Bosnia-Herzegovina held Portugal to a 0-0 draw Friday, leaving their European Championship playoff wide open ahead of next week’s return leg in Lisbon.
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In a game that produced few goalscoring chances, Portugal had the best of them although Cristiano Ronaldo squandered several openings.
Bosnia was better in the second half, and came close to breaking the deadlock 10 minutes from the end through Edin Dzeko.
”It’s a good result but it’s dangerous over two legs because we didn’t get the away win we deserved,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said.
Portugal, a Euro 2004 finalist and Euro 2000 semifinalist, has shown patchy form in its effort to reach next year’s event.
”All teams go through rough patches. It’s all about cycles,” Ronaldo said. ”We’ll be favorites to win on our home turf.”
Bosnia, aiming to qualify for its first major international tournament, is unbeaten in its last seven games and has conceded only one goal during that run. It was missing three regular defenders through injury and suspension against the favored Portuguese.
The countries meet again in Lisbon on Tuesday for the decider.
”We can be satisfied,” Bosnia midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic said. ”It could have been better but we knew from the beginning that this will be decided in Lisbon.”
The Portuguese won here 1-0 in a playoff for the 2010 World Cup, when it went through 2-0 on aggregate. Friday’s game was no easier for the Portuguese than the 2009 encounter, especially on a lumpy pitch that led Portugal to lodge an official protest.
Portugal’s first fluent move came in the ninth minute. Nani crossed from the right flank to the left where Ronaldo headed down on the edge of the penalty area for Raul Meireles to test Asmir Begovic with a volley.
In a similar move 10 minutes later, Joao Moutinho set up striker Helder Postiga who skewed his shot.
The Portuguese couldn’t come up with more because they attacked with long downfield passes instead of advancing with the short passing game that has served them so well.
Bosnia was limited up front. The home team repeatedly sought out Dzeko, but it mishit too many passes and the forward was closely marked by Pepe in a standout perfomance.
Senad Lulic delivered Bosnia’s first shot on goal – and its only one in the first half – in the 35th minute.
”They really gave us a hard time,” Bosnia coach Safet Susic said. ”This result is giving us a chance. I am an optimist.”
Ronaldo should have done better when he led a break in the 15th, but he held on to the ball too long and then shot weakly.
Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio fumbled a cross on the halfhour but recovered before Adnan Zahirovic could pounce.
Ronaldo had a clear chance in the 50th when he received the ball unmarked on the left side of the Bosnia area before hitting his shot wide.
Bosnia had to wait until the 72nd for its second shot of the game when Dzeko tried his luck from 30 meters out.
Two minutes later Postiga against missed the target from short range, and then Ronaldo failed to capitalize on another break.
Senijad Ibricic’s misdirected shot when he was unmarked at back post heralded a tense final 15 minutes that brought Bosnia’s best chance as Dzeko went one-on-one with Patricio but struck his shot wide.