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Portugal v North Macedonia Live Commentary, 29/03/2022

2 - 0
Bruno Fernandes (32)
Bruno Fernandes (65)
Estádio Do Dragão


It's Portugal, then, who can book their flight to Qatar and wait to find out who they'll face in the group stage. Whoever they draw, they'll no doubt be a test for the best teams at the tournament. That's all for now. Goodbye!
Portugal will be delighted with how they've navigated a tricky playoff path. Of course, they would have had a tougher time had they faced Italy, but they can only beat the team in front of them. North Macedonia managed just three shots here, their lowest total in a single match in the World Cup qualifiers this season. They'll be disappointed with the ease of their defeat, but no one will underestimate them going forward.
Fernandes' fine double has sent Portugal to this year's World Cup! The Manchester United man was the star of an excellent Portugal display which was resolute and rousing in equal measure. North Macedonia started brightly but faded as the first half went on. Once Fernandes scored again in the second half, there was no way back for them.
90' + 3' Nikolov wins a free-kick down North Macedonia's right as he's halted by Nunes. The Macedonians embark on one last attack but it's been too late for them for ages. Portugal hold it off and that's it!
João Moutinho
90' + 1' Portugal substitution. Vitinha gets to enjoy a minute or two of a memorable occasion for the hosts. Moutinho goes off.
90' + 1' Portugal defend the corner stoutly, as they've defended all game. They've been sturdy at the back and sparkling going forward.
90' Mendes hands North Macedonia a corner. The visitors' World Cup hopes will survive three more minutes of added time.
Matheus Nunes
Bruno Fernandes
88' Fernandes also heads off to an excellent reception from the Portugal fans. He's played a huge part in securing his country's place in Qatar with his performance here. Nunes replaces him.
João Félix
Bernardo Silva
87' Bernardo Silva heads to the dugout. The Atletico Madrid forward Felix takes his place on the pitch for Portugal.
B. Nikolov
E. Elmas
North Macedonia
87' North Macedonia have given up the ghost. Their biggest name Elmas leaves the pitch. Nikolov comes on for the last few minutes.
86' Portugal earn another corner down their right off Velkovski. There'll be a few more substitutions first.
85' Leao powers down the left towards the byline and finds Ronaldo near the centre spot. The Portugal captain is marked too closely to get a shot away, so he wisely keeps the ball for Portugal instead.
83' North Macedonia concede possession again, and Portugal once more race forward. This time the visitors are able to come away with the ball, but attacking down the wings has always been one of Portugal's strengths.
81' North Macedonia are still yet to have a shot on target in this match. Portugal have successfully kept their attacking players quiet all game.
79' Pepe makes an excellent interception to block Elmas' shot from the centre of the box, leaving the Macedonian swiping at air. Portugal counter at pace, and Fernandes' low cross from the left reaches Ronaldo. Velkovski slides in to block at close range and hand Portugal a corner.
Rafael Leão
Diogo Jota
77' Jota also gets the applause from the Portugal fans as he leaves the pitch. The AC Milan forward Leao gets a runout.
William Carvalho
77' Portugal make two substitutions to see the game out. Otavio goes off. He's had a fine game. On comes Carvalho.
S. Ashkovski
T. Kostadinov
North Macedonia
75' North Macedonia make another change. The jig is surely up for them regardless. Kostadinov goes off. Askovski replaces him.
75' Fernandes floats the ball into the box from the right. North Macedonia deal with it capably.
E. Alioski
Yellow Card
North Macedonia
74' Alioski struggles once more with Otavio's trickery and brings the Portugal winger down. He doesn't escape a yellow card this time.
72' Bardhi reaches the edge of the box and snatches at goal, dragging his effort wide. It's not much, but it's something for North Macedonia.
70' Alioski closes Otavio down and gives another free-kick away. The Macedonians haven't been able to lay a glove on Portugal.
V. Musliu
Yellow Card
North Macedonia
68' Musliu is also shown a yellow card for his part in the unpleasantness. This game has mostly been played in the right spirit, so it'd be a shame for North Macedonia to lose their heads now.
João Cancelo
Yellow Card
68' Otavio wins a free-kick down the right for Portugal as he's taken out by Alioski. Portugal take exception to the challenge and Cancelo is booked for his part in the resulting fracas.
67' Fernandes has had five shots in this match, the most he's had in the European World Cup qualifiers since facing Azerbaijan back in March 2021. Ronaldo may be the star name but Fernandes has been Portugal's main man here.
Diogo Jota
66' That move started with a great interception by Pepe. Jota did all the running, and had the presence of mind to pick out Fernandes at the end of it. It was a great team goal. Portugal can start celebrating!
