Portugal are through to a decisive World Cup qualifying play-off final next week after beating Turkey 3-1 in Porto on Thursday, but only after Burak Yilmaz missed a crucial late penalty for the visitors.
The home side were cruising at the Estadio do Dragao thanks to first-half goals by Brazilian-born midfielder Otavio and Liverpool forward Diogo Jota.
But Turkey’s veteran skipper Yilmaz pulled a goal back in the 65th minute, setting up a tense finish.
Turkey were then awarded a late penalty when a foul on Enes Unal was detected by the German referee following a VAR review, but Yilmaz put the spot-kick over the bar and Matheus Nunes secured Portugal’s victory in stoppage time.
The 36-year-old Yilmaz may now never get the chance to play at a World Cup as Turkey’s wait to return to the finals goes on.
They have not appeared at the World Cup since coming third in Japan and South Korea in 2002.
Portugal have not missed out on the tournament since 1998 and they will now expect to secure a spot in Qatar when they host North Macedonia in a play-off decider next Tuesday.
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At 37, Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream of World Cup glory remains alive and few sides in international football can match the attacking threat of Fernando Santos’s team.
Here Santos left Joao Felix on the bench and handed a surprise start to Otavio, the Brazilian-born Porto winger.
The 2016 European champions started strongly and went ahead on the quarter-hour mark as a Bernardo Silva shot hit the post and Otavio, winning just his third cap, netted the follow-up.
The second goal arrived three minutes before the interval at the end of a flowing move, as Otavio clipped a cross from the edge of the box for Jota to head in at the back post.
Portugal were cruising but then Turkey pulled one back in the 65th minute as Cengiz Under slipped a pass in for Lille forward Yilmaz to score.
The home side, missing their first-choice centre-back pairing of Pepe and Ruben Dias due to Covid-19 and injury respectively, began to look shaky and Turkey took advantage.
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Jose Fonte’s contact with Unal in the box was initially missed by referee Daniel Siebert but he awarded a penalty after reviewing the images, despite the Turkey player clearly exaggerating the impact of the challenge.
Yilmaz could have forced extra time but his 85th-minute kick grazed the bar and flew over, to the relief of the home crowd.
Substitute Nunes, also born in Brazil, made it 3-1 in the fourth minute of stoppage time, in which all-time top international goal-scorer Ronaldo also hit the bar as Portugal progress.
Press Release. Source: AFP