONALDO
Whether Andre Silva is the man to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the post 2022 World Cup future is very much up to question, and it must be said he certainly did not impress much confidence on this display. That said, Portugal's quality across the field was on full show on Tuesday. Bernardo Silva enjoyed the freedom to play higher up and Bruno Fernandes revelled in taking on more responsibility to be the creative hub for the side. It is easy to imagine Ronaldo getting a hat-trick in this sort of game, but his absence maybe helped others display how much they can offer their national team going forward.
MAN OF THE MATCH - JOAO CANCELO (PORTUGAL)
There have been better full backs in recent times - Paolo Maldini, Philippe Lahm, and Ashley Cole for example. There have been more thrilling ones like Roberto Carlos, but for pure, outrageous ball skills there might not be better than Joao Cancelo. One-on-one with the ball at his feet he is every bit the nightmare for opposition defenders to deal with - as shown by his game-high six successful dribbles. Most of the best work from Portugal came down the right flank, where his presence made Azerbaijan always feel they were a man light, and he topped off the performance with a fine assist for Jota's goal.
Portugal: Patrício 6; Cancelo 8*, Dias 7, Pepe 7, Guerreiro 7; Palhinha 6, Moutinho 6, Fernandes 8; Bernardo Silva 8, André Silva 6, Jota 6.
Subs: Neves 6, Mendes 6, Otavio 6, Guedes 6, Mario 6.
Portugal's forward Bernardo Silva and Azerbaijan's Filip Ozobic vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification football match between Azerbaijan and Portugal in Baku on September 7, 2021. (
Image credit: Getty Images
26' GOAL FOR PORTUGAL! Superb finish from Bernardo Silva. An awful Andre Silva cross was retrieved by Guerrero and then fed back to Fernandes who picked out the Manchester City forward ghosting behind the defence at the right hand side of the six-yard box and then, having slightly overran the cross, volleyed home with the outside of his left boot.
31' GOAL FOR PORTUGAL! Fernandes crosses to the back post where Jota gets a touch to push back into the path of Andre Silva who taps home into an empty net.
76' GOAL FOR PORTUGAL! Jota at last gets on the scoresheet. Cancelo gets around the full back and puts a lovely dinked cross into the box which Jota nods home - just like, well you know.
5 - Bruno Fernandes led all-comers with five key passes.