Portugal downs Norway 1-0, goes joint top of group

A second-half goal from Helder Postiga gave Portugal a 1-0 win

over Norway in a 2012 European Championship qualifier and tied them

together at the top of Group H on Saturday.

Postiga pounced at the front post to poke in a Nani cross in the

53rd minute as Portugal took almost an hour to break down the

visitor’s resilient defense.

Both teams and Denmark are tied atop the group, but Portugal

leads on points difference with three qualifying matches to go.

Portugal dictated the run of play but had a hard time breaking

through Norway’s defense, and looked to be running out of patience

before Postiga stuck his leg out.

Cristiano Ronaldo made little impression as the Portuguese

promised more than they delivered.

The Portuguese are fighting back from a poor start to their

qualifying campaign when they took just one point from their first

two matches.

Under coach Paulo Bento, who replaced Carlos Queiroz last

September, Portugal has built a 5-1-1 record.

”This game was no less harder than we’d expected,” Bento said.

”We managed to take control and keep control.”

Ronaldo, in a subdued performance, lined up for a 10th-minute

free kick and forced goalkeeper Rune Jarstein to leap to his right

to push the ball wide. Ronaldo rose above the Norwegian defense

five minutes before halftime but headed straight at the keeper from

short range in his only other serious threat.

Norway was in defensive mood and tried to break the deadlock

with counterattacks, though it ran out of options in the second

half.

Erik Huseklepp, who got the only goal in Norway’s 1-0 win over

Portugal in Oslo last September, forced goalkeeper Eduardo to dive

sharply to his right to keep the ball out in the 17th. Morten Gamst

Pedersen should have produced more when he burst down the right for

a shot in the 24th.

Postiga forced Jarstein to dive low to his right to keep out a

shot that was heading into the corner just after the restart.

The goal spurred the Portuguese, and Carlos Martins came close

with a long-range chance five minutes later.

Lineups:

Portugal: Eduardo; Joao Pereira (Silvio, 63), Bruno Alves, Pepe,

Fabio Coentrao; Carlos Martins (Ruben Micael, 69), Raul Meireles,

Joao Moutinho; Nani (Silvestre Varela, 86), Helder Postiga,

Cristiano Ronaldo.

Norway: Rune Jarstein; Tom Hogli, Brede Hangeland, Vadim

Demidov, John Arrne Riise; Bjorn Helge Riise, Henning Hauger,

Christian Grindheim, Morten Gamst Pedersen; Erik Huseklepp (Daniel

Braaten, 74), John Carew (Mohammed Abdellaoue, 60).