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EUROS 2024: Super sub Conceicao strikes late to rescue Portugal

The Czechs had stunned the Portuguese fans packed inside the Leipzig Stadium when they took the lead out of the blue in the 62nd minute as Lukas Provod’s superb curling effort threatened to cause an almighty upset

EUROS 2024: Super sub Conceicao strikes late to rescue Portugal
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 Francisco Conceicao (L) celebrates after scoring the late winner in the stoppage time

LEIPZIG: Forward Francisco Conceicao was the hero of the hour, coming off the bench to grab a late stoppage-time winner and help Portugal kick-start its Euro 2024 campaign with an edgy 2-1 victory over Czech Republic in Group F on Tuesday.

It was a night to forget for Czechia’s Robin Hranac, as he was unfortunate when the ball rebounded off him to level the scores for Portugal after the Czechs took a surprise lead in the 62nd minute. His misery didn’t end there, as his mistake was pounced upon by the 21-year-old Conceicao, who fired home from close range in the third minute of added time. This came moments after Portugal were left crestfallen when a Diogo Jota effort was chalked off by VAR for offside.

The Czechs had stunned the Portuguese fans packed inside the Leipzig Stadium when they took the lead out of the blue in the 62nd minute as Lukas Provod’s superb curling effort threatened to cause an almighty upset.

“It’s important to believe until the very end. We didn’t go in blind, we believed, we kept our game plan, we were very clear-headed,” said Portugal’s man-of-the-match Vitinha.

With the 41-year-old Pepe, who became the oldest player in European Championship history, at centre back, and the 39-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo up front, Portugal were banking on experience winning out against a Czech outfit with the youngest squad in the tournament.

The match was meant to be a walk in the park for highly fancied Portugal, who came into the tournament on the back of a flawless qualifying campaign in which they won all 10 matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding twice.

But as is so often the way in tournaments the script needed a hasty rewrite.

Portugal set up camp in Czech territory early on, but they came up against some dogged resistance as Ivan Hasek’s disciplined side kept them largely at arm’s length.

Ronaldo was predictably at the centre of most of Portugal’s attacks, passing up their best chance of the first half when he was played through on goal by Bruno Fernandes only to be thwarted by keeper Jindrich Stanek who spread himself brilliantly to stop the striker’s effort.

Out of nowhere the Czechs worked the ball down the pitch and Vladimir Coufal fed Provod who curled a stunning finish beyond the reach of keeper Diogo Costa into the net.

The advantage, however, was short-lived as Portugal drew level with more than little good fortune.

Portugal thought they had snatched victory when Ronaldo headed against the post and substitute Jota was on hand to convert the rebound, but VAR swiftly ruled Ronaldo was a fraction offside.

It did not matter however as Hranac made a mess of his attempted clearance and Conceicao nipped in to fire home.

Agencies
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