Paulo Bento's team will take a narrow lead into the second leg of their FIFA World Cup play-off on Tuesday after Cristiano Ronaldo's header eight minutes from time broke Sweden's resolve in Lisbon.
Portugal had never previously beaten Sweden at home but chose an important time to break that duck after a game that both sides had chances to win. The difference was that Ronaldo took his – diving to meet Miguel Veloso's exquisite cross with a header. He almost made it 2-0 late on, rattling the crossbar with another header as Sweden kept their hopes alive ahead of the Solna rematch.
The hosts started well, pushing Sweden deep into their own half, and the first big opportunity came with only five minutes on the clock. A good attacking move ended with João Moutinho rounding Andreas Isaksson, but hitting the wrong side of the net with his shot. Sweden responded quickly and Johan Elmander's volley at full stretch went agonisingly wide.
Portugal's intensity dipped and slowly but surely the visitors took the initiative. Rui Patrício was forced into action to stop a dangerous drive from Sebastian Larsson and a few minutes later Kim Källström was a whisker away with a vicious free-kick. The home team, though, rallied before the break and it proved a sign of things to come.
Portugal regained control after the interval and so nearly broke the deadlock in a desperate goalmouth scramble yet Sweden somehow cleared their lines. Bento's men continued to apply the pressure, with the Scandinavian side struggling for relief even on the counter, and Hélder Postiga headed narrowly wide after the hour. Nani, too, threatened but fired straight at Isaksson.
The fans' expectancy levels rose as a goal appeared imminent – and it duly arrived. Veloso was the creator, working space on the left to send in an arcing cross that Ronaldo, escaping the attentions of Martin Olsson, forced in. The Real Madrid CF forward then came close to doubling the advantage but the woodwork denied him and a tense sequel looms on Tuesday.