Bruno Fernandes
65' GOAL! PORTUGAL 2-0 NORTH MACEDONIA! Portugal are surely heading to Qatar now! North Macedonia get caught upfield and the hosts counter at speed. Fernandes ghosts into the box from deep and finishes Jota's left-wing cross sumptuously to grab his second goal of the game.
63' Churlinov's cross from the left is blocked. Alioski tries to find Churlinov again but the substitute can't control the pass he's given.
61' North Macedonia venture forward for the first time in a while. Ademi trips Fernandes and brings an end to the attack.
D. Churlinov
A. Trajkovski
North Macedonia
59' North Macedonia make another substitution. They're still second-best at the moment. Churlinov replaces Trajkovski on their left wing.
59' Portugal have another corner down their left. Fernandes fizzes this one towards the near post. Ronaldo can't keep his header down.
58' Fernandes' corner is kept alive and comes back to the midfielder down the right. His cross is punted out of play.
56' Otavio sees off the attentions of Alioski to knock the ball against Musliu and earn a corner for Portugal.
54' Stefan Ristovski gets unfairly stopped by Jota, but North Macedonia can't make the most of the free-kick. Dimitrievski claims Fernandes' attempt to free Ronaldo down the middle.
52' Fernandes, Portugal's goalscorer, has another crack at goal from outside the box. Dimitrievski gets down low to catch the shot.
50' Otavio shields the ball and gets caught from behind by Musliu.
48' Portugal resume their first-half dominance. They pin the Macedonians near their own corner flag. Mendes' cross, when it comes, sails out for a goal-kick.
47' Portugal get the second half going. North Macedonia need to push for an equaliser now.
B. Miovski
M. Ristovski
North Macedonia
46' North Macedonia make a half-time substitution. The quiet Milan Ristovski goes off. On comes Miovski.
Portugal have managed their status as favourites perfectly. They've had 70 per cent of possession and haven't allowed the Macedonians to get a shot on target yet. The hosts are unbeaten in their last 16 European World Cup qualifying matches when leading at half-time, dating all the way back to 2008. It's hard to see Santos' men losing this from here.
Portugal are 45 minutes from World Cup qualification. They've been in control of this match so far, barring North Macedonia's early advances. Fernandes gave the hosts the lead around the half-hour mark, and they could have extended it since. Another Portugal goal in the second half will probably end this final as a contest.
45' + 1' Fernandes switches the play to Cancelo, who fires over the crossbar with his left foot from outside the box. That's all for now.
45' There'll be one added minute at the end of this first half. It's been a lively one.
44' Portugal win another corner down their right. The Macedonians head it away and look to break. Stefan Ristovski's pass forward from deep is intercepted.
42' North Macedonia bustle forward down their left but can't get past Pepe and company. They need to avoid conceding a second goal before half-time.
40' Chance for Portugal! Ronaldo reaches the byline and tries to cut back for a teammate. Dimitrievski can't take control of the situation and Jota runs onto the bobbling ball, lashing into the side netting from a tight angle.
38' Jota is incredulous as he pesters Stefan Ristovski too much and gives a free-kick away. North Macedonia's early threat has faded considerably.
36' Otavio wins a free-kick in his own half as he's impeded by Alioski. Portugal are full of confidence now.
34' That's Fernandes' second goal in the European World Cup qualifiers this season, and it's come at a crucial time for Portugal. It's Ronaldo's first assist too. The 37-year-old does share the goals around every once in a while.
Cristiano Ronaldo
32' One Manchester United man supplied another there, as Ronaldo knew that Fernandes had the momentum and gave him the honour of scoring. Portugal deserve the advantage. They've gotten stronger as the half has gone on.
Bruno Fernandes
32' GOAL! PORTUGAL 1-0 NORTH MACEDONIA! Fernandes gives Portugal a vital lead in this match! The midfielder races onto Stefan Ristovski's lax pass and plays a one-two with Ronaldo to burst into the box. Once he's there, he doesn't miss, slotting the ball cleanly into the bottom left corner of the net.
31' Portugal have had 78 per cent possession over the last 15 minutes. North Macedonia are having to spend most of their time defending.
29' Mendes is back on his feet and play's restarted. Kostadinov may have won the ball with that desperate lunge, but it's surprising that he has gone unpunished.
28' Mendes is scythed down by a diving challenge by Kostadinov. That looked nasty on first viewing. The referee pauses play to check on Mendes.
26' The corner's passed back to Cancelo, whose delivery from deep is cleared. Portugal try again and the offside flag goes up against Pepe.
25' Portugal are growing in influence. Musliu blocks Fernandes' cutback to hand the hosts another corner.
24' Fernandes' corner makes its way to Jota in the centre of the box. The Liverpool forward nods the ball down into the turf and it bounces back up just over the crossbar! That was close.
23' Otavio finds Jota's disguised run towards the byline, and Jota wins a corner for Portugal. Fernandes comes across to take it.
21' Cancelo holds his hands up after his looped cross from the right goes out for a Macedonian throw-in. Portugal haven't quite found their rhythm yet.
19' Stefan Ristovski bustles down the right and spots Alioski lurking on the edge of the box. The right-back finds his left-sided counterpart, whose first-time volley bounces wide. That would have been a spectacular goal had it gone in.
18' Fernandes arrives late on Elmas and concedes a free-kick. He's lucky not to be booked. Santos throws his arms up in protest in the technical area.
17' North Macedonia's free-kick looks promising, but Bardhi's delivery doesn't live up to that promise. It sails straight into the arms of Portugal's goalkeeper Costa.
16' Bardhi's corner is cleared at the near post. Kostadinov comes straight back down the right and gets taken out by Bernardo Silva.
15' Alioski gets forward on the overlap and smashes a cross against Cancelo, earning the Macedonians a corner. Portugal defend it well and give away another corner.
14' Portugal get their first decent chance of the game! Ronaldo runs in behind North Macedonia's defence and drags a left-footed shot just wide of the right-hand post.
13' Cancelo beats Alioski to reach the byline and hang the ball up towards the far post. Fernandes is there but heads high and wide from a difficult angle.
12' The Portugal fans are whistling as North Macedonia are passing the ball tidily. The visitors are playing calmly despite the tension of the occasion.
10' Stefan Ristovski tries and fails to cut into the box from the right. Ademi's penalised for aborting Jota's breakaway.
8' Cancelo powers down the right and passes inside to Fernandes. The Manchester United midfielder has a tame shot blocked from the edge of the box.
6' Mendes finds himself in space and whips a cross into the box from the left. It flashes across the face of goal but no one in Portugal red can get on the end of it.
5' Contrary to pre-match reports, the Macedonians have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with Elmas behind Milan Ristovski. They'll be keen to keep things tight like they did so well against Italy.
3' Portugal make progress down their right through Fernandes. Musliu hoofs away a cross into the box.
1' North Macedonia start the game with intent. Trajkovski darts down the left, forcing Danilo to come across and clear the ball.
1' The English referee Anthony Taylor blows his whistle, and the visitors North Macedonia get this playoff final underway!
The two teams are out on the pitch at Estadio do Dragao. Both sets of players stand to sing their respective national anthems. The Portuguese players and fans obviously produce a stirring rendition of A Portuguesa.
There are two changes to North Macedonia from their victory over Italy. Elmas and Kostadinov both return from suspension to start here.
Portugal boss Fernando Santos makes three changes to his team from their 3-1 win over Turkey. All three changes are at the back. Pepe replaces Fonte at centre-back. Cancelo returns from suspension, while Mendes takes Guerreiro's place at left-back.
SUBS: Kristijan Naumovski, Kire Ristevski, Stefan Spirovski, Boban Nikolov, Stefan Askovski, Todor Todoroski, David Babunski, Dorian Babunski, Nikola Serafimov, Bojan Miovski, Damjan Siskovski, Darko Churlinov.
NORTH MACEDONIA (4-4-2): Stole Dimitrievski; Stefan Ristovski (c), Visar Musliu, Darko Velkoski, Ezgjan Alioski; Eljif Elmas, Enis Bardhi, Arijan Ademi, Aleksandar Trajkovski; Milan Ristovski, Tihomir Kostadinov.
SUBS: Matheus, Jose Fonte, Rafael Leao, Jose Sa, Andre Silva, Vitinha, William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, Goncalo Guedes, Rui Patricio, Joao Felix, Cedric Soares.
PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Diogo Costa; Joao Cancelo, Danilo Pereira, Pepe, Nuno Mendes; Bruno Fernandes, Joao Moutinho, Otavio; Cristiano Ronaldo (c), Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva.
North Macedonia stunned the football world by knocking out European champions Italy with a 1-0 away win in their last match. The Macedonians may still be underdogs, but results like that will strengthen their belief that they can qualify for their second successive major international tournament. Who will make it to Qatar? Let's find out!
A spot at the World Cup awaits either Portugal or North Macedonia, depending on which team wins this final playoff match. Portugal boast home advantage, having made it here by successfully, albeit fortuitously, navigating their semi-final with Turkey five days ago.
Hello and welcome to our live text commentary of this 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification UEFA second round final match between Portugal and North Macedonia at Estadio do Dragao.