BELGRADE, March 28 (Reuters) - Serbia and Portugal fought out a 1-1 draw in a highly entertaining Euro 2008 Group A qualifier on Wednesday.
Tiago fired Portugal into a fifth-minute lead and Bosko
Jankovic put the Serbs back on level terms in the 37th minute to
the delight of a raucous 51,000 home crowd.
Both sides missed plenty of chances in a pulsating match
which put them level on 11 points from six matches along with
Finland, who suffered a 1-0 setback at Azerbaijan earlier on
Wednesday. All three are five points behind group leaders
Portugal took the lead with their first meaningful venture
into the Serbian half when Tiago unleashed a swerving shot from
20 metres that sailed over keeper Vladimir Stojkovic who was
caught out of position.
The Serbs piled on the pressure and came close to drawing
level through Nemanja Vidic before Jankovic equalised with a
diving close-range header from Dejan Stankovic's corner.
The visitors nearly went ahead less than a minute later when
Nuno Gomes slid in at the near post and fired just wide while
Jankovic and Milos Krasic tormented the Portuguese defence with
darting runs at the other end.
Stojkovic denied Tiago twice after the break when he
produced acrobatic saves to keep out venomous long-range shots
from the Lyon midfielder.
The keeper also did well to parry a 75th-minute free kick
from Cristiano Ronaldo, who had a quiet game on the left flank
but was booked in the first half for dissent.
Portugal coach Felipe Scolari said he was pleased with the
performance and result 'because it was achieved against a very
strong team who are in the same bracket with us in terms of
quality,' he told reporters.
'This is a very tough group and it seems qualification will
be won and lost against the underdogs, who have caused quite a
few upsets already.
'I think we are in a good position though because we have
plenty of home matches left and it may well make the difference
at the end of the road.'
Clemente was also satisfied to come away with a point after
his players had to hang on in the closing stages.
'We were on the back foot in the second half but we played
very well in the first,' he said.
'We knew we needed to deploy more players on the flanks
because that's where Portugal usually carve up their rivals.'