LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal rested Cristiano Ronaldo and still overcame new-look Italy 1-0 in their opening Nations League match on Monday, giving visiting coach Roberto Mancini plenty to think about
Forward Andre Silva scored three minutes after halftime in the League A Group 3 game to give the Portuguese their first win over Italy in a competitive match since 1957.
Mancini, in only his second competitive match in charge, made nine changes to the team which started Friday’s 1-1 draw at home to Poland but his side were on the back foot for most of the match and struggled to create any real danger.
Italy forward Mario Balotelli, widely criticised after his performance against the Poles, did not even make the substitutes bench and watched the match from the stands.
Italy, who missed out on this year’s World Cup for the first time in 60 years, are without a win in four competitive matches.
“The players gave all they could, but to win you need to score goals so we must find a remedy,” said Mancini. “We made mistakes, and we must try to limit them.”
“I didn’t enjoy the defeat, but I did like the team’s desire to keep trying right until the end, even if they were at risk of conceding a second goal.”
Portugal, who agreed to give their record scorer Ronaldo time to adapt following his move to Juventus from Real Madrid, lead the group with three points, ahead of Poland and Italy on one each.
The European champions dominated the first half against the Italians but failed to make the most of their chances.
Portugal’s Bernardo Silva saw a shot cleared off the line by Alessio Romagnoli, Mario Rui’s shot was deflected onto the bar and a William Carvalho shot fizzed past Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma’s post from 25 metres.
The deadlock was finally broken after halftime.
Bruma, wearing the number seven shirt which usually belongs to Ronaldo, dispossessed Italian debutant Manuel Lazzari, burst into the area and found Silva who curled a shot past Donnarumma from 12 metres.
Portugal, in typically pragmatic style, dropped back after the goal but Italy did little with the extra possession.
Their best chance fell to Simone Zaza who beat Carvalho to a corner but headed over from close range.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris