Portugal could be contenders to win the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in the Netherlands next June after proving they have the steel to complement their skill by defeating Russia 3-0 to progress on away goals after their play-off finished 4-4 on aggregate.
Like Portugal in Friday's first leg, Russia were made to pay for a first-half dismissal as the home side eased to victory. João Moutinho had already opened the scoring from the penalty spot on the half-hour when Andrei Kolesnikov saw red in the 43rd minute. Cheered on by a sizeable crowd on the outskirts of Porto, Portugal scored again through Yannick Djaló (65) before Ivan Taranov (71) put through his own net as the pressure intensified.
The loss in Russia left Portugal coach José Couceiro with little option but to attack from the off and with ten minutes played that approach nearly bore fruit as Miguel Veloso fired in a powerful left-foot shot which Dmitri Khomich did well to hold. The goalkeeper was beaten 20 minutes later as João Moutinho took full advantage of Ivan Cherenchikov’s handball to score from the spot. Portugal sensed their chance after Kolesnikov was dismissed for a foul on Djaló, and Ricardo Vaz Té saw a header saved by Khomich and a shot fizz wide in quick succession soon after the restart.
The hosts of the 2006 finals were right back in contention by the 65th minute as Djaló headed in João Moreira's pin-point cross from the right-hand side. The supporters at the Estádio Jorge Sampaio were back on their feet soon after as Taranov put through his own net, and they remained so as Portugal stood firm to qualify once again for a final tournament they are yet to win despite having a distinguished record in other youth competitions.