BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Portugal helped their chances of qualifying directly for next year’s World Cup when Andre Silva’s goal gave them a bruising 1-0 win away to Hungary, who played for an hour with 10 men on Sunday.
Silva headed in Cristiano Ronaldo’s pinpoint cross three minutes after halftime to give Portugal their seventh successive win in Group B, keeping them three points behind Switzerland who won 3-0 in Latvia to maintain their 100 percent record.
Hungary’s Tamas Priskin was shown a straight red card for elbowing Pepe, one of several nasty challenges in the match.
Portugal and Switzerland each have one game to play before a showdown in Lisbon on Oct. 10.
The winners of the nine European groups qualify directly for next year’s World Cup in Russia and the best eight teams play off for four more places.
After scoring, Portugal played much of the second half at walking pace and had an enormous scare in stoppage time when Attila Fiola got behind the defence for a header which was saved by Rui Patricio.
Hungary’s chances of making the playoffs were ended after a disappointing campaign which included defeat by Andorra.
“It was a match that is difficult to describe,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “We were much the better team for the first 30 minutes until the Hungarian player was sent off and then I don’t know what happened.”
“After our goal, we had control but it was always a dangerous situation. I think the players felt the responsibility of this game.”
Portugal never got into gear although the game could have gone very differently if they had taken one of several early chances.
Ronaldo had a powerful effort tipped over by Peter Gulacsi and then sent a header narrowly wide from Joao Moutinho’s inswinging cross before another effort went straight at the Hungary goalkeeper.
Priskin was sent off for elbowing Pepe in the face as they jumped for the ball, leaving the former Real Madrid defender with a cut above his eye.
Mate Patkai had escaped with a yellow card in a similar incident with Moutinho a few minutes earlier.
The dismissal seemed to affect Portugal more than the hosts as they lost their rhythm.
But they broke through three minutes after halftime when a neat exchange of passes sent Ronaldo clear on the left and his perfect cross into the goalmouth was headed in by Silva from point blank range, the 21-year-old’s ninth international goal.
Portugal were nearly caught napping when Patkai drove just wide and the visitors spent the rest of the match passing the ball around in midfield while Hungary sat back.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon and Ken Ferris