MOSCOW (Reuters) - Portugal inexplicably lost control of the game despite managing to beat Morocco 1-0 in the World Cup Group B match on Wednesday and were lucky not to get themselves in more trouble, coach Fernando Santos said.
The European champions took the lead in the fourth minute when Cristiano Ronaldo charged into the box to bury his header and become Europe’s top international scorer with 85 goals.
But they instantly eased off and offered little else in terms of attacking football for the rest of the match.
Instead it was Morocco, who lost their Group B opener 1-0 to Iran, who were the more aggressive side, missing half a dozen clear scoring chances and the Portuguese conceding far too much space.
“We have to look at this and we have to talk about it,” Portugal coach Santos said. “We lost control of the game, we misplaced a lot of passes, we lost confidence. It is true that I am not happy with the performance of my team.
“It was inexplicable. If in a match against players like they have, if you don’t have the ball, they will wear you down and you get into trouble.”
“Nothing is finished yet. We have to play a very difficult game against Iran and we want to top the group,” he added.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio was kept busy by the North Africans and helped Portugal earn the three points and move top of the group on four. Iran have three points and Spain one ahead of their meeting later on Wednesday.
Morocco failed to convert their chances and are pointless, becoming the first team to be eliminated from the tournament with a game left in the group stage.
“There was no intensity in our game. We have players with a lot of skills and speed. We started well but then we were put under pressure and it was difficult,” Santos said.
“As with the game against Spain, after 10 to 15 minutes we lost control and possession. A lot of wrong passes, a lot of anxiety. We have to be able to deal with the pressure and play the ball. If you don’t do that, then you get into trouble.”
But Santos again could count on Ronaldo to carry them to victory.
“Cristiano is like port wine. He knows how to refine his capacity and age well. He is a constantly evolving contrary to regular players,” said the coach.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